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Nuclear Reactors COVID-19 Activities:
10 CFR Part 20 | 10 CFR Part 26 | 10 CFR 50.48 | 10 CFR 50.55a Codes & Standards | Owner's Activity Reports | 10 CFR Part 55 | 10 CFR Part 73 | Research & Test Reactors | Resident Inspectors | Approved Licensing Requests

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10 CFR Part 50.48 Fire Brigade Requirements

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  • Onsite fire brigades are an important part of nuclear power plant licensees’ fire protection programs. The brigades' periodic medical qualification, drills, and other training are vital to ensure that the plant’s firefighting response is safe and effective.

  • The NRC is prepared to consider, on an expedited basis, requests by individual licensees for exemptions from fire brigade medical exams, quarterly drills, and annual live firefighting training requirements that are contained in 10 CFR 50.48, "Fire protection."

  • All other requirements in 10 CFR 50.48, "Fire protection," remain in effect during the period of the exemption. These requirements provide reasonable assurance that requirements and processes are in place to allow for reactor safe shutdown.

  • For approved COVID-19 licensing requests, please see Approved COVID-19 Licensing Actions webpage.

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  • On November 10, 2020, the NRC issued a letter to provide guidance on the continued use of expedited processes beyond December 31, 2020 for COVID-19 related requests in seven topical areas. Enclosures to the letter address informational needs for each of the seven topical areas to facilitate the continued licensee’s use of the NRC's expedited review process, such as providing justifications for the hardships that have resulted from the COVID-19 PHE and information related to the potential cumulative effects of these exemptions.

  • On April 23, 2020, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) noted that relief from certain fire brigade-related requirements may be needed as a result of the public health emergency.

  • On May 14, 2020, the NRC issued letters to industry describing an expedited process for licensees to request COVID-19-related exemptions from fire brigade annual medical exams, quarterly drills, and annual live fire training requirements contained in 10 CFR 50.48.

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Frequently Asked Questions - 10 CFR 50.48

1. Why is the NRC prepared to consider exemptions for Part 50.48 fire brigade requirements in an expedited fashion?

The COVID-19 PHE represents a challenging situation that may prevent licensees from meeting three specific fire brigade qualification and training requirements in 10 CFR 50.48. The NRC determined that expedited review is appropriate in light of the impact on licensee scheduling of personnel in consideration of the changing and evolving responses to COVID-19.

2. Will the NRC be considering other licensing actions?

Based on a licensee’s specific fire protection licensing basis, a license amendment may be the necessary action. Licensees that determine that a license amendment is needed would follow the NRC’s regulation in 10 CFR 50.90, "Application for amendment of license, construction permit, or early site permit."

3. How will the NRC provide reasonable assurance of reactor safety during the relief period?

As the Commission noted during rulemaking ("Specific Exemptions; Clarification of Standards," 50 FR 50,764 (Dec. 12, 1985)):

[T]he Commission believes that, while it is true that compliance with all NRC regulations provides reasonable assurance of adequate protection of the public health and safety, the converse is not correct, that failure to comply with one regulation or another is an indication of the absence of adequate protection, at least in a situation where the Commission has reviewed the noncompliance and found that it does not pose an "undue risk" to the public health and safety.

The decisions on any requested exemptions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will not be granted unless the standards in 10 CFR 50.12(a) are met (e.g., the exemption will not present an undue risk to the public health and safety).

4. What is needed by the NRC in order to process a COVID-19 related request for exemption from the Part 50.48 fire brigade requirements expeditiously?

If the submitted request contains all information identified in the May 14, 2020, letter, as necessary for an expedited review, the request will be conducted expeditiously. The licensee should contact the plant’s licensing project manager to alert them to the expedited review request, and to discuss ways to flag the request as urgent (e.g., including the word "EXPEDITE" in the Electronic Information Exchange (EIE) comment field, or including the phrase "EXPEDITE– COVID-19 Part 50.48 Exemption Request" in the subject line of an emailed request).

5. What are the specific fire protection requirements for which the NRC is prepared to provide expedited review?

The NRC is prepared to provide expedited review of requests for relief from the fire brigade requirements for annual medical exams [Section III.H of Appendix R to 10 CFR Part 50 and NFPA 805 paragraph 3.4.1(e), quarterly drills (Section III.I.2 of Appendix R to 10 CFR Part 50 and NFPA 805 paragraph 3.4.3(c)(1)), and annual live firefighting practice (Section III.I.3 of Appendix R to 10 CFR Part 50 and NFPA 805 paragraph 3.4.1(a)(1)].

6. Is a license amendment required to change the license condition in addition to an exemption request from a requirement in 10 CFR 50.48(c) or Appendix R?

A licensee may only operate its facility as authorized by a license. If the NRC grants exemptions from specific requirements of the regulations, then references in the license are to be read in light of the exemption (e.g., a reference to "10 CFR 50.48(c)" is to be read as "10 CFR 50.48(c), as exempted"). The licensee is responsible for complying with its license and may request an amendment under 10 CFR 50.90 if the licensee desires to change the license condition.

7. Is the NRC going to grant blanket exemptions?

No, the NRC is not planning to initiate a rulemaking to grant blanket waivers or any other generic exemption from fire protection requirements. Rather, the NRC will consider granting relief from specific regulations on a case-by-case basis for individual licensees in accordance with established regulatory processes such as exemption requests or license amendment requests.

8. For purposes of fire protection, what is a "qualified health care professional"?

Each licensee must use the definitions from its licensing basis. For example, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 600, "Standard on Industrial Fire Brigades," provides a definition that would be used by licensees who are subject to NFPA 600.

9. Does a licensee need prior NRC approval to make changes to their fire protection program to demonstrate compliance with the requirements for fire brigade annual medical exams, quarterly drills, and annual live fire-fighting practice?

A licensee may be able to make changes to their fire protection program without prior NRC approval provided they meet their licensing basis, license condition and follow their fire protection program and procedures.

Licensees with a deterministic fire protection licensing basis
Guidance on changes that "would not adversely affect the ability to achieve and maintain safe shutdown in the event of a fire," is located in RG 1.189, Regulatory Position 1.8 or GL 86-10.

Licensees with a risk-informed fire protection licensing basis
Guidance on changes that provide "functional equivalency" is provided in the individual fire protection license condition. NFPA 805 FAQ 12-0061 also contains discussion of functional equivalence.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, November 25, 2020