Standards and Standards Qualification
by Dirk Van Hoesen, John Randolph, Uri Gat
International trade requires high-quality standards and mechanisms
that assure compliance with those standards. In this column, Gat,
Van Hoesen, and Randolph describe the difficulty one national
laboratory experienced in acquiring a suitable waste cleanup pump
from an experienced Russian manufacturerdue to a lack of compliance
with international accreditation and certification standards that
are recognized and acceptable.
Standards have many applications. To achieve and justify its goals,
a standard must be developed and backed up by a process and an
authority that are reputable, recognized, reliable, and responsible.
Standards qualification refers to a source of a product (e.g.,
manufacturer) using, applying and, in applicable cases, qualifying
and being certified as an appropriate and reliable applicator
of a standard. Examples of qualification are cases of certification
to the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (B&PVC), or certification
and registration to ISO 9000, Quality Assurance Model. This qualification
provides the users of the product with assurance that the product
is indeed what they expect it to be according to the standard
specified, and that the product is suitable for the intended use.
As a side benefit the certification to a standard provides some
prima-facie liability indemnity.
The Pulsating Mixer Pump
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), as part of its site
cleanup efforts, is removing radioactive liquid and sludge waste
from underground tanks (gunite tanks). The waste dates back as
far back as the Manhattan Project. The search for a suitable mixer
pump to remobilize the waste identified a Pulsating Mixer Pump,
manufactured by the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy
(MinAtom) Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC), as particularly suitable.
The mixer pump was deemed suitable because it fulfilled the technical
specifications and was previously used in service of pumping radioactive
liquids and wastes at Russian facilities. The mixer pump and the
associated piping are subjected to a pressure of 1.6 MPa.
An additional, significant reason for selecting the particular
mixer pump was its manufacturer. The manufacturer is a Russian
plant that is engaged in the manufacture and processing of nuclear
weapons-plutonium. It is U.S. policy to assist Russia in transitioning
its weapons producing facilities and personnel from weapons and
military production to civilian, economically viable production.
As part of this effort it is deemed appropriate to support production
and purchase of equipment from such weapons facilities that have
nonmilitary applications. This is particularly so when the product
can readily compete in worldwide markets and applications. The
pulsating mixer pump fits all these prerequisites. Three pumps
and associated support equipment are being purchased by the Department
of Energy (DOE) through Fernald Energy Technology Center (FETC).
The mixer pump housing and its associated pipes constitute pressure
boundaries. The pump mixes radioactive waste that must be thoroughly
and reliably contained at all times. DOE and the operator of ORNL,
under whose jurisdiction this entire operation falls, require
that a U.S.-recognized and accepted quality assurance program
be provided prior to manufacture, installation, and operation
of the mixer pump.
Under common circumstances, equipment for such an application
would comply with and be certified to a U.S. standard. An example
for such assurance could be the ASME B&PVC, or ASME Standard B31.3
for Process Piping, which in turn invokes the B&PVC.
The Russian Manufacturer
The Russian manufacturer had been producing the pump, and other
products, for quite some time. These products were fully acceptable
to the Russian, and before that the Soviet, government complex
systems. In some cases Russian standards were applied. For selling
the pumps outside the Russian complex the manufacturer is faced
with a new situation in which the products are no longer accepted
by a system-assigned credibility, and furthermore the Russian
standards applied are not recognized, and hence not accepted,
as sufficient. The manufacturer offered to provide a quality assurance
program patterned after the ISO 9000, Quality Systems-Model for
Quality Assurance in Design, Development, Production, Installation,
and Servicing. There are two major problems with this approach:
1) Quality assurance can not be applied retroactively and be considered
(2) The manufacturer was not qualified, accredited, certified
or registered for the ISO 9000 program. Hence, after-the-fact
actions can not apply retroactively.
The Purchasers Alternatives
The purchaser of the mixer pumps is now faced with difficult alternatives.
The mixer pumps application in a high pressure and radioactive
waste service excluded acceptance without a legally recognized
and accepted assurance program. A combination of three alternative
options is being considered.
1) The purchaser will review and ad hoc certify, for its own
purposes, relevant portions of the quality assurance program that
the manufacturer supplies.
2) The purchaser will witness and accept critical steps of the
manufacturing process and review documentation such as weld radiographs
developed during the manufacturing process.
3) A pressure test will be applied to the final actual system
(which is an accepted alternative, recognized in the B&PVC) by
subjecting the system to a pressure in excess of the service pressure.
The entire system will be cold tested, prior to hot deployment
to assure adequate system operations.
The alternatives considered are costly and time consuming, but
must be carried out. The review of the quality program in place
has a language barrier and a culture and technology gap to bridge,
neither of which is simple to overcome. The witnessing of critical
steps requires elaborate and lengthy preparations. For example,
to witness welding, the details of the materials used and the
adequate welding process and materials must be known in detail.
However, the differences between the ones used by the manufacturer
and the ones used, recognized, and understood by the purchaser
may require preparations that are tantamount to developing and
writing the respective standards. The pressure testing requires
adequate facilities, arrangement, instrumentation and procedures.
Significant cost factors for each of these alternatives include
the geographical distance and the associated high cost of travel
and the time required to connect.
The trade of economic goods across international boundaries that
do not comply with recognized and accepted internationally accredited
standards, codes and programs is extremely difficult. For critical
items, an ad hoc acceptance plan is expensive and probably in
most cases economically prohibitive.
The value of a product (to the purchaser and user) is greatly
determined by the acceptance of the standards and codes to which
it was produced.
Alternatives to programs that are in place and accredited during
the entire manufacturing process are surveys and reviews that
amount basically to an accreditation program. These alternatives
are done on an ad hoc basis and focus on elements that are critical
and necessary for the particular product. Confirmation tests are
required for items that constitute a health or an economic risk.
All of these are, in most cases, economically unacceptable for
For an enterprise that intends to engage in an economically viable
international trade the desired route seems to be to comply with
recognized international standards in a fully accredited way.
One of the major standards that is internationally recognized
and established, and has built-in provisions for accreditation
and registration that are internationally recognized is ISO 9000,
Quality Management and Quality Assurance Standards, that comprises
a family of standards that apply to various circumstances and
|Dirk Van Hoesen is the project manager for the $70 million Gunite Tank Remediation
Project, a remediation to remove highly radioactive mixed, transuranic
sludges from eight 50-year-old underground storage tanks in the
heart of the ORNL site.
John Randolph is an engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and currently
works as a principal investigator performing upgrades to the Russian
MPC&A systems. He has authored articles on process systems, pollution
prevention, maintenance program upgrades, and waste reduction
in the nuclear fuel cycle.
Uri Gat, ASTM Fellow, is a nuclear engineer and team member of the Zhelesnogorsk,
East Siberia, Material Protection Control and Accountability Program.
He is a member of ASTM Committees E-43 on SI Practice and F-12
on Security Systems and Equipment, and of the joint IEEE/ASTM