Overview of the Alternate Fire Protection Rule [10 CFR 50.48(c)]

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards Council approved NFPA Standard 805, "Performance-Based Standard for Fire Protection for Light-Water Reactor Electric Generating Plants, 2001 Edition" [NFPA 805], on January 13, 2001, as a risk-informed, performance-based standard for existing light-water nuclear power plants. The staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cooperatively participated in the development of NFPA 805. Published in February 2001, NFPA 805 describes a methodology for existing light-water nuclear power plants to apply risk-informed, performance-based requirements and fundamental fire protection design elements to establish fire protection systems and features required for all modes of reactor operation. In addition, it presents a methodology for establishing fire protection procedures, systems, and features for nuclear power plants that are decommissioning and permanently shut down.

The Commission approved the final rule incorporating NFPA 805 into Title 10, Part 50, Section 48(c) of the Code of Federal Regulations [10 CFR Part 50.48(c)] via a staff requirements memorandum (SRM), dated May 11, 2004. The rule was published on June 16, 2004, and became effective July 16, 2004. The Commission provided enforcement discretion as an incentive for licensees to voluntarily transition to NFPA 805.

The existing (10 CFR 50.48(b)) deterministic fire protection requirements, otherwise known as Appendix R, seek to establish fire protection engineering margin through the post-fire survival of limited safety systems capable of safe hot and cold reactor shutdown. The deterministic requirements were developed before the staff or the industry had the benefit of probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) for fires and before recent advances in performance-based methods. This risk-informed voluntary alternative (NFPA 805) to the deterministic fire protection rule (Appendix R) should reduce the need for future exemptions and unnecessary regulatory burden associated with the current deterministic approaches and should maintain reactor safety while adding appropriate flexibility to licensees' fire protection activities.

In 2005, Progress Energy, volunteered the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 1, (HNP) and Duke Energy volunteered the Oconee Nuclear Site, Units 1, 2, and 3, (ONS) to become pilot plants for the transition to NFPA 805. Consequently, the staff kicked off the pilot implementation in August 2005. The staff has supported the transition effort with observation visits and regulatory audits documented in publicly available reports.

In June 2006, the staff issued Regulatory Guide (RG) 1.205, "Risk-Informed, Performance-Based Fire Protection for Existing Light-Water Nuclear Power Plants." In July 2006, the staff endorsed the industry proposal to establish a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) program to provide timely clarification of issues emerging at plants transitioning to NFPA 805 (RIS-07-19). The staff holds monthly public meetings with the industry to discuss emerging implementation issues. The staff incorporated a number of FAQs into Revision 1 of RG 1.205, which was issued in December 2009.

By March 2009, 51 reactor units had sent letters of intent, indicating their commitment to transition to NFPA 805. However, several units withdrew their commitment. Currently it is expected that 46 reactor units will be transitioning to NFPA 805.

In mid-2008, HNP and ONS, the pilot plants, submitted their license amendment request (LARs) to adopt NFPA 805. The staff approved the HNP LAR in June 2010, and the ONS LAR in December 2010.

In 2011, the staff received seven non-pilot LARs, six were accepted and are currently under review, one was withdrawn. By the end of 2012, an additional seven LARs to adopt NFPA 805 had been received. By the end of 2013, the staff expects to receive an additional 11 LARs to adopt NFPA 805.