THE IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALIFICATION
Environmental Qualification is defined as a process used to ensure safety. Generally, this process is used in industries such as the nuclear and the energy for example. Mainly, in the nuclear industry, this process is there from the beginning to protect all equipment from systematic failures. One good example of one event that can cause systematic damage is when all of the pumps for a fire sprinkler system are located in one room. If the room becomes too hot for the pumps to operate, they will all fail at essentially the same time, from one cause (the heat in the room).
Therefore, to be more specific this process consists of two basic elements:
- First, the staff must ensure that all equipment is selected for application to the specific service conditions based on sound engineering practices and manufacturers’ recommendations.
- Second, make sure that the system documentation includes controls that will preserve the relationship between equipment application and service conditions.
How and why is it important to ensure Environmental Qualification?
To be able to answer this question is essential to understand that environmental qualification is not a single event, but a process accompanying the lifetime of equipment through maintenance of their qualified state. In fact, the environmental qualification of equipment is a process commencing at the design phase of the nuclear power plant, for example, and lasting during its whole lifetime.
In this complex process, the first elements that build the base include the initial qualification of equipment, and second, the necessary programs and procedures, and those methods and measures, which make possible to maintain the qualified state during the whole qualified or operating lifetime.
The objective of environmental, or with other words environmental resistance qualification, of nuclear power plant equipment is to maintain the functionality and the achieved level of required performance indicators of safety significant equipment during operation. To keep the equipment operable in spite of the circumstances and operating events of other previous events, and to ensure that it fulfills its safety function under the conditions of the most serious event belonging to the design basis, and if necessary even after its occurrence for the required period of time.
In order to meet the objective of environmental qualification during the design and establishment of nuclear power plants, only such equipment could be installed in the plant, which are able to probably perform their function under the environmental conditions of the given installation location, or which do not hinder the performance of the safety function by other equipment.
Finally, environmental qualification is a necessary process to ensure the safety of the nuclear plant. It is a process; therefore, necessary steps of care must be followed in a strict sense. Specialized professionals, technicians, and engineers must follow this process from within the designing stage to ensure that there are no events causing systematic failures that would compromise the integrity of the equipment, the personnel and above all the operating lifetime of the plant.