The nuclear industry operates with an unwavering focus on safety, which is reflected in the rigorous processes and standards applied to the selection, design, manufacturing, and testing of equipment important to nuclear safety (ITNS). These processes aim to ensure that all equipment meets the stringent requirements for performance and reliability in the challenging conditions found in nuclear power plants. This post will provide a look at the flow of activities involved in the assessment of the suitability of ITNS from the perspective of the customer, encompassing various aspects such as general suitability of the item, approval of the supplier, qualification, dedication, and receiving the item.
The following discussion is informed by various international regulatory frameworks, including the Finnish nuclear regulatory guidance document Valves of a Nuclear Facility, published on 20.1.2020 (YVL E.8). This document serves as an example of how the regulatory requirements and industry best practices are translated into practical steps and considerations for ensuring equipment suitability.
1. General suitability of the item
a. Review technical drawings, data sheet, performance specifications.
b. Review industry operating experience.
c. Assess potential impact to host-equipment or to system in which the item would be installed.
2. Approval of supplier
a. Perform pre-qualification and verify supplier interest. Use questionnaire when possible and review quality program documentation if available.
b. Perform industrial supplier approval and registration. Inform supplier of result.
c. For complex items or manufacturing processes: visit supplier’s premise as a part of the approval process.
3. Qualification (suitability of item design and capability according to plant specification)
a. Verify that the design is capable of performing its safety function(s) when necessary and in the specified range of postulated service conditions.
b. Do this by type testing a representative specimen, analysis or by using operating experience. Document this.
c. After qualification, any major changes to design or manufacturing should be reviewed to determine if they impact the qualification.
4. Dedication (verification that manufactured item quality is sufficient for use according to the qualification)
a. Verify the quality of the manufactured item prior to use. Quality is the degree to which the manufactured item meets its requirements.
b. Do this by selecting some characteristics which are relevant to the item’s safety function(s) and verify those during or after manufacturing.
c. The supplier’s own quality management system might already be sufficient to verify the chosen characteristics, visit supplier and review quality management program to determine this.
5. Receiving and storing the item
a. Perform standard receipt inspection, verify that documentation confirms the product fulfills the procurement requirements.
b. If storing: make sure storage conditions are suitable and conform to the specification.
c. If using: retain records related to the procurement, especially those evidencing critical characteristics were verified (quality records).
The following approach to the entire equipment suitability process is derived from the Finnish nuclear regulatory guidance document Valves of a nuclear facility, 20.1.2020, YVL E.8
The management system of a valves manufacturer in Safety Class 3 shall be appropriately certified. Otherwise, the licensee may separately apply for approval for other management system assessment performed by an independent third party.
Equipment qualification (by testing):
Quality assurance/quality control:
These practices not only demonstrate the importance of collaboration between manufacturers, suppliers, and regulatory bodies, but also underscore the significance of quality assurance, design analysis, and equipment qualification in the pursuit of a secure and reliable nuclear industry.