Aircraft Impact Assessments Proposed for New Nuclear Power Designs

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposed Oct. 3 to require new nuclear reactor designs to assess the effects from the impact of a large, commercial aircraft, which would potentially cause large fires and explosions that damage large parts of the plants. Existing nuclear power plants have considered that possibility since 2002, and NRC initiated some modifications, but this is the first time NRC has proposed requiring it for new licensees who do not reference a standard design certification or approval.

Applicants would have to include in their application design features, functional capabilities, and strategies to avoid or mitigate the damage of the aircraft impact, which NRC terms "a beyond-design-basis event."

NRC will accept comments until Dec 17. The agency said its current design basis threat, published earlier this year, does not include an aircraft attack for two reasons: It is not reasonable to expect a licensee with a private security force using weapons legally available to it to be able to defend against such an attack, and such an act is in the nature of an attack by an enemy of the United States, something power reactor licensees are not required to design their facilities or defend against.

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