Ensuring Nuclear Safety with High Quality – CSA N299

Nuclear energy is a crucial part of the North American electrical grid. The United States obtains 20% of its electrical power from nuclear, while 15% of Canada’s electrical grid is powered by nuclear. Due to the safety concerns when dealing with nuclear power and radiation, high manufacturing standards are put in place on suppliers in the nuclear industry. In Canada, CSA CAN3-N299 is the top standard, while the United States mainly uses ASME NQA – 1.  These standards ensure high quality reactors that operate safely by tracking parts supplied to nuclear reactor from the sourcing of raw materials to final testing and delivery of the product.

CSA N299

Canadian Standards Association (CSA) N299 series was developed specifically for use in the nuclear industry and provides a standard, consistent level of quality for suppliers to nuclear power plants in Canada. This program was developed by CSA with consultation from industry experts, based on the old standard of CSA Z299. CSA Z299 standard was initially developed for the construction of reactors in the 1970’s. CSA N299 was put in place to line up with the since introduced ISO 9001 and other national and international quality standards.

To uphold quality, N299 focuses on the entire manufacturing and planning process. N299 documentations outlines the expectations of the supplier and the customer during design, procurement, manufacturing, testing, and inspecting.  For a company to be certified as an N299, they are required to meet all requirements in N299, including having a company quality manual that outlines quality procedures specific to that company.  The company is also required to educate employees and management on N299 to make sure processes and methodology are being followed.

How MarShield Uses CSA N299.3 in our Production Process 

MarShield currently has a certified N299.3 2016 quality program, with a quality manual, which they use to control their, industry-approved, proprietary, nuclear pouring procedures and the requirements of the customer’s purchase order. Some key areas of MarShield’s Quality Program:

  • Contract Review: Prior to acceptance and confirmation of a purchase order, MarShield will review their quotation to the customer, the customer’s purchase order, technical specification, and all drawings to ensure that all elements of our quotation match those of the customer’s purchase order and related documents. This is a key task to ensure that there is no discrepancy between what we have quoted vs. what the requirements of the customer’s purchase order are. Should there be discrepancies, discussions, and amendments are made to either our quotation (revised) and/or the customer’s purchase order or accompanying documents.
  • Documents, Planning, and Control: Prior to manufacturing, MarShield shall review all drawings, technical specifications, and purchase orders, provided by the customer, and commence planning. Once complete, MarShield provides the customer with their proposed process and quality planning materials to fulfill the requirements of the purchase order including their inspection and test plan, lead pouring procedure, gamma testing plan, and other procedures relating to what are deemed to be “special procedures” in the technical specification.
  • Procurement and Counterfeit, Fraudulent and Suspect Materials (CFSI): MarShield maintains a nuclear-critical, approved suppliers listing. These suppliers are required to be audited regularly in order to maintain their status. From this list, MarShield will prepare all PO’s to their sub-vendors while ensuring that all the requirements of the customer’s purchase order, technical specification, and drawings are communicated effectively. All materials and components are supplied with a material certification or letter of conformance and MarShield staff are trained to recognize counterfeit, fraudulent, and suspect materials, and items.
  • Identification and Traceability: All components procured for use in production shall be identifiable and traceable. Before Lead pouring, MarShield ensures the lead conforms to the requirements of the customer’s technical specification, usually ASTM B-29 lead, 99.94% pure, and has a corresponding lot and batch number. Often, the customer requests to approve the lead batch prior to production and this is incorporated into MarShield’s inspection and test plan. Customer free issued, or MarShield sub-vendor produced fabrications, that will be filled with lead, must have a part number that corresponds to the customer approved drawings. When there are multiple parts of one drawing number, there must be a unique serialized number that allows for specific traceability. These part numbers are used to track the component throughout the entire production process and through to shipping.
  • Inspection and Testing: Before production, MarShield will submit an ITP to the customer for approval. This document is a plan for control of all special processes involved in producing the requirements of the purchase order. While documentation may be completed by qualified and assigned production staff, final verification and approval of the inspection and test plan must be stamped by an assigned, qualified MarShield inspector outside of the production department. Should the customer also add hold or verification points to the inspection plan, then their auditors would stamp prior to MarShield continuing with the production process.
  • Production: During the lead pouring, MarShield will make sure that its proprietary Nuclear Pour Procedures are followed and controlled by monitoring and documenting the entire process. These include part and raw material verification, pre-pour inspection, pre-heat and pour temperature controls, cooling procedures, through to final inspection.

Comparing ASME NQA-1 to CSA N299.3 

The American standard for nuclear components is ASME NQA-1. CSA N299.3 lines up closely with NQA-1. Table 1 identifies the 18 requirements in NQA-1 and identifies the relevant sections in N299.3, showing that the quality requirements in N299 are very similar to ASME NQA-1 program.

Table 1: ASME NQA-1 Requirements compared to Relevant CSA N299.3 Requirements

ASME NQA-1 Requirements Relevant CSA N299.3 QA Program Requirements
1. Quality Control Program 5 QA Program Requirements
2. Quality Assurance Program 5.3 QA Manual
3. Design Control 5.5.2 Design
4. Procedural Document Control 5.5.3 Documentation
5. Instructions, Procedures and Drawings 5.5.3 Documentation
6. Document Control 5.5.3 Documentation
7. Control of Purchased Items and Services 5.5.5 Procurement
8. Identification and Control of Items 5.5.9 Identification and Traceability
9. Control of Special Processes 5.5.12 Special Processes
10. Inspection 5.5.6 Inspection and Test Planning
11. Test Control 5.5.7 Inspection and Testing
12. Control of Measuring and Test Equipment 5.5.4 Measuring and Testing Equipment
13. Handling Storage and Shipping 5.5.10 Handling and Storage
14. Inspection, Test and Operating Status 5.5.8 Inspection Status
15. Control of Nonconformance Items 5.5.18 Nonconformances
16. Corrective Action 5.5.16 Corrective Action
17. Quality Assurance Records 5.5.14 Quality Records
18. Audits 5.5.20 Quality Audits

Nuclear energy is a critical part of the North American power grid with plants spread across the United States and Canada. CSA N299 ensures consistent quality and protects the nuclear industry from faulty or poor-quality products while being consistent with other international Nuclear quality standards including ASME NQA – 1.  MarShield is proud to be a certified N299.3 company and supplies nuclear critical parts to nuclear facilities throughout North America.

MarShield is a manufacturer and supplier of lead, heavy tungsten alloy, and non-lead alternative radiation shielding solutions to the nuclear energy, nuclear medicine, medical, and non-destructive testing industries. If you would like to learn more about MarShield’s nuclear capabilities, you can visit MarShield’s informative website or please contact MarShield directly.