United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-00-294 - Gulf Coast Int'l Inspection, Inc.

March 27, 2001

EA-00-294

Mr. Andre Olivier, President
Gulf Coast International Inspection, Inc.
Station 1, Box 10267
Houma, Louisiana 70363

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY -$5,500 (NRC Inspection Report No. 150-00017/00-03 & Investigation Report No. 4-2000-038)

Dear Mr. Olivier:

This refers to the NRC inspection and investigation of Gulf Coast International Inspection, Inc.'s (GCIII) radiography operations in offshore waters within the NRC's jurisdiction. During a final telephonic exit briefing with you and your staff on January 19, 2001, the NRC informed you that five apparent violations had been identified and were being considered for escalated enforcement action. We also informed you that we were concerned that three of the apparent violations were committed deliberately. The apparent violations were described in an inspection report issued January 26, 2001. On February 9, 2001, a closed, predecisional enforcement conference was conducted in the NRC's Arlington, Texas office with you and other representatives of GCIII to discuss the apparent violations, their significance, their root causes, and your corrective actions.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and investigation, and the information that you provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that five violations of NRC requirements occurred. These violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice), and include: (1) a deliberate failure to post radiation areas and high radiation areas prior to conducting radiographic operations; (2) a failure of a radiographer to use an alarming ratemeter during radiographic operations; (3) a failure to control and maintain constant surveillance of a radiographic exposure device in an unrestricted area; (4) a failure to perform an exposure evaluation to assess the radiation dose to the extremities of radiography personnel; and (5) a failure to perform an exposure evaluation to assess the radiation dose to individual members of the public.

Please note that based on the information GCIII provided during the conference, the NRC has concluded that the only violation committed deliberately was the failure to post an area in which radiography was being conducted. The radiographer involved in that violation said at the conference that he knew he was required to post the area but was rushed to begin radiography operations when he arrived on the lay barge and forgot to post the area. However, he said he conducted initial surveys to establish boundaries (i.e., the areas that would be posted) and maintained surveillance over the area. We do not find it credible that he would conduct such surveys and then forget to post. In addition, we do not find it credible that he would not have noticed that the area was not posted since he and others were maintaining surveillance of the area. It is more plausible that he was rushed and chose not to put up the required postings.

With regard to the failure to use an alarm ratemeter, the same radiographer testified at the conference that he was rushed to begin radiography when he arrived on the lay barge and did not notice that he did not have his alarm ratemeter with him until the NRC inspector questioned him. We consider this a plausible explanation since an alarm ratemeter is worn on the person and not continually checked during operations. Therefore, we are not classifying that as a deliberate violation.

With regard to the failure to maintain constant surveillance of a radiography camera, the radiographer involved in that violation testified at the conference that he did not believe it was a safety concern at the time he left the camera unattended because the platform was "unmanned." Contrary to the radiographer's and radiation safety officer's discussions with the NRC Office of Investigations, GCIII's radiation safety officer testified at the conference that his advice to the radiographer on the day of the incident to keep the camera with him at all times came after the incident had occurred. Based on this information, this does not appear to have been a deliberate violation.

The failure to post an area in which radiography is being conducted is normally a Severity Level IV violation. In this case, because we believe it was committed willfully, its significance has been increased to Severity Level III in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, May 1, 2000. The failure of a radiographer to use an alarm ratemeter while conducting radiography is a Severity Level III violation based on the potential safety consequences of working without this important warning device. In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a civil penalty with a base value of $5,500 is considered for each Severity Level III violation. Because the failure to post radiation areas was willful, we considered whether credit was warranted for Identification and Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process in Section VI.C.2 of the Enforcement Policy. No credit was warranted for identification, because the violation was identified by the NRC's inspection and investigation. However, credit was warranted for corrective action since the radiographer posted the area prior to continuing operations and you discussed this violation in safety meetings with other employees and required the involved radiographer to retake a 40-hour safety course. This results in the assessment of a civil penalty at the base value of $5,500 for this violation. Since the failure to wear an alarm ratemeter was not considered willful, we considered only your Corrective Action in determining whether a civil penalty should be assessed. Credit for your corrective actions was warranted since the radiographer obtained and wore an alarm ratemeter prior to continuing operations and you discussed this violation in safety meetings with other employees and required the involved radiographer to retake a 40-hour safety course. This results in no civil penalty being assessed for this violation.

