United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-00-279 - GeoConsult, Inc.

January 23, 2001

EA-00-279

GeoConsult, Inc.
ATTN: Mr. Alan Crumley
              Owner-Radiation Safety Officer
P. O. Box 362040
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936-2040


SUBJECT:   NOTICE OF VIOLATION (NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 52-23751-01/00-01)

Dear Mr. Crumley:

This refers to the routine unannounced field inspection conducted on November 16, 2000, at a temporary job site in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The purpose of the inspection was to determine whether activities authorized by the license were conducted safely and in accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements. The results of the inspection, including two apparent violations, were discussed with your staff on November 16, 2000, and formally transmitted to you by letter dated December 14, 2000. This letter also provided you the opportunity to either respond to the apparent violations in writing or request a predecisional enforcement conference. By letters dated December 27, 2000, and January 15, 2001, you responded to the apparent violations, and by telephone conversation of December 28, 2000, the NRC confirmed your desire not to attend a predecisional enforcement conference.

The apparent violations identified during the inspection included the failure to secure from unauthorized removal or access, or maintain under constant surveillance a moisture density gauge, containing 370 megabecquerels [MBq] of Cesium-137 and 1850 MBq of Americium-241, located in the bed of a vehicle at the North East Aqueduct Project temporary job site, and the failure to lock the gauge or its container when the gauge was in transport or when it was not under direct surveillance of an authorized user. In your responses, you accepted that the gauge was not locked; however, you denied that a violation for the failure to secure and maintain constant surveillance of the gauge occurred. As the basis for your denial, you submitted a diagram of conditions on the day of the inspection and stated that the vehicle was parked in front of the field laboratory and personnel were located inside the laboratory about 16 feet away from the gauge with the vehicle visible through a fully open doorway. You also stated that the gauge was neither unattended nor unsupervised, and it was in view and under the supervision of authorized individuals. Lastly, you asked if there is a minimum distance that an individual cannot exceed without locking the gauge container.

After full consideration of the information you provided in your responses and the information developed during the inspection, the NRC has determined that two violations of regulatory requirements occurred. The two violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding them are described in detail in the subject inspection report. As described above, Violation A involves the failure to adequately secure and maintain constant surveillance of a moisture density gauge. Based on the conditions observed by the inspector on November 16, 2000, NRC concludes that the regulations in 10 CFR 20.1801 and 1802 were not met. Although no distance is specified in the regulations with respect to providing adequate control when the device is not locked, "control and maintain constant surveillance" as intended by the regulation means continuous visual or physical control of the gauge. Such actions must ensure that unauthorized access to the gauge or material cannot be gained. Based on the circumstances present on the day of the inspection, the NRC believes that a credible scenario existed in which unauthorized individuals could have gained access to the gauge. Specifically, the inspector observed that the vehicle containing the gauge was parked several feet to the left of the laboratory door, and given that the door to the laboratory was only propped open by a fan and was not in the fully open position, the personnel present in the laboratory did not have full view of the vehicle. Consequently, an individual could have approached from the left side of the vehicle and gained unauthorized access to the gauge without being observed.

Based on the amount of material involved, e.g., significantly greater than 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix C quantities, the failure to secure and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material is of concern due to the potential for significant exposure if the material were improperly handled by unauthorized and/or untrained individuals. Therefore, in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions - May 1, 2000" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, as amended on November 3, 2000 (65 Federal Register 59274), the failure to comply with 10 CFR 20.1801 and 1802 is categorized as a Severity Level III violation.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $3,000 is considered for a Severity Level III violation occurring on or after November 4, 2000. Because your company has not been the subject of escalated enforcement action within the last two inspections, the NRC considered whether credit was warranted for Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process described in Section VI.C.2 of the Enforcement Policy. Your corrective actions included immediately securing the device, discussing the observations with the technician involved, and issuing directives to operators emphasizing the need to fully comply with all requirements. Based on the above, the NRC has concluded that your actions were prompt and appropriate, and credit was warranted for the factor of Corrective Action.

Therefore, to encourage prompt and comprehensive correction of violations and in recognition of the absence of previous escalated enforcement action, I have been authorized to propose that no civil penalty be assessed in this case. However, similar violations in the future could result in further escalated enforcement action. Issuance of this Notice constitutes escalated enforcement action, that may subject you to increased inspection effort.

