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Atomic Energy of Canada Limited National Research Universal Reactor Safety System Upgrades and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's Licensing and Oversight Process

IV. CNSC Regulatory Process for Incorporating the EPS Upgrade into the NRU "Licensing Basis"

IV. A. Conceptual Design of the EPS Upgrade

In the March 1995, Licensing Plan [14], AECL stated that it would implement the NRU safety upgrades under the change control process in the FA. In November 1996, AECL issued "Project Implementation Plan - NRU Research Reactor Upgrade Project" [15]. The implementation plan stated, "The base scope of work was generated from Conceptual Design Documents of the seven proposed upgrades determined from assessment phase. Design Requirements Documents and Detailed Design Descriptions including Option Studies, where applicable, will be produced to form the basis for seeking approval to proceed from the appropriate governing bodies. Project Procedure NRU-180-02600-0001 "Change Control Procedure" defines the requirements for controlling changes to approved documentation, processes and procedures applicable to the NRU Research Reactor Upgrade Project during all phases of the project."

In November 1998, in accordance with the change control process in the FA, AECL issued the First Safety Note for the EPS [16]. The Safety Note stated: "The emergency power supply upgrade is an essential part of the overall safety improvements that are currently being implemented in NRU. The EPS is designed as a fully redundant, independent and separated multi-class power supply. The EPS will provide a hazards-qualified source of electrical power for the operation of other safety upgrades, and for the main heavy water pumps that provide both NECC cooling following LOCA and shutdown core cooling […] EPS equipment, as well as equipment for the new safety systems, will be qualified to withstand hazard events including fire external to the EPS room, and design basis earthquakes in an assessment basis earthquake environment." According to the Safety Note Implementation Plan, AECL was to issue an Installation Plan by December 1998, issue an EPS Commissioning Plan by May 2000, and issue an EPS Training Plan by June 2000.

IV. B. Safety Upgrades First Incorporated into the NRU Operating Licence1

The revised OL for NRU, issued by CNSC in 1998 [17], included licence conditions 27a and 27b, specifying the seven upgrades described in section 4.5 of AECL-MISC-300-97, dated March 1998, "NRU Reactor Annual Safety Review 1997" [18] to be implemented by October 31, 2000. Section 4.5.6 of AECL-MISC-300-97 stated "A seismically qualified EPS is required to provide continuity of electrical power to the upgrades in the event of Class 4 power failures. The EPS will provide power for the NECC and other safety-related systems, and improved reliability of the DC power supplies for P-104 and P-105 motors."

IV. C. Subsequent Operating Licence Revisions

Subsequent OL revisions removed this condition and replaced it with other conditions, as follows:

  • 10/2000 licence condition regarding the seven upgrades was not included;
  • 05/2003 shutdown by December 31, 2005 unless authorized by the CNSC;
  • 06/2004 shutdown by December 31, 2005 unless authorized by the CNSC;
  • 12/2004 shutdown by December 31, 2005 unless authorized by the CNSC;
  • 11/2005 demonstrate all seven upgrades fully operational by December 31, 2005; the licence expired in July 2006.

License Condition 13.1, contained in the November 2005 licence, required all seven upgrades to be made fully operational by December 31, 2005, and was specifically included in the 2005 OL, at the request of the CNSC staff, as the basis for permitting operations beyond December 31, 2005. The licence did not define what is meant by "upgrades" or "fully operational". The latter term was separately defined and agreed upon in written correspondence between AECL and CNSC staff. (See Section V.A. for additional discussion concerning the clarity of this license condition.)

IV. D. Current Operating Licence, July 2006

The current NRU OL, NRTEOL-01.00/2011, dated July 28, 2006 [19], also does not specifically identify the scope of the seven safety upgrades. Among other requirements, the licence contains Condition 19.1: "The licensee shall comply with the requirements set out in the document entitled Licensing Strategy for the NRU Licensability Extension Project." However, there is no specific document reference number or document date given in Condition 19.1 and therefore, it is not clear to which document this Condition refers as part of the OL.

