Friday, March 5, 2010

Reader Email – 03-04-10 IST Rules

I received an interesting email from a long-time reader with contacts at DHS. It seems some folks there are starting to look at what IST regulations might look like, if/when Congress provides such authority. That’s always encouraging to see regulatory folks looking ahead since there is no telling what kind of deadline Congress will eventually set for revising the CFATS regulations. I hope this blog series and the reader comments that it generates helps that informal process. IST for All? This particular reader is not sure that my idea of restricting IST assessment to just RTCOI will fly. My reader points out that over half of all high-risk facilities are on the list just because of Theft COI (TCOI). The suggestion was made that exempting that many facilities from these requirements might not fly with the advocacy community. A counter proposal was suggested of using a phased approach for implementation with priority given to RTCOI. I’m not so sure that I agree with that assessment. It seems to me that the advocacy community has been focusing their IST attention on the high profile RTCOI chemicals like chlorine, anhydrous ammonia, and hydrogen fluoride. Their very real rationale is that those chemicals in large quantity storage pose the highest immediate risk to the largest number of people. The main reason that I proposed limiting the assessment requirement to just the RTCOI is that this will allow DHS to develop a reasonable list of alternative chemicals for each of the RTCOI that facilities would be required to address in their assessments. As the list of covered chemicals starts to increase, the production of a reasonable list of alternatives would be much more difficult to establish. Alternative Terminology This reader also has concerns about the confusing reference to IST which is after all a safety chemical-engineering term, not really a security idea. According to the reader a term that is being unofficially discussed is “Inherently Safer and More Secure” (ISMS). This would still carry the link back to IST in too many people’s mind, I’m afraid. And it could still be confused with ‘Intrinsically Safe’, a misunderstanding that I have heard from a couple of readers in the industry. Still it is heartening to see that people in the Department recognize the inherent problem with using the IST terminology. Mitigation Techniques This reader points out an important omission in my discussion of mitigation techniques. The reader notes that all mitigation techniques are not ‘inherently safer’; writing: “Anything that relies on any force other than the laws of physics brings in the question of survivability, and then it is no longer ‘inherent’.” In way of an explanation the reader discusses a phosgene mitigation scheme that calls for movement of phosgene to a vessel containing caustic (to chemically neutralize the phosgene) in the event of a loss of pressure on the sealed storage vessel. If the movement is via a pump actuated by the loss of pressure and pump power is interrupted by the terrorist attack there is no inherent safety involved. On the other hand, if the movement is a gravity fed line to the caustic tank with a valve opening because of the loss of pressure in the phosgene tank (in other words the normal pressure in the tank keeps the valve closed in normal operation) then the mitigation system would be fully automatic and inherently safer. This distinction does need to be discussed and addressed. It is a quite normal process safety technique to use powered safety systems to mitigate process problems. Commonly when using a powered system, it is designed so that a single failure cannot take out both the process control system and the safety control system. Thus, there would have to be multiple sensors triggering the system and separate power sources operating the safety equipment. Since we are now talking about containment failures due to an attack not accidents, it is probably prudent to require that mitigation systems are either specifically hardened to prevent their damage in a worst case attack, or that they operate on systems that require no outside power or command. The chemical safety community needs to be brought into this discussion. More Discussion I always appreciate reader feedback and discussion in this blog. Topics like this, however, beg for a wider degree of input than the normal run of the mill posting on the blog. Providing a forum for the open discussion of potential regulatory issues early in the process of their development is very important to me. I would hope that it is valuable both to the potential regulators and the regulated community. I urge anyone with concerns about the issues (pro and con) surrounding the implementation of some form of inherently safer technology in future CFATS legislation to become involved in this discussion. Ironing out issues of concerns to both sides of the idea will be important to crafting workable legislation and regulations. All that I ask is that the participants keep the discussion civil and limited to issues and ideas not personalities.

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