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UNITED STATES NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555 December 1, 1992 NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 92-79: NON-POWER REACTOR EMERGENCY EVENT RESPONSE Addressees All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for test and research reactors. Purpose The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information notice to alert addressees to the findings of an NRC review related to emergency event response at non-power reactors. These findings are on (1) emergency action levels (EALs) to determine emergency event classification, (2) sampling to measure a radioactive release, (3) dose assessment capability for a radioactive airborne release, and (4) notifications to the NRC. It is expected that recipients will review the information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to avoid potential problems. However, suggestions contained in this information notice are not NRC requirements; therefore, no specific action or written response is required. Description of Circumstances In November 1991, a small release of fission products at the Reed College TRIGA reactor (located in Portland, Oregon) was sufficient to activate the alarms of both the continuous air monitor and the gaseous stack monitor. Upon reviewing the EALs in the emergency plan, the licensee declared a Notification of Unusual Event and notified the NRC Operations Center and the State. The NRC responded to the notifications by sending an inspection team to the college to review the situation. The NRC also sent a Public Affairs Officer to respond to potential public and media interest. The State of Oregon also sent a monitoring team. At the facility, the NRC inspectors found that the licensee had characterized the release as fission products and had conservatively estimated the amount of radioactivity released. The NRC inspectors assisted the licensee in assessing radiological dose consequences. The local media and public, including the student body, posed extensive questions on the event and the release. During a press conference, the licensee and the NRC jointly addressed the health and safety concerns of the media and public. 9211240106. IN 92-79 December 1, 1992 Page 2 of 3 The event at Reed College prompted the NRC to review similar non-power reactor licensees to determine their capabilities to respond in similar circumstances. The NRC found that, while licensee capabilities varied, some licensees could not readily locate sampling equipment discussed in emergency plans for response, had not fully developed procedures for using the sampling equipment, and did not have immediate access to a method of correlating the quantity of radioactivity released to a dose at the site boundary. The NRC also found that the EALs and the criteria for notifying the NRC and other offsite agencies varied greatly between licensees. There were also examples of events classified as alerts for which emergency plans did not specify notification of the NRC. The specific licensees were informed of these findings. Discussion Licensee classification of an event under its emergency plan dictates the manner in which the NRC and other offsite agencies respond. American Nuclear Society/American National Standards Institute Standard 15.16-1982, "Emergency Planning for Research Reactors," Regulatory Guide 2.6, "Emergency Planning for Research Reactors," 1979, and NUREG-0849, "Standard Review Plan for the Review and Evaluation of Emergency Plans for Research and Test Reactors," October 1983 contain information on event classification. Improper classification of an event may prevent the licensee, the NRC, other agencies, and the public from responding appropriately to the event. The licensee, the NRC, and the public gave considerable attention to the unplanned radiological release at Reed College, although the release resulted in an estimated dose of much less than one millirem at the site boundary. The ability to quantify the magnitude and effects of a release and to establish the safety significance of the release proved extremely important in the Reed College event. Some abnormal events will generate substantial public interest regardless of the actual safety significance of the event. A small unplanned radiological release is such an event. Notification of the NRC Operations Center, or NRC headquarters or regional contacts for events that could result in high public interest, can enable the NRC to respond, in coordination with the licensee, to issues raised by the media or the public about the event. . IN 92-79 December 1, 1992 Page 3 of 3 This information notice requires no specific action or written response. If you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact the technical contact listed below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager. ORIGINAL SIGNED BY Brian K. Grimes, Director Division of Operating Reactor Support Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation Technical contact: M. Mendonca, NRR (301) 504-1128 Attachment: List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices .
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