In addition, Violation B cited in the enclosed Notice involves the failure to lock the gauge when it was in transport and when it was not under constant surveillance by an authorized user. This violation has been categorized at Severity Level IV. However, it is noted that the violation is similar to a violation identified during an August 5, 1999, inspection in which three gauges and their containers were not locked when they were in storage. As such, prior corrective actions were ineffective in preventing recurrence.

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in this letter and in your December 27, 2000, and January 15, 2001 letters. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter unless the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to provide additional information, you should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter, its enclosure, and your response, if you choose to provide one, will be made available electronically for public inspection in the NRC Public Document Room or from the Publicly Available Records (PARS) component of NRC's document system (ADAMS). ADAMS is accessible from the NRC Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html (the Public NRC Library).

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Douglas M. Collins, Director, Division of Nuclear Materials Safety at 404-562-4700.

Sincerely,

  /RA/

  Luis A. Reyes
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 030-31133
License No. 52-23751-01

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

GeoConsult, Inc.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
  Docket No. 030-31133
License No. 52-23751-01
EA-00-279

During an NRC inspection conducted on November 16, 2000, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions - May 1, 2000," NUREG-1600, as amended on November 3, 2000 (65 Federal Register 59274), the violations are listed below:

A.   10 CFR 20.1801 requires that the licensee secure from unauthorized removal or access licensed materials that are stored in controlled or unrestricted areas. 10 CFR 20.1802 requires that the licensee control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material that is in a controlled or unrestricted area and that is not in storage. As defined in 10 CFR 20.1003, controlled area means an area, outside of a restricted area but inside the site boundary, access to which can be limited by the licensee for any reason; and unrestricted area means an area, access to which is neither limited nor controlled by the licensee.

Contrary to the above, on November 16, 2000, the licensee did not secure from unauthorized removal or limit access to a moisture density nuclear gauge containing 370 megabecquerels [MBq] of Cesium-137 and 1850 MBq of Americium-241, located in the bed of a transportation vehicle parked at the North East Aqueduct Project, a temporary job site in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, which was an unrestricted area, nor did the licensee control and maintain constant surveillance of this licensed material. (01013)

This is a Severity Level III violation (Supplement IV).

B.   Condition 18 of NRC License No. 52-23751-01 requires, in part, that gauges or their containers be locked when in transport, storage or when not under direct surveillance of an authorized user.

Contrary to the above, on November 16, 2000, a moisture density nuclear gauge containing 370 MBq of Cesium-137 and 1850 MBq of Americium-241, located in the bed of a transportation vehicle at a jobsite in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and its container were not locked when the gauge was in transport or when it was not under direct surveillance of an authorized user. (02014)

This is a Severity Level IV violation (Supplement IV).

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice) and in GeoConsult, Inc.'s letters of December 27, 2000, and January 15, 2001. However, you are required to submit a written statement or explanation pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201 if the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to respond, clearly mark your response as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation," and send it to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, DC 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region II within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice.

If you contest this enforcement action, you should also provide a copy of your response, with the basis for your denial, to the Director, Office of Enforcement, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Because any response will be made available electronically for public inspection in the NRC Public Document Room or from the Publicly Available Records (PARS) component of NRC's document system (ADAMS), to the extent possible, it should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be made available to the public without redaction. ADAMS is accessible from the NRC Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html (the Public NRC Library). If personal privacy or proprietary information is necessary to provide an acceptable response, then please provide a bracketed copy of your response that identifies the information that should be protected and a redacted copy of your response that deletes such information. If you request withholding of such material, you must specifically identify the portions of your response that you seek to have withheld and provide in detail the bases for your claim of withholding (e.g., explain why the disclosure of information will create an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy or provide the information required by 10 CFR 2.790(b) to support a request for withholding confidential commercial or financial information). If safeguards information is necessary to provide an acceptable response, please provide the level of protection described in 10 CFR 73.21.

In accordance with 10 CFR 19.11, you may be required to post this Notice within two working days.

Dated this 23rd day of January 2001

 

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