[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 15 (Monday, January 25, 1999)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 3791-3793]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-1594]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

10 CFR Parts 50 and 70

[Docket No. PRM-50-67]


Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Receipt of Petition for 
Rulemaking

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


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ACTION: Petition for rulemaking; Notice of receipt.

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SUMMARY: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received and 
requests public comment on a petition for rulemaking filed by the 
Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The petition has been 
docketed by the Commission and has been assigned Docket No. PRM-50-67. 
The petitioner requests that the NRC amend its regulations to require 
that nuclear facilities ensure the availability of electricity to power 
atomic reactor and other nuclear facility safety systems in the event 
of a date-sensitive, computer-related incident resulting from a Year 
2000 issue (Y2K). The petitioner requests that the NRC take this action 
to ensure that reliable back-up sources of power are available in the 
event of a Y2K incident.

DATES: Submit comments by February 24, 1999. Comments received after 
this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but assurance 
of consideration cannot be given except as to comments received on or 
before this date.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555. Attention: Rulemakings and 
Adjudications Staff.
    Deliver comments to 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, 
between 7:30 am and 4:15 pm on Federal workdays.
    For a copy of the petition, write: Chief, Rules and Directives 
Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, 
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.
    You may also provide comments via the NRC's interactive rulemaking 
website through the NRC home page (http://www.nrc.gov). This site 
provides the capability to upload comments as files (any format), if 
your web browser supports that function. For information about the 
interactive rulemaking website, contact Ms. Carol Gallagher, (301) 415-
5905 (e-mail: [email protected]).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David L. Meyer, Office of 
Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 
20555. Telephone: 301-415-7162 or Toll-Free: 1-800-368-5642 or E-mail: 
[email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission received three related petitions 
for rulemaking, each dated December 10, 1998, submitted by the Nuclear 
Information Resource Service concerning various aspects of Y2K issues 
and nuclear safety. This petition requests that the NRC amend its 
regulations to provide reliable back-up sources of power for nuclear 
facilities. The two related petitions would require that nuclear power 
plant and major fuel cycle facilities be shutdown if they are not 
compliant with Y2K issues (PRM-50-65) and require that nuclear 
facilities develop and implement adequate contingency and emergency 
plans to address potential system failures (PRM-50-66).
    Because of the nature of these petitions and the date-specific 
issues they address, the petitioner requests that the petitions be 
filed expeditiously and that public comment on the actions be limited 
to 30 days.

The Petitioner's Suggested Amendment

    The petitioner requests that the NRC adopt the following text as a 
rule:

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recognizes that date-sensitive 
computer programs, embedded chips, and other electronic systems that 
perform a major role in distributing, allocating, and ensuring 
electric power throughout the United States may be prone to failure 
beginning on January 1, 2000. Loss of all alternating current 
electricity from both the offsite power grid and onsite emergency 
generators (commonly known as ``station blackout,'') long has been 
identified by the NRC as among the most prominent contributors to 
risk for atomic reactors.
    (1) For these reasons, the NRC requires of Part 50 and 70 
licensees as of December 1, 1999: (a) that all emergency diesel 
generators that provide back-up power to nuclear licensees must be 
operational and remain operational; (b) that licensees that cannot 
demonstrate full operational capabilities of all emergency diesel 
generators must close until such time that full operational 
capabilities of emergency diesel generators are attained; (c) that 
all licensees must have a 60-day supply of fuel for emergency diesel 
generators.
    (2) Further, to ensure adequate protection of public health and 
safety, the NRC requires that all licensees under these sections 
must provide alternate means of back-up power sufficient to ensure 
safety. These may include, but are not limited to: solar power 
panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric power, biomass power, and other 
means of generating electricity. These additional back-up systems 
must provide electricity directly to the licensee rather than to the 
broader electrical grid.
    (3) Irradiated fuel pools are to be immediately classified as 
Class 1-E; back-up power systems must be sufficient to provide 
cooling for such pools.
    Licensees which cannot demonstrate compliance with sections (1) 
and (2) must cease operations as of December 1, 1999, until 
compliance with these sections is attained.

Discussion

    The petitioner acknowledges that the NRC has recognized the 
potential safety and environmental problems that could result if date-
sensitive electronic systems fail to operate or provide false 
information. The petitioner also notes that NRC has required its 
reactor and major fuel cycle facilities to report on their programs to 
ensure compliance with Y2K issues by July 1, 1999.
    The petitioner is addressing a related problem concerning the 
availability of electricity to power atomic reactor and other safety 
systems. Electricity is required to operate atomic reactor safety and 
cooling systems. This electricity is provided by offsite sources, 
referred to by the petitioner as the overall electrical grid. The 
petitioner states that the NRC has long recognized that the loss of all 
alternating current from both onsite and offsite systems, known 
generally as ``station blackout'', is the most important contributor to 
risk at most atomic reactors. The petitioner notes that the NRC has 
required licensees to have back-up sources of onsite emergency power, 
normally multiple emergency diesel generators, capable of supplying the 
electricity necessary to operate essential safety systems.
    The petitioner asserts that the emergency diesel generators used at 
atomic reactors have proven unreliable and are often out of service. 
The petitioner asserts that the unprecedented condition posed by the 
Y2K problem, coupled with the demonstrated and ongoing failures of 
emergency diesel generators, constitutes reasonable doubt that 
emergency fuel generators can be relied on. Therefore, the petitioner 
believes that the NRC should require all emergency diesel generators be 
operational, have a 60-day supply of fuel as of December 1, 1999, and 
that licensed facilities that cannot meet these requirements be closed.
    The petitioner discusses the likelihood and potential consequences 
of a failure of all or a portion of the electric power grid in the 
United States. The petitioner recognizes that the failure of all or a 
portion of the electrical grid due to Y2K issues is well beyond the 
scope of NRC's authority. However, the petitioner states that the 
extended failure of all or a portion of the electrical grid would place 
severe stress on the current emergency diesel generator system of back-
up power supply and that the failure of emergency diesel generators at 
one or more reactor sites could result in extended station blackouts 
and nuclear catastrophes. The petitioner asserts that this possibility 
is well within the range of probabilities for

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which the NRC routinely requires action by its licensees. The 
petitioner further asserts that reliance on unreliable emergency diesel 
generators is insufficient under these conditions.
    Therefore, the petitioner believes it is essential that the NRC 
take the type of regulatory action suggested in this petition on an 
expedited basis.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 15th day of January, 1999.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Annette Vietti-Cook,
Secretary of the Commission.
[FR Doc. 99-1594 Filed 1-22-99; 8:45 am]
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