To emphasize the importance of strict compliance with radiation safety requirements associated with radiography operations, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, to issue the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice) in the base amount of $5,500 for the Severity Level III violation involving the willful failure to post an area where radiography was being conducted. In addition, issuance of this Notice constitutes escalated enforcement action which may subject you to increased inspection effort.

The failure to maintain constant surveillance of a radiographic device, while normally a Severity Level III violation, has been classified at Severity Level IV in this case based on the circumstances. Specifically, given that it was left unattended on an "unmanned" platform in the Gulf of Mexico, the NRC concludes that there was a low potential for this violation to have resulted in safety consequences. The failures to evaluate fully radiation exposures to radiography personnel and non-radiation workers on lay barges have been classified at Severity Level IV since neither posed a substantial potential for overexposures to occur. Severity Level IV violations are not considered for civil penalties.

You are required to respond to this letter and should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice when preparing your response. The NRC will use your response, in part, to determine whether further enforcement action is necessary to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter, its enclosure, and your 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). ADAMS is accessible from the NRC Web site at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html (the Public NRC Library).

Sincerely,

/RA/

Ellis W. Merschoff
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 150-00017
General License Pursuant to 10 CFR 150.20

Enclosure:  Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/Enclosure:  State of Louisiana


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Gulf Coast International Inspection, Inc.
Houma, Louisiana
Docket No. 150-00017
General License, 10 CFR 150.20
EA-00-294

During an NRC inspection and investigation completed on January 19, 2001, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, May 1, 2000, the NRC proposes to impose a civil penalty pursuant to Section 234 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (Act), 42 U.S.C. 2282, and 10 CFR 2.205. The particular violations and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

A.    Violation Assessed a Civil Penalty

10 CFR 34.53 states that all areas in which industrial radiography is being performed must be conspicuously posted as required by 10 CFR 20.1902. 10 CFR 20.1902(a) and (b) require that each radiation area and high radiation area shall be posted with a conspicuous sign or signs bearing the radiation symbol and the words "CAUTION, RADIATION AREA", and "CAUTION HIGH RADIATION AREA" or "DANGER, HIGH RADIATION AREA," respectively.

Contrary to the above, on June 17, 2000, Gulf Coast International Inspection Inc. (GCIII or Licensee) radiography personnel performed industrial radiography on a lay barge in Federal waters, and did not post radiation and high radiation areas as required.

This is a Severity Level III violation (Supplement VI).
Civil Penalty - $5,500

B.    Violations Not Assessed a Civil Penalty

1.    10 CFR 34.47(a) states, in part, that the licensee may not permit any individual to act as a radiographer or a radiographer's assistant unless, at all times during radiographic operations, each individual wears, on the trunk of the body, a combination of direct reading dosimeter, an operating alarming ratemeter, and either a film badge or thermoluminescent dosimeter (TLD).

Contrary to the above, on June 17, 2000, a licensee radiographer conducted radiographic operations and was not wearing an alarming ratemeter.

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

2.    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 August 8, 2000, licensee radiography personnel left a gamma radiography exposure device containing curie quantities of radioactive material unattended and unsecured in an unrestricted area. Specifically, this exposure device was left unattended and unsecured on an off-shore platform in the Gulf of Mexico while the radiography personnel went to lunch.

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

3.    10 CFR 20.1501(a) requires that each licensee make or cause to be made surveys that may be necessary for the licensee to comply with the regulations in Part 20 and that are reasonable under the circumstances to evaluate the extent of radiation levels, concentrations or quantities of radioactive materials, and the potential radiological hazards that could be present.

10 CFR 20.1502(a)(1) requires, in part, that the licensee shall monitor exposures to radiation and radioactive materials at levels sufficient to demonstrate compliance with occupational dose limits. As a minimum, licensees shall monitor occupational exposures and require the use of monitoring devices by adults likely to receive, in 1 year from sources external to the body, a dose in excess of 10 percent control of the limits in 10 CFR 20.1201(a).

