Fire Protection Program for Fuel Cycle Facilities

Fuel cycle facilities regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) include facilities for conversion of uranium ore concentrate into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), enrichment of UF6 to increase the concentration of uranium-235 (U235), and fabrication of nuclear reactor fuel from natural and enriched UF6 and from a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides . At such facilities, two principal risks to health and safety are nuclear criticality events and the release/dispersal of hazardous chemicals and radioactive material as a result of a fire or explosion.

To minimize the occurrence of fires, and mitigate the consequences of those that do occur, the NRC administers a fire protection program for fuel cycle facilities. This program encompasses regulations, guidance, and related licensing and oversight activities (including reliability assessments and modeling), specifically designed for fuel cycle facilities. In addition, the NRC has established special requirements for a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility. Unlike other fuel fabrication facilities, the MOX facility is designed to produce light-water reactor fuel by recycling plutonium that has been secured through international nuclear disarmament agreements. Consequently, the NRC has established fire protection measures to maintain "dynamic confinement" of airborne hazards. Specifically, these measures involve the use of ventilation systems equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, during both normal operation and accident conditions.

For additional detail, see the following pages: