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Nuclear Fundamentals


A problem often encountered in facilities handling radioactive and hazardous materials is the lack
of both a consistent understanding and a consistent analysis of the many hazards affecting the
environment, public, workers, and property. This can happen for a variety of reasons. It may be
due to individuals with different academic backgrounds (scientific, engineering, legal) and
professional experiences (operators, regulators, management, enforcement personnel). All of
these individuals may interpret a vast array of Department of Energy (DOE) requirements in
disparate ways1. One area where analysts, managers, and engineering professionals often find
inconsistencies is in the development and understanding of fundamental fire hazards that may be
encountered in a nuclear facility.
DOE nuclear facilities to demonstrate that the objectives of the DOE fire protection program are
being met by these facilities requires a comprehensive fire hazard analysis. These objectives
Providing fire protection features so as to minimize the potential for the occurrence of a fire
or fire-related event;
Ensuring that a fire does not cause an unacceptable on-site or off-site release of hazardous or
radiological material that will threaten the environment, the public, or the health and safety of
Ensuring that there will not be unacceptable interruptions as a result of fire and related
hazards in vital DOE programs;
Ensuring that property losses from a fire and related events will not exceed defined limits
established by DOE; and
Ensuring that critical process controls and safety class systems will not be damaged as a
result of a fire and related events.2
Similarly there are objectives for safety authorization basis documentation for DOE nuclear
facilities. These objectives include
Providing DOE a basis for approval of design, construction, operation, decontamination, or
decommissioning of the facility;
Providing the defining and controlling safety bases and commitments;
Providing support to DOE and contractor management safety oversight of the facility and
operations; and
Providing the analytical rationale for the facility to operate safely in terms of health, safety,
and other potential radiological impacts to on-site workers and the public.3
Certainly there are commonalties between the objectives of both the safety analysis
documentation and the fire hazard analysis documentation. In terms of safety both are interested
in describing the hazards and risks. Both are interested in determining engineering and
administrative practices necessary to protect the environment, public, workers, and property.
Both must be meticulously interested in
Preventing exposure to certain hazards (in this case fire);
Preserving functions associated with structures, systems, and components;
Mitigating the release of hazardous or radiological materials; and
Determining functions necessary to execute these safety functions.

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