[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 188 (Thursday, September 27, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 59345-59346]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-23792]

Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.


Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 188 / Thursday, September 27, 2012 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 59345]]


10 CFR Parts 50, 52, 54, and 100

[Docket No. PRM-50-106; NRC-2012-0177]

Environmental Qualifications of Electrical Equipment

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Petition for rulemaking; notice of receipt.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) 
received a petition for rulemaking (PRM), dated June 18, 2012, which 
was filed with the NRC by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 
(NRDC) and Mr. Paul M. Blanch (collectively, the petitioners). The 
petition was docketed by the NRC on June 22, 2012, and assigned Docket 
No. PRM-50-106. The petitioners request that the NRC initiate a 
rulemaking ``to revise its regulations to clearly and unequivocally 
require the environmental qualification of all safety-related cables, 
wires, splices, connections and other ancillary electrical equipment 
that may be subjected to submergence and/or moisture intrusion during 
normal operating conditions, severe weather, seasonal flooding, seismic 
events, and post-accident conditions, both inside and outside of 
containment.'' The NRC is not instituting a public comment period for 
this PRM at this time.

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2012-0177 when contacting the 
NRC about the availability of information for this petition. You may 
access information related to this petition, which the NRC possesses 
and are publicly available, by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web Site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2012-0177. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-492-
3668; email: [email protected].
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may access publicly available documents online in the NRC 
Library at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the 
search, select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS Search.'' For problems with 
ADAMS, please contact the NRC's Public Document Room (PDR) reference 
staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or by email to 
[email protected]. The ADAMS accession number for each document 
referenced in this notice (if that document is available in ADAMS) is 
provided the first time that a document is referenced. The petition, 
PRM-50-106, is available in ADAMS under Accession Number ML12177A377.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

Announcements, and Directives Branch, Division of Administrative 
Services, Office of Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-492-3667, email: 
[email protected].


I. The Petitioners

    The NRDC ``is a national non-profit membership environmental 
organization with offices in New York City, Washington, DC, San 
Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Beijing.'' The NRDC's ``activities 
include maintaining and enhancing environmental quality and monitoring 
federal agency actions to ensure that federal statutes enacted to 
protect human health and the environment are fully and properly 
implemented.'' Mr. Paul Blanch, the primary author of the petition, 
``is a consultant and expert witness'' on ``nuclear and electrical 

II. The Petition

    The petitioners request that the NRC ``institute a rulemaking to 
revise the regulatory requirements for the environmental qualification 
of electrical equipment important to the safe operation of existing and 
new reactors.'' Specifically, the petitioners request that ``the 
regulatory requirements contained in 10 CFR Sec.  50.49, Criteria 2 and 
4 in Appendix A to 10 CFR 50, and 10 CFR 54 * * * be clarified and 
supplemented with regard to the environmental qualification of 
electrical equipment exposed to `submergence in water, condensation, 
wetting, and other environmental stresses' during routine operation and 
infrequent events (e.g., flooding).''
    The petitioners state that the designs for nuclear power plants 
currently operating in the U.S. ``feature electrical cables and wires 
between power sources (e.g., transformers, batteries and emergency 
power supplies) and safety equipment throughout the facility.'' The 
petitioners further state that ``[w]ith few exceptions, these cables 
and wires are only designed for dry, low humidity environments and, 
therefore, not qualified for moist or wet environments. Cables and 
wires with insulation surface defects caused during or exacerbated by 
installation are more prone to failure when submerged in water or 
subjected to moisture intrusion. It was generally assumed (petitioner 
Blanch included) that these containers would remain dry.'' The 
petitioners assert that ``[b]y existing NRC regulation, it was 
unnecessary to specify that these cables and wire remain functional 
under submerged conditions.''
    The petitioners state that ``General Design Criterion (GDC) 2, 
Design Bases for Protection Against Natural Phenomena, and GDC 4, 
Environmental and Dynamic Effects Design Bases, established regulatory 
requirements for the design of nuclear power plants.'' The petitioners 
assert that ``[t]he large number of electrical failures that were 
experienced during the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in March 1979 
demonstrated that these regulatory requirements, or their enforcement, 
were inadequate to ensure that electrical equipment would remain 
    The petitioners interpret NUREG/CR-6384, Vol. 1, ``Literature 
Review of Environmental Qualification of Safety-Related Electric 
Cables'' (ADAMS Accession Number ML031600732), dated April 1996, to 
indicate that ``[t]he aforementioned `high probability of impairment' 
that helped focus the selection of cable penetrations during TMI 
inspections already indicates that moisture and submersion causes cable 
damage and demonstrates NRC's acknowledgment of the matter thus 
corroborating the necessity of this

