United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 86-46: Improper Cleaning and Decontamination of Respiratory Protection Equipment

                                                          SSINS No.: 6835  
                                                          IN 86-46         

                                UNITED STATES
                           WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555

                                June 12, 1986

                                   RESPIRATORY PROTECTION EQUIPMENT 


All nuclear power reactor facilities holding an operating license (OL) or a 
construction permit (CP) and fuel fabrication facilities. 


This notice is being issued to alert recipients of the potential loss of 
performance or safety function of respiratory protection devices from 
improper cleaning and decontamination techniques. It is expected that 
recipients will review the information for applicability to their 
respiratory protection program and consider actions, if appropriate, to 
preclude similar problems at their facility. However, suggestions contained 
in this notice do not constitute NRC requirements; therefore, no specific 
action or written response is required. 

Description of Circumstances: 

In November 1985, Point Beach Nuclear Station reported on the Institute of 
Nuclear Power Operations' (INPO's) "Note Pad" a cracking problem they noted 
with the plastic coupling nut on Mine Safety Appliance (MSA) Ultra-twin 
Respirators. This coupling nut fits over the speaking diaphragm and can be 
removed to connect an air hose if needed. Cracks in these coupling nuts lead
to excessive respirator leakage and reduction of protection. In response to 
the Point Beach report, MSA initiated an investigation that included a 
survey of other Ultra-twin users. MSA concluded that the reported cracking 
did not indicate a problem with their product. With the exception of the 
Susquehanna station, the investigation found less than a 1% incidence of 
cracked coupling nuts. MSA considers this normal for a plastic replacement 
part. The relatively high incidence of cracking found at Susquehanna (17%) 
was attributed to the improper use of organic solvents to clean or 
decontaminate the units. The cracks noted at Susquehanna were noticeably 
different from those noted at the other facilities surveyed. MSA was able to 
reproduce this type of cracking by exposing coupling nuts to Freon. 


The results of the MSA survey point out the importance of following 
manufacturers recommended cleaning practices. Use of improper or harsh 
cleaning techniques can lead to a degradation of integrity or loss of a 
safety function. 


                                                            IN 86-46  
                                                            June 12, 1986  
                                                            Page 2 of 2 

Examples of poor practices, such as stripping the paint from self-contained 
breathing apparatus (SCBA) air cylinders to remove fixed contamination, have 
been noted. An important safety function can be lost if the cylinders are 
not repainted with the proper paint because the manufacturer-applied coating 
is designed to indicate excessive heating of the air cylinder by discoloring 
at 350F. Also, significant degradation of structural integrity can 
result if this decontamination technique is used on composite air cylinders.
Commercial paint stripper will attack the bonding material of the 
reinforcing fiberglass wrapping. 

Licensees are reminded that proper cleaning and decontamination of 
respiratory protection devices is essential to their safe use. Even 
apparently mild cleaning techniques can unwittingly cause a loss of safety 
function. Submersion of the BIOPAK-60 rebreather SCBA respirator in soapy 
water will cause serious corrosion of the unit's oxygen reserve alarm. Some 
cases have been reported in which this type of corrosion was sufficient to 
defeat the alarm functions. The manufacturer does not recommend submerging 
the unit to clean it. Manufacturers recommendations for cleaning and 
decontaminating a respirator are found in the technical literature supplied 
with the respirator. Additional information on the appropriateness of a 
particular cleaning technique can be obtained by contacting the respective 

No specific action or written response is required by this information 
notice. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact the 
Regional Administrator of the appropriate regional office or this office. 

                                   Edward L. Jordan, Director 
                                   Division of Emergency Preparedness 
                                     and Engineering Response 
                                   Office of Inspection and Enforcement 

Technical Contacts: Roger L. Pedersen, IE 
                    (301) 492-9425 

                    James E. Wigginton, IE 
                    (301) 492-4967 

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