Fuel Error at IFE Halden – The handling of the incident – NRPA report in ENGLISH

“…“The example given by Norway strongly reinforces the importance and the value of establishing and applying IAEA Nuclear Security Guidance that contributes to the continuous improvement of physical protection and nuclear security,” said Muhammed Khaliq, Head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Security of Materials and Facilities Section.

The IPPAS team, led by Kristóf Horváth, Deputy Director General of the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA), comprised eight experts from seven nations, including the IAEA representative, Mr Khaliq….” Oct 2015 Oslo


This report has been translated from the Norwegian in order to clarify the situation concerning confusion from some of the Pro nuclear lobby and anti nuclear movement highlighted on social media these past weeks. I have tried to get more information from sources to answer the issue as to why there was deleted data from EURDEP radiation mapping in Sweden and Norway just after this report was completed but to no avail, thus far.

The IFE were contacted by Peter for their comment on this incident. The initial impression Peter was given was that the Bellona report was inaccurate and claims by the IFE seems to show a concerted effort to minimise the risks that this reactor poses to the public. If a large plume had come from the Halden reactor on the 17th February into Sweden then the ESPOO treaty concerning cross border contamination on radiation may have been broken. This plume went on for some days and seems to have also hit most of southern Norway (east and west) as the wind changed direction.

However, there have been many claims that the Halden reactor was responsible for all iodine releases in Europe these past months and this is not true. Using EURDEP, I have tracked, as best as i could, the probable sources. There are two main sources of Iodine from Hungary  (January 2017)and Norway  (Oct 2016 and Feb 2017) and some smaller sources of gamma energy from Spain, Germany, France and possibly from the Italian area. This seems to have ruled out Halden as the only source of Iodine and all the reports of USA military planes checking out the Russian involvement in this scenario are false (this was also claimed by some main stream press also).

The IAEA has been efficient at removing most of the spikes and leaving no data. These spikes are removed as a matter of course in some countries because they claim it is normal Radon from the environment (NORM) but this is mostly not the case.

As to why Sweden might not want to highlight any plumes concerning issues on the ESPOO Treaty from Halden into their country, we only have to see the recent statement by the Swedish Radiation Safety Agency (SRSA) concerning the Nordic Nuclear Safety Research group (NKS) from the 9 March 2017;

“Above all, these evaluations have demonstrated that our approach is correct: We should continue to take part in these research fora,” says Eva Simic, director of research at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. “An additional perspective is that the fora underline the beneficial impact of NKS and Halden on our work, and highlight a number of areas we need to work on in order to benefit further from the collaboration. In other words, they provide valuable decision-making input when we discuss future research initiatives.”

It would seem that the Halden management of IFE has many friends that support anything they say but Bellona and the NRPA are holding IFE to task, though it is not widely reported by the main stream media. Bellona represent one of the few organisations that are trying to provide truly independent Science Media Journalism and even the Norwegian Governments own department the NRPA is trying to hold the IFE accountable and promote transparency in a technology that is renowned for secrecy and risk taking. Anyway, here is the full report by the NRPA on the Halden reactor and there should be another due in the near future to assess how IFE are dealing with the issues outlined in this report.. This link shows the original article and links posted on nuclear-news. Thanks to NIls Bohmer and the NRPA for allowing me to publish this report in full. Shaun McGee aka arclight 12th March 2017

Full report

Our ref .: 16/00889 /
The caseworker .: Tonje Sekse
Date: 02/13/2017

Fuel Error at IFE Halden – The handling of the incident

1 Introduction
Monday 24 October 2016 at. 1:45 p.m.
there was an incident in the treatment of the damaged reactor fuel at the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) in its facility in Halden. As a result, there was an urgent release of radioactive substances into the reactor hall and into the surroundings. The reactor hall was evacuated and closed off. The IFE notified The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) Tuesday morning (October 25) and the ventilation system of the reactor hall was stopped. The discharge into the environment then stopped. The IFE informed the NRPA that the situation was under control on Tuesday night.

