The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Fire of 1975 and the History of NRC Fire Regulations: Printed Brochure (NUREG/BR-0361)
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Date Published: February 2009
Felix E. Gonzalez,
Mark Henry Salley
Fire Research Branch
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Fire events provide a unique source of historical data, but only when the lessons learned provide advancements in safety. When these lessons are learned but not preserved, they are often repeated.
The purpose of this brochure and DVD (Supplement 1 to NUREG/BR-0361) is to preserve the history of the fire at the Browns Ferry Nuclear (BFN) Power Plant and its impact on regulations, and to educate future generations of safety professionals.
Fire protection in commercial nuclear power plants (NPPs) has been a longstanding challenge since operations began. In the 1960s and 1970s, when most of today’s nuclear power reactors were being constructed, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) predecessor—the Atomic Energy Commission—began adopting rules and regulations to ensure fire safety. The first adopted fire protection regulation was General Design Criterion (GDC) 3, “Fire Protection,” as Appendix A of 10 CFR Part 50 in February 1971. The GDC 3, in part, states that:
Structures, systems, and components important to safety shall be designed and located to minimize, consistent with other safety requirements, the probability and effect of fires and explosions. Noncombustible and heat-resistant materials shall be used wherever practical throughout the unit, particularly in such locations as the containment and control room.
During this time, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) also developed several standards for fire protection safety in the nuclear industry. These first standards were:
IEEE 279-1971, “Criteria for Protection Systems for Nuclear Power Generating Stations.”
IEEE 383-1974, “IEEE Standard for Type Test of Class 1E Electric Cables,Field Splices, and Connections for Nuclear Power Generating Stations.”
IEEE 384-1974, “IEEE Standard Criteria for Independence of Class 1E Equipment and Circuits.”
NRC published Regulatory Guide 1.75 in February 1974 and provided the basis for complying with the IEEE 384-1974 standard. Since that time, the agency has updated RG 1.75 to Revision 3, dated February 2005.