[[Page 59346]]

rulemaking. If these conditions cause a high probability of impairment 
following an accident, it is logical to assume that these conditions 
produce a similar outcome in the absence of or prior to an accident as 
    The petitioners state that ``[t]he NRC recognized from the TMI 
accident the need to strengthen the regulatory requirements for 
electrical equipment. The NRC revised its regulations to include 
specific requirements in 10 C.F.R. Sec.  50.49, wherein Sec.  (e)(6) 
explicitly addressed the submergence factor[.]'' The petitioners 
further state that ``[t]he regulation did not further limit this 
requirement to where the cables and wires were located. But the NRC 
staff introduced such a limitation through * * * Generic Letter 82-09, 
`Environmental Qualification of Safety-Related Electrical Equipment,' 
[ADAMS Accession Number ML031080281], dated April 20, 1982[.]'' The 
petitioners state that ``[r]ain water and ground water routinely 
submerge underground cables and wires. The safety implications from the 
failure of a safety-related cable inside containment submerged by an 
accident, outside containment submerged by a high energy line break, or 
outside containment submerged by nature are identical--that safety 
function is lost. It matters little if the portion of a safety-related 
cable inside containment and the portion of that same cable outside 
containment in a high energy line break area survive if another portion 
of that same cable routed underground fails due to submergence.''
    The petitioners further state that ``[t]he TMI accident and 
laboratory testing have shown that moisture/submergence of electrical 
cables and wires significantly increase the probability of failure. 
Failure of the cables and wires also causes failure of connected 
components[.]'' The petitioners assert that ``NRC requirements only 
state that safety systems should remain functional and do not provide 
conditions or acceptance criteria for degraded cables. Additionally, 
cable degradation as an ongoing process is not a reported issue unless 
it leads to the failure of a cable system or it is discovered that the 
cables are operating in conditions for which they were not intended.'' 
The NRC issued two Information Notices regarding submerged electrical 
cables, Information Notice 2002-12, ``Submerged Safety-Related 
Electrical Cables,'' (ADAMS Accession Number ML020790238) and 
Information Notice 2010-26, ``Submerged Electrical Cables,'' (ADAMS 
Accession Number ML102800456). The petitioners stated that the NRC did 
not request specific action from the licensees. The petitioners further 
state that ``[t]he observations in [Information Notice] 2010-26 range 
from licensee failures to establish preventative maintenance and test 
programs or their failure to verify and maintain suitable environments 
for series of electrical cable systems. In certain cases, the 
inspections discovered that a number of cable systems were being 
subjected to conditions for which they were not designed for, such as 
`continuous underwater environments,' which led to concerning levels of 
insulation degradation and cable failure. These affected cable systems 
included safety-related power cables, where the inspectors noted that 
failures in these systems could disable important accident mitigation 
    In Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) for SECY-92-223, 
``Resolution of Deviations Identified During the Systematic Evaluation 
Program,'' (ADAMS Accession Number ML003763736), dated September 18, 
1992, the Commission provided direction to its staff regarding the 
applicability of the GDC. The petitioners state that ``[t]he problem is 
that past NRC decisions have constrained or eliminated the 
applicability of these regulatory requirements'' and ``the Commission 
has determined that these requirements are NOT to be applied to the 
majority of reactors.'' The petitioners further state that ``[t]he 
regulation did not further limit this requirement to where the cables 
and wires were located.'' The petitioners assert that a statement by 
Judge Ann Marshall Young ``further expounds on the need for rulemaking 
and clarification of 10 C.F.R Sec.  50.49 to address cables that may be 
exposed to harsh environments during normal, abnormal, and accident 
conditions. Electrical cables and wires are prone to accelerated 
failure rates when submerged in water or exposed to high humidity 
unless designed and qualified for these environmental conditions. The 
NRC's regulatory requirements address environmental qualification of 
safety-related systems, structures, and components, including electric 
cables and wires.''
    The petitioners state that ``[t]his rulemaking will supplement and 
clarify NRC's regulatory requirements to ensure that safety-related 
electrical cables and wires will be properly qualified for all the 
environmental conditions they may experience during routine operation 
and following accidents regardless of when a reactor received its 
construction permit or where the safety-related cable is located.''

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 21st day of September 2012.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Annette L. Vietti-Cook,
Secretary of the Commission.
[FR Doc. 2012-23792 Filed 9-26-12; 8:45 am]