Based on interviews, it was understood by both AECL and the CNSC staffs that the document referred to in Licence Condition 19.1 is an attachment [20] to a February 28, 2006 letter from the CNSC Director to the Vice President of AECL's CRL site [21]. This letter states that its purpose is to communicate CNSC staff's strategy for the regulatory oversight activities associated with the NRU Licensability Extension (NRU LE) project. "The attached document outlines the licensing prerequisites in a prioritized manner from now into the future." The letter further states that "the expectation is that this document will form the basis for future submissions and activities by AECL and reviews and approvals by the CNSC." The attachment entitled "Licensing Strategy for the NRU Licensability Extension Project" (Licensing Strategy document) attempted to set expectations for items to be completed, along with a schedule for completion, in order for the NRU reactor licence to be renewed. The CNSC's original intent for this document was to get agreement on a proposed licensing plan, partially because there were a large number of open items which had to be addressed to the CNSC's satisfaction for the longer term licence being proposed. By invoking the Licensing Strategy document in a licence condition, the CNSC intended to impose specific requirements. However, the Licensing Strategy document did not use the term "requirements" in describing any of these planned actions.

Regarding the safety upgrades, the Licensing Strategy document stated: "Acceptance Criteria - AECL must demonstrate that the seven safety system upgrades are fully operational (as of January 2006) […] CNSC to perform a full scope audit of the EPS upgrades […] All seven upgrades are currently installed." The Licensing Strategy document discussed the seven safety upgrades as if they had already been implemented and declared "fully operational". As of February 28, 2006 (the date of the letter), the OL in effect included Condition 13.1, which specified that these seven upgrades had to be fully operational by December 31, 2005. The CNSC noted in the Licensing Strategy document that it planned to perform an audit of the Liquid Confinement, Vented Confinement (LCVC) and EPS upgrades, after AECL had declared them fully operational.

The Licensing Strategy document goes on to include eleven short-term AECL actions to be implemented before July 2006, addressing known non-compliances with requirements and safety concerns and midterm actions by July 2007. However, these actions and the criteria to be met refer to several studies and programs which are also not well specified by concise regulatory language.

IV. E. Facility Authorization - FA

The FA is the primary document used to provide operators with limiting conditions for operations (LCOs) and action requirements. Contrary to the change control process [23] required by the OL, the FA was not revised to include the EPS (hazards qualified) upgrades after they were declared "fully operational" in December 2005 [22]. The currently approved FA is AECL-FA-01, Revision 4, August, 2000 [24], providing detailed NRU reactor operating limits for various operating modes. It is referenced in Appendix B of the current OL as the applicable document for the NRU Reactor Facility, but does not include the LCOs for all the upgrades. The FA is based, in part, on the FSAR. As discussed below, CNSC had not approved updated versions of the FSAR submitted by AECL, and therefore AECL did not update the FA. Pending CNSC approval, AECL issued Instructions to Supervisors (ITS) in lieu of LCOs for these upgrades.

IV. F. Final Safety Analysis Report - FSAR

The FSAR is the comprehensive safety analysis of the reactor. The FSAR was not updated to reflect an assessment or safety analysis of the upgrades' implementation, as they were declared operational and placed in service. The CNSC, in a November 21, 2005 letter to AECL [25], indicated that it "expects" the FSAR and the FA (AECL-FA-01) to be updated before site licence renewal. This was not done.

The February 28, 2006, Licensing Strategy document had discussed the 2000 FSAR and stated that the 2000 version was still not approved. The Licensing Strategy document goes on to discuss several deficiencies and implies a requirement for AECL to "make a commitment" to submit a program to update the FSAR. This letter makes reference to AECL-MISC-300, Revision 0, NRU Research Reactor-Safety Analysis Report, Volume 2, 2000 [26].

