Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Sellafield - Essential Operations Inspection of the PFCS Metal Fire Fighting Capability

Executive summary

Purpose of intervention

The current ONR regulatory strategy for Sellafield Ltd (SL) is focussed on stimulating, facilitating and expediting hazard and risk reduction.  ONR has a number of planned interventions in place to ensure hazard and risk reduction activities are delivered safely.

This intervention focuses on the actions taken by SL in response to a Regulatory Issue (RI) regarding ONR concerns on the absence of protocols and specific media for fighting metal fires. The purpose of the intervention is therefore to determine the extent to which SL has progressed actions against this RI.

The intervention reported in this record is one of a series of ‘essential operations inspections’ designed to identify any potential shortfalls in the reliability and resilience of the functions underpinning a facility which is carrying out risk and hazard reduction activities.

Interventions Carried Out by ONR

This inspection focussed specifically on SL’s capability to respond to possible metal fires within the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS) following the recent introduction of new fire fighting equipment.  This new equipment is in response to recommendations from SL’s Long Term Periodic Review relating to the PFCS Facilities’ Severe Accident Management Strategy and concerns surrounding beyond design basis in light of post Fukushima resilience works.  As such, this inspection sought to gain practical confirmation of the availability of the fire fighting equipment, maintenance, operator knowledge and ability to deliver the required actions required for detection and response to metal fires with the PFCS.

The inspection was undertaken at the Sellafield site from 09 – 10 March 2016.  I was supported by the ONR Project Inspector and the SL PFCS Internal Regulator.

Explanation of Judgement if Safety System Not judged to be Adequate

This was not a system based inspection.

Key Findings, Inspector’s Opinions and reasons for Judgement made.

Although PFCS metal fires are considered to be unlikely, PFCS has installed new equipment to be able to fight an in-silo metal fire and has been able to demonstrate the deployment of this capability in an on-plant exercise.

This Essential Operations Inspection has taken place during the latter stages of implementation whilst training exercises and training delivery is on-going and maintenance requirements of the equipment are not yet confirmed.

The inspection scope identified a number of objectives to align with the RI, against the objectives I concluded:

Conclusion of Intervention.

SL has installed and demonstrated a metal fire fighting capability utilising fit for purpose commercial off the shelf equipment for PFCS. SL has made timely progress in selecting, procuring and installing the fire fighting equipment.

As expected, the supporting arrangements are still under development and staff training is not yet complete. The inspection identified some weaknesses with the arrangements and the facility still has work to do to improve the speed of its response to a suspected fire.

Therefore, whilst I have gained regulatory confidence that a metal fire fighting capability is now in place, the licensee needs to address the weaknesses identified to refine the effectiveness of the fire fighting response and the supporting arrangements before the capability can be considered to be fully suitable and sufficient. I will follow up as part of normal regulatory business associated with addressing the RI.