United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 97-29: Containment Inspection Rule

                                 UNITED STATES
                         NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                     OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
                         WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555-0001

                                 May 30, 1997


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 97-29:  CONTAINMENT INSPECTION RULE


Addressees

All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power
reactors.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to clarify for addressees the containment inspection rule in accordance
with 10 CFR 50.55a(a), which in part endorses Subsections IWE and IWL of
Section XI of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Boiler and
Pressure Vessel Code (ASME Code).  The rule became effective on September 9,
1996.  It is expected that recipients will review the information for
applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate. 
However, suggestions contained in this information notice are not NRC
requirements; therefore, no specific action or written response is required.  

Description of Circumstances

In a Federal Register, dated August 8, 1996 (61 FR 41303), the NRC amended its
regulations (rule) to incorporate by reference the 1992 Edition and Addenda of 
Subsections IWE and IWL of Section XI of the ASME Code.  Subsections IWE and
IWL give the requirements for inservice inspection (ISI) of Class CC (concrete
containments), and Class MC (metallic containments) of light-water-cooled
power plants.  The amended rule became effective on September 9, 1996;  it re-
quires the licensees to incorporate the new requirements into their ISI plans
and to complete the first containment inspection within five years (i.e., no
later than September 9, 2001).  Any repair or replacement (R/R) activity to be
performed on containments after the effective date of September 9, 1996, has
to be carried out in accordance with the respective requirements of
Subsections IWE and IWL.     

Recognizing the potential industry concern related to the immediate
implementation of the rule for R/R activities, the Nuclear Energy Institute
(NEI) wrote a letter to NRC (Reference 1) indicating a general industry
interpretation of the rule that all containment ISI activities, including R/R
activities should be effective from September 9, 2001.  The NRC responded to
the NEI letter (Reference 2) stating that all R/R activities within the scope
of Subsections IWE and IWL of the code conducted after September 9, 1996, must
be conducted in accordance with these subsections.   


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Additionally, the staff stated (Reference 2) that 10 CFR 50.55a(3) permits the
Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at his discretion to
grant relief from the requirements of 10 CFR 50.55a to licensees who submit a
justifiable need to use an alternative that provides an acceptable level of
safety or who encounter extreme hardship or unusual difficulty without a
compensating increase in the level of quality or safety.  In general, the
staff stated that with proper justification, relief requests from compliance
with the R/R requirements of Subsections IWE and IWL for a period of about one
year from September 9, 1996, would appear to be reasonable.

Although NEI sent the response from NRC to many of the addressees, the NRC
staff is issuing this information notice to inform all addressees about the
NRC staff position.

Discussion

As discussed above, addressees are required to implement the rule for all
containment-related R/R activities to be conducted after September 9, 1996. 
Even though a licensee is able to demonstrate hardship or unusual difficulties
in the immediate implementation of the rule, the licensee has to demonstrate
that other procedures utilized for R/R activities will ensure adequate safety
of the containments and that proper quality assurance requirements have been
implemented.

In some of the relief requests that the staff has reviewed, licensees have
reported appropriate "hardship and unusual difficulties" reasons for
postponing the implementation of the rule, but did not describe the
effectiveness of the procedures they plan to use during the relief period. 
Without such information, the staff has no way of concluding that the quality
and safety of containment R/R activities are adequate.            

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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 contacts listed below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear
Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager.


                                          signed by S.H. Weiss

                                    Marylee M. Slosson, Acting Director
                                    Division of Reactor Program Management
                                    Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical contacts:  Seung Lee, NRR
                     301-415-2737
                     E-mail:  sjl@nrc.gov 

                     Hans Ashar, NRR
                     301-415-2851
                     E-mail:  hga@nrc.gov

References

1.  Letter from Alex Marion (NEI) to Brian Sheron (NRC), "Interpretation of    
    Amended 10 CFR 50.55a," dated 09/19/96 (Accession No. 9704180074).

2.  Letter from Gus Lainas (NRC) to Alex Marion (NEI), "Implementation of      
    Containment Inspection Rule," dated 11/06/96 (Accession No. 9611130161). 

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