Pursuant to 10 CFR 20.1003, survey means an evaluation of the radiological conditions and potential hazards incident to the production, use, transfer, release, disposal, or presence of radioactive material or other sources of radiation.

Contrary to the above, licensee personnel used pipeliner exposure devices with characteristic high dose rates on the surface of the device, and as of June 17, 2000, the licensee had not performed an evaluation of the radiation dose to the extremities of GCIII radiography personnel using pipeliner exposure devices to demonstrate that monitoring of extremity exposures is not required.

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

4.    10 CFR 20.1302 requires, in part, that each licensee make or cause to be made, as appropriate, surveys of radiation levels in unrestricted and controlled areas to demonstrate compliance with the dose limits for individual members of the public in 10 CFR 20.1301. 10 CFR 20.1301(a)(1) specifies that the total effective dose equivalent (TEDE) to individual members of the public from licensed operations must not exceed 1 milliSievert (100 mrem) in a year.

Pursuant to 10 CFR 20.1003, survey means an evaluation of the radiological conditions and potential hazards incident to the production, use, transfer, release, disposal, or presence of radioactive material or other sources of radiation.

Contrary to the above, as of June 17, 2000, the licensee had not demonstrated that the TEDE to individual members of the public in unrestricted and controlled areas did not exceed 1 milliSievert (100 mrem) in a year. Specifically, although the licensee had performed radiation surveys in unrestricted areas on offshore platforms and lay-barges, the licensee had not used these survey results to perform a dose assessment for individual members of the public.

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

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, GCIII is hereby required to submit a written statement or explanation to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, within 30 days of the date of this Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice). This reply should be clearly marked as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation" and should include for each alleged violation: (1) admission or denial of the alleged violation, (2) the reasons for the violation if admitted, and if denied, the reasons why, (3) the corrective steps that have been taken and the results achieved, (4) the corrective steps that will be taken to avoid further violations, and (5) the date when full compliance will be achieved. Your response may reference or include previous docketed correspondence, if the correspondence adequately addresses the required response. If an adequate reply is not received within the time specified in this Notice, an order or a Demand for Information may be issued as to why the license should not be modified, suspended, or revoked or why such other action as may be proper should not be taken. Consideration may be given to extending the response time for good cause shown. Under the authority of Section 182 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2232, this response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

Within the same time as provided for the response required above under 10 CFR 2.201, the Licensee may pay the civil penalty proposed above, in accordance with NUREG/BR-0254 and by submitting to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555, a statement indicating when and by what method payment was made, or may protest imposition of the civil penalty in whole or in part, by a written answer addressed to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Should the Licensee fail to answer within the time specified, an order imposing the civil penalty will be issued. Should the Licensee elect to file an answer in accordance with 10 CFR 2.205 protesting the civil penalty, in whole or in part, such answer should be clearly marked as an "Answer to a Notice of Violation" and may: (1) deny the violation(s) listed in this Notice, in whole or in part, (2) demonstrate extenuating circumstances, (3) show error in this Notice, or (4) show other reasons why the penalty should not be imposed. In addition to protesting the civil penalty, in whole or in part, such answer may request remission or mitigation of the penalty.

In requesting mitigation of the proposed penalty, the factors addressed in Section VI.C.2 of the Enforcement Policy should be addressed. Any written answer in accordance with 10 CFR 2.205 should be set forth separately from the statement or explanation in reply pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201, but may incorporate parts of the 10 CFR 2.201 reply by specific reference (e.g., citing page and paragraph numbers) to avoid repetition. The attention of the Licensee is directed to the other provisions of 10 CFR 2.205, regarding the procedure for imposing a civil penalty.

Upon failure to pay any civil penalty due which subsequently has been determined in accordance with the applicable provisions of 10 CFR 2.205, this matter may be referred to the Attorney General, and the penalty, unless compromised, remitted, or mitigated, may be collected by civil action pursuant to Section 234(c) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2282c.

The response noted above (Reply to Notice of Violation, statement as to payment of civil penalty, and Answer to a Notice of Violation) should be addressed to: Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852-2738, with a copy to the Regional Administrator, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Region IV, 611 Ryan Plaza Drive, Suite 400, Arlington, TX 76011-8064.

Because your 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 are required to post this Notice within two working days.

Dated this 27th day of March 2001

 

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