AECL had previously submitted AECL-MISC-300 on October 31, 2000 [27]. However, on December 1, 2000 [28], CNSC provided comments to AECL and asked for a work plan and schedule for addressing all outstanding issues and the submission of supporting documentation and information at the RSEP review meeting on December 6, 2000. CNSC did not address the FSAR again until October 26, 2006 [29], six years later. FSAR versions which describe the upgrades were submitted in October 2000 and March 2007, but neither was approved by the CNSC. Since these later versions of the FSAR have not been approved by CNSC, the FSAR invoked by the OL continues to be the original outdated 1964 (emphasis added) version [30] [Schedule 1: Reference Documents, item (1) IOI-260, A Safety and Hazards Review of the NRU Reactor, March 1964, (or as superseded by the most up-to-date revision of the document that has been approved in writing by the SRC and CNSC)]. This 1964 document is supplemented by numerous addenda that are also listed in the FA. At the time of the review of the CNSC documents, the current OL did not incorporate, by reference, the updated FA, the LCOs for the upgrade equipment, or the updated FSAR reflecting the detailed basis for the upgrades.

Observation (1) - Operating Licence (OL)

The Talisman Team concluded that the current OL does not explicitly contain clear requirements for implementation of the safety system upgrade modifications. This is based on the fact that Licence Condition 19.1 is vaguely worded and does not use clear, enforceable and understandable regulatory language necessary to impose specific requirements (exactly "what" and "when") in an OL. The Licensing Strategy document referred to by Licence Condition 19.1 did not use the term "requirements" at all. The Licensing Strategy document apparently referred to, includes opinions, expectations and requests, but does not include clear and specific requirements. The Talisman Team also concluded that the renewed 2006 licence incorporates out-of-date information (such as the original 1964 version of the FSAR), does not include essential information, such as the LCOs and their bases, and is very cumbersome. The reader must refer to several attachments and reference documents in order to attempt to understand the OL requirements. The Licensing Strategy document is very long and is very imprecise as to what is required. For example, the OL Condition that required the safety upgrades was not clear as to the description of exactly what EPS upgrades were required and when.

The licence renewal process involves a combined effort, and the facility (CRL) licence contains information prepared by both the licensee (AECL) and the regulator (CNSC) staff. Nevertheless, the current NRU OL is cumbersome and unclear. Based on the Talisman Team review of the information presented to the team members, the following recommendations are made. This format will be used for all other recommendations that follow the observations.


C-OL-1: CNSC should clarify current OL requirements, particularly the requirements invoked by the Licensing Strategy document.

CNSC Management Response
At the end of May, the CNSC conducted a follow-up audit to review the status of the seven upgrades identified in the Licensing Strategy document. The CNSC is currently reviewing all the findings and will issue a set of directives and actions to AECL which will need to be completed. The final report should be issued within the next 60 business days. CNSC will work with AECL to review any remaining commitments specified in the Licensing Strategy document, to ensure they are clear, that they adequately address the licensing requirements and that both CNSC and AECL are clear on the necessary actions and timelines to meet the commitment. These will be reviewed by legal counsel for clarity and enforceability. This will be completed by October 31, 2008.

C-OL-2: CNSC should use precise regulatory language, to ensure that future CRL OL and licence conditions for the NRU reactor, and other licensed facilities, are clear. The CNSC staff should ensure that, before a licence condition is approved and issued, both the licensee and the regulator can understand what actions will be needed to fully implement the requirements, and that it is clear enough that the CNSC staff can enforce specific details. Use specific (enforceable) regulatory terms and references, as opposed to "implement the seven upgrades."

