In an emergency, can the operators stay in the control room of nuclear power plants?


Why is it necessary to check the habitability of a control room?

The control room of a nuclear power plant is the area from which the plant is operated both
under normal operating conditions (startups, shutdowns and full power operation) and during
accidents to keep the reactor in a safe condition.

In addition to the panel area and operating workstations, the control room also includes other
areas such as the shift manager’s office, the kitchen and the operators’ bathroom.

In the event of an emergency at the plant, it is necessary to guarantee the permanence of the
operating personnel in these areas throughout the entire accident, so that they can safely
carry out the necessary mitigation actions to bring the plant to a safe condition.

This is achieved thanks to the habitability systems of the control room. With these systems,
the protection of operators is guaranteed, for example, against sources of radiation and toxic
gases, smoke and other fire byproducts. Mainly, control room habitability systems fulfill the
following functions:

  • Radiation shielding
  • Isolation
  • Control room pressurization (to avoid the entry of gases)
  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
  • Air filtration
  • Fire protection
  • Projectile protection

For this reason, it is extremely important to analyze the habitability of control rooms in
nuclear power plants.

What is Tecnatom’s experience in these works

Tecnatom is currently working on a project related to the habitability of a control room of a
newly built American power plant. More specifically, it has been delivered the specification of
habitability requirements for the control room of the mentioned plant.

Until now, Tecnatom has drawn up a specification of requirements for the habitability systems
of the different control centers that the facility will have. For this purpose, it has been
necessary to review the applicable regulations (mainly based on NUREG-0800 chapter 6.4) that
describe the acceptance criteria of ventilation, pressurization, filtering, location systems
against radiation sources and toxic gases, etc.

Besides, some guides have been analyzed from NUREG-0700, which is a standard that
establishes requirements related to the control room environment. The analyzed guidelines
cover the following fields:

  • Thermal comfort (including temperature and humidity)
  • Ventilation and air quality
  • Lighting and emergency lighting
  • Noise levels


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