The day after the notification, Wednesday 26 October, The NRPA chose to conduct unannounced inspection at the IFE at their headquarters in Kjeller in connection with the late notification and the handling of the incident. During this inspection it was revealed that the situation was still unresolved and that there was still a discharge to the reactor hall. Because of this, the NRPA decided to create an enhanced inspection order for the IFE to follow up the late notification, the missing information, and the handling of the consequences of the incident, including the efforts to gain further control on the discharge from the damaged fuel.

As part of the enhanced inspection, a tighter communictaion regime between IFE and the NRPA was created for the future handling of the situation. IFE reported daily progress of the work, the size of the emissions in the reactor hall and into the surrounding environment, and planned future work. Personnel from the NRPA were present with IFE Halden during all operations in the reactor hall during the inspection period. As a part of the enhanced inspection, the NRPA conducted several interviews with personnel from IFE that were involved in handling of the incident. Most interviews were conducted on 10 and 25 November 2016. In addition, the NRPA had several video conferences with IFE personnel and their management. The NRPA also obtained copies of the relevant logs.

Their was a major inspection meeting between IFE and the NRPA in Halden, 25 November 2016. Present at the meeting were the following representatives from the NRPA and the IFE:

IFE: Atle Valseth – research director NSF
Geir Mjønes – department manager HBWR
Tord Walderhaug – s
afety chief / Radiation Protection Supervisor (Halden)
Kari Lyumer Moum – section head chemistry
Pål Thowsen – senior reactor engineering
Lise Moen – senior reactor physicist
Wolfgang Wiesenack – Research Director

NRPA: Per Strand – Department director
Kristin Frogg – technical director
Øyvind Gjølme Selnæs – senior adviser
Tonje Sekse – senior adviser

2. Current regulations
The enhanced inspection authority was notified on 25 October 2016 under the unannounced inspection on the same day. The Inspection was authorised by the Atomic Energy Act § 13 on inspection, and in the Pollution Control Act § 48 also on inspection.

3. Background, scope and implementation
The inspection was decided on and initiated in conjunction with the unannounced inspection on the 26 October 2016. As a part of the enhanced inspection the NRPA had ongoing dialogue with IFE in supervision period and has conducted several interviews with personnel at IFE that were involved in handling of the incident. The focus of the interviews was the individual’s role in the process of handling the damaged fuel, but also with the situation with the reactor. NRPA received copies of relevant logs in connection with this inspection.

The enhanced inspection was completed on December 2.

4. General impression
Previously the NRPA, as part of the unannounced inspection on the 26 October 2016, had reported errors for missing information and the late notification of the incident, ref. Inspection report 13/2016 . The enhanced inspection involves communication from IFE to NRPA, and the further handling of the incident.

The NRPA conducted interviews and obtained logs as part of the inspection. During the inspection meeting on 25 November 2016 IFE were handed the Emergency log, logs from the reactor engineer (of the control room), and log of the water chemistry for the relevant period. In addition the IFE subsequently forwarded logs of plant control, “the night round,” daily instructions and construction announcements, and print from Procsee showing signals / trends.

The primary cooling circuit is an important part of the safety system of the reactor. Valves which regulate the circulation of cooling water in the primary cooling circuit is dependent on the process air to be open. When the ventilation system of the reactor hall was stopped and the valves closed on Wednesday, the 26 October, one of the consequences was that the process air had to be closed off. Circulation in the primary cooling circuit was therefore suspended. The reactor was shut down when the incident with the damaged fuel occurred on the 24 October. IFE had informed that earlier that they had stoppages in circulation in the primary cooling circuit for longer periods of time in connection with maintenance and other work while the reactor was out of service.

From Thursday 27 October the safety of the reactor was a daily recurring theme between NRPA and IFE, where the NRPA repeatedly questioned the opinions about reactor safety and the closure of the primary cooling circuit. The IFE reported back that the situation was not unusual and that the reactor could stay in that condition for several weeks to come. The NRPA wanted greater transparency and traceability in the safety assessments that were made and demanded in a video meeting on Tuesday 1 November at. 2:00 pm, better documentation with declarations with signatures from the responsible operations and safety managers. A few hours later the same evening received the NRPA a concerning message from IFE that the reactor was “in a very special condition.”