CNSC Management Response
The CNSC will review the current license for NRU to improve the structure, content and clarity of the license, license conditions, limiting conditions of operations and any reference documents. The review will be completed by October 31, 2008. The CNSC will work with AECL to agree on a timeline for completing any necessary changes to the license and any reference documents. The plan and timeline for implementing the changes will be presented to the Commission in February, 2009. The CNSC will improve its review process for licensing documents, including reviews by legal counsel, to ensure more precise regulatory language. As part of establishing licence conditions and the development of the Commission Member Documents, CNSC staff will:
(a) ensure the required actions and timelines to fulfill the condition are understood by both the licensee and staff;
(b) ensure the compliance plan for verifying, enforcing and reporting compliance on the license condition are understood by both AECL and CNSC staff.

C-OL-3: CNSC management should require that all the regulatory documents that CNSC staff plan to use or rely on (when establishing requirements or providing authorizations) would be reviewed for enforceability by CNSC counsel before issuance.

CNSC Management Response
Legal counsel reviews draft licences including licence conditions. CNSC will review the structure of licences and reference documents to simplify and facilitate legal counsel reviews. This will be completed while addressing recommendations C-OL-2, J-OL-1, J-OL-2 and J-PSA-1.

C-OL-4: CNSC should adopt a standard to test the clarity of regulatory language, so that both a nuclear plant control room operator and a regulatory inspector would be able to read a document and agree on "what" is required, the means or details of "how", and "by when".

CNSC Management Response
This will be partially addressed by addressing recommendations C-OL-1, C-OL-2. In addition, CNSC will include a validation step in the review process for key regulatory documents, to ensure that both CNSC inspectors and AECL workers have a common understanding of the license conditions, regulatory expectations and regulatory processes.

C-OL-5: CNSC should obtain authorization to hire its own in-house counsel. Legal support services should be more effectively used for review of key regulatory documents, to ensure clarity and enforceability.

CNSC Management Response
Complete. The CNSC acquired its own independent legal counsel as of May 16, 2008.

Observation (2) - Operating Licence (OL) - Reference Documents

At the time of the Talisman Team's review, the OL references an obsolete FA and an obsolete FSAR. AECL has submitted later versions of the FSAR, but CNSC has not approved them. There is no requirement for CNSC to complete its review of the FSAR or FA before recommending the CNSC Commission to issue a new OL, and the CNSC staff has not conducted a timely review of the current NRU FSAR.


J-OL-1: CNSC and AECL should achieve approval of up-to-date FA and FSAR, and incorporate them into the OL as soon as practical.

CNSC Management Response
The CNSC will coordinate with AECL the review and approval of the FA and the FSAR and incorporate them into the operating licence. In line with responding to recommendation C-OL-2, the CNSC will work with AECL to agree on a timeline for completing any revisions, reviews and approvals of these reference documents. The plan and timeline for completing this work will be established by September 30, 2008.

AECL Management Response
AECL will work with CNSC staff to ensure an approved FA for NRU, supported by an acceptable FSAR, is expeditiously incorporated into the licence (see overall recommendation 13).

J-OL-2: AECL should update - and CNSC should promptly approve, and incorporate into the OL - , the updated FA, including LCOs for any new required structure, system, or component that is added in a new OL or in a new OL amendment.

CNSC Management Response
The CNSC will coordinate with AECL the review and approval of any future nuclear facility modifications and the updated FA LCO. These will be incorporated into the operating licence.

AECL Management Response
For future nuclear facility modifications (new structures, systems or components), AECL will ensure the associated Facility Authorization is promptly updated to include new or modified Limiting Conditions of Operation (as appropriate) and submitted for CNSC approval, prior to inclusion in a revised licence (see overall recommendation 13).

1 The actual AECL OL covers 14 different facilities at the CRL site and, as a result, has many referenced documents that become part of the site OL. For ease of discussion, this Report uses the term NRU OL to cover those portions of the actual AECL OL that regulate the operations of the NRU reactor.

2 Recommendations are numbered as follows: X - XX - #: The first letter designates who the recommendation is being made to; J is for recommendations made to both AECL and CNSC; A is for AECL; and C is for CNSC. The second series of letters designates the process or function addressed by the recommendation (e.g., PM is for project management). The number at the end uniquely identifies the recommendations in each category.

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