The IFE asked NRPA for permission to open the valves and start circulation in the primary circuit as soon as possible. The reason for the message were the differences in temperature in the reactor tank, the indication of an increased neutron flux in the reactor core and the danger of hydrogen formation. For the NRPA this is a serious message and a completely different situation than the one the IFE had described a few hours earlier. This message was correct, but the NRPA questioned why this was not investigated earlier both because of security, but also because the regulatory authority had demanded this. The IFE received permission to open the valves and start the work to start primary cooling circuit and discharging the contaminated air from the reactor hall. Despite that there was still emissions from the damaged fuel emissions were within the emission limits in the permit.

The same night the IFE called in the reactor physicists who assessed the situation and found that indications were likely due to the impact on the instruments that were not calibrated for the conditions in the reactor hall as they were. IFE completed the planned measures, opened valves and started the primary cooling circuit. The situation was stable after this.

The NRPA takes the situation awareness, safety assessments and communication to the NRPA around reactor safety in the days leading up to IFE detected indication of increased neutron flux November 1st very seriously. The reactor was then, as the IFE described it, in a “very special state,” that was both unusual and not described in the safety report. The nuclear instrumentation were not calibrated for the conditions that were in the reactor hall. Nor was it the case, as stated earlier, that this was a situation that was normal and described in the safety report.

The NRPA observed that during the interviews given afterwards there was somewhat contradictory explanations and that there was still some confusion. The NRPA believes it is important that all conditions will be taken seriously, both technical failures and inadequate procedures. IFE must focus on efforts to improve the safety culture of the organization and follow up error reports from previous inspections.

It is pertinent to mention that after November 1, in the subsequent work on the handling of the damaged fuel and the ongoing supervision case there has been satisfactory communication from IFE to NRPA.

5. Findings During the inspectiondeviation and remarks

5.1. definitions
Deviation – failure to comply with the requirements established pursuant to law.
Remarks – conditions that are necessary to point out, but not covered by the definition of
Comment – used to explain or substantiate discrepancies or remarks.

5.2. Deviation
It was given 4 discrepancies:
1. The IFE misinformed the NRPA on Tuesday 25 October 2016 when it was announced that the situation was under control. The IFE misinformed NRPA again repeatedly in the period 27 October to 1 November, when the issue of the reactor safety was mentioned, and the IFE reported that the situation was not unusual.
The IFE failed to make good enough assessments of the situation and the possible consequences for reactor safety and security systems in the reactor hall, although it was discussed repeatedly in communication with the NRPA. A new assessment of reactor safety and the situation in the reactor hall was first made when NRPA requested documentation with signatures of responsible operations and safety managers.
3. By closing the valves and stop the primary cooling circuit, the reactor was put into a state that was not defined in the safety report (SAR).
The NRPA believes that the possible consequences of closed valves, elevated activity levels and high temperatures in the reactor hall for key instruments and security systems were not adequately evaluated or documented in advance or described in the SAR.
4. It is important that all conditions be taken seriously and that the IFE is continuing its efforts to improve the safety culture
in the organization and follow up orders and deviations from previous inspections. Safety work and safety culture at IFE was the subject of system inspections in 2014, cf. incident report 1/2014. The NRPA see this event as a deviation in connection with the safety culture cf. Deviations given in inspection report 1/2014. Greater progress should have been achieved in efforts to follow up the findings of the system revision and work to improve the safety culture of the organization

5.3. Remark

There were no remarks given under the inspection

5.4 Other conditions

There were no other conditions to report.

6. Follow-up after the inspection

The NRPA takes this incident very seriously and what can be seen as an inadequate monitoring of system revision. This will be followed by the NRPA. There is now close contact between NRPA and IFE. The IFE are following up by doing several diagnostics and screening procedures. The NRPA received report after the incident on 2 December 2016 and will also receive additional reports. The NRPA will use the reports in their efforts to follow up on the IFE. The NRPA will be overseeing the first quarter of 2017 with a focus on procedures and follow-up after the incident

Med hilsen

Per Strand and Tonje Sekse

Department Manager and Senior Advisor

One thought on “Fuel Error at IFE Halden – The handling of the incident – NRPA report in ENGLISH

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s