United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-96-108 - Law Engineering, Inc.

June 13, 1996

EA 96-108

Law Engineering, Inc.
ATTN: Mr. Carl Sutter
Office Manager
804 Professional Place West
Chesapeake, VA 23320

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION 
         (NRC Inspection Report No. 45-18377-01/96-01)

Dear Mr. Sutter:

This letter refers to the inspection conducted on March 8, 1996, at your Chesapeake, Virginia facility, and related discussions with you on April 2, 1996. The inspection included a review of the facts and circumstances surrounding a January 23, 1996, incident in which a source rod to a portable moisture/density gauge became stuck in its extended position. The results of the inspection were formally transmitted to you by letter dated April 9, 1996. That letter also provided you the opportunity to respond to the apparent violations in writing or request a predecisional enforcement conference. In letters dated May 13 and 24, 1996, you did not request a predecisional enforcement conference, but submitted additional information to us regarding the apparent violations, the root causes, and your corrective actions to preclude recurrence, as requested in our letter dated April 9, 1996. We have reviewed the inspection results and the additional information you provided and have concluded that sufficient information is available to determine the appropriate enforcement action in this matter.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information you provided in your responses, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. These violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding them are described in detail in the subject inspection report.

Violation A in the Notice involved the failure of one of your employees to contact the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) or other appropriate individual for further guidance when she was unable to return the source of a moisture/ density gauge to its shielded position. Such actions were required pursuant to Condition 23.B of your NRC License No. 45-18377-01 and your emergency procedures. The employee's failure to contact the RSO or other appropriate individual for guidance, but to instead, transport the unshielded gauge back to the office, resulted in a number of violations of Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for the proper transport of radioactive material. Violation B in the Notice addresses those violations which include: (1) the failure to block and brace licensed material during transport; (2) the failure to ensure radioactive source containment was properly closed and sealed prior to transport; (3) transport of a package of radioactive material with radiation levels on the external surface of the package which exceeded 200 millirem; (4) the failure to correctly label a transport package containing radioactive material; and (5) the failure to include correct information on shipping papers. The root cause of the violations was personnel error. Specifically, the technician apparently became anxious when the source rod failed to return to its shielded position at the job site, and instead of following emergency procedures, she unsuccessfully attempted to return the source to its shielded position, placed the gauge in her truck and returned to the office which was approximately five minutes away without implementing any additional safety controls.

The NRC is concerned that the violations collectively represent a breakdown in the implementation of your radiation safety program particularly with respect to the transportation of licensed material. Although appropriate alternatives for handling the event were available, the individual involved took actions which not only violated your license and DOT requirements, but were improper and could have adversely impacted members of the public and herself. It is essential that licensee management ensure that its employees fully understand the importance of procedural adherence and the potential safety consequences of their failure to do so. Therefore, these violations are classified in the aggregate in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, as a Severity Level III problem.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $2,500 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Because your facility has not been the subject of escalated enforcement actions 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.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy. As submitted in your May 13 and 26, 1996, letters, you stated that your corrective actions included: (1) suspension of the technician involved in the January 23, 1996, incident until completion of additional formal training on gauge usage and safety; (2) review of emergency procedures with the technician and other appropriate members of the staff; and (3) conduct of annual refresher training on May 21, 1996, which included gauge transportation. In addition, on June 4, 1996, in a telephone conversation with Mr. Charles Hosey of my staff, you clarified that you intended to also review your emergency procedures to ensure that they appropriately caution gauge operators to remain with the gauge and have someone else contact the RSO for assistance in the event of an emergency. Based on this information, we have determined that your actions to address the violations were appropriate and credit for Corrective Action is warranted.

Therefore, to encourage comprehensive correction of violations and in recognition of the absence of previous escalated enforcement action, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Office of Enforcement, not to propose a civil penalty in this case. However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty.

Violation C in the enclosed Notice involved the failure to submit a written report to the NRC within the 30 days following your reporting of the January 23, 1996, incident to the NRC. On May 13, 1996, you filed a follow-up written report.

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the cause of the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance will be achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in letters from Law Engineering, Inc., dated May 13 and 24, 1996, and a telephone conversation with you on June 4, 1996. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter unless the description herein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position with regard to the violations. In that case, or if you choose to provide additional information, you should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice. The NRC will examine the effectiveness of your corrective actions during future inspections.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter, its enclosure, and any response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). To the extent possible, your response should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be placed in the PDR without redaction.

Should you have any questions concerning this letter, please contact Mr. Charles Hosey, Chief, Materials Licensing/Inspection Branch 1, NRC Region II, at (404) 331-5614.

                               Sincerely,

                               Original signed by
                               Stewart D. Ebneter

                               Stewart D. Ebneter
                               Regional Administrator

Docket No.: 030-14949
License No.: 45-18377-01

Enclosure:Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
Commonwealth of Virginia


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
Law Engineering, Inc.                                                  Docket No. 030-14949   
Chesapeake, Virginia                                                   License No. 45-18377-01
                                                                       EA 96-108  

During an NRC inspection conducted on March 8, 1996, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violations are listed below:

A. Condition 23.B of License No. 45-18377-01 requires that the licensee conduct its program in accordance with the representations and procedures contained in a letter dated April 17, 1995.
The Emergency Procedures submitted with the April 17, 1995, letter provides, in part, that if the source rod fails to return to the shielded position, procedures followed must include contacting the Radiation Safety Officer or other specified personnel for further actions.
Contrary to the above, on January 23, 1996, a source rod failed to return to its shielded position at a jobsite, and the user of the gauge failed to contact the Radiation Safety Officer or any other specified licensee personnel. (01013)
B. 10 CFR 71.5(a) requires that a licensee who transports licensed material outside of the confines of its plant or other place of use, or who delivers licensed material to a carrier for transport, comply with the applicable requirements of the regulations appropriate to the mode of transport of the Department of Transportation in 49 CFR Parts 170 through 189.
(1). 49 CFR 173.475 requires, in part, that before each shipment of any radioactive materials package, the shipper ensure by examination or appropriate tests that each closure, valve, or other opening of the containment system through which the radioactive content might escape is properly closed and sealed.
Contrary to the above, on January 23, 1996, the licensee failed to ensure by examination or appropriate test that the opening of the containment system was properly closed and sealed prior to the shipment of a moisture density gauge containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-141. (01023)
(2). 49 CFR 173.441(a) requires in part, with exceptions not applicable here, that each package of radioactive materials offered for transportation be designed and prepared for shipment so that under conditions normally incident to transportation the radiation level does not exceed 200 millirem per hour at any point on the external surface of the package.
Contrary to the above, on January 23, 1996, the licensee transported outside the confines of its plant a portable nuclear gauge containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241 with the source rod in the unshielded position which had a radiation level of approximately 750 millirem per hour on the external surface of the gauge. (01033)
(3). 49 CFR 172.403(c) defines the categories of labels to be applied to radioactive materials packages and requires, in part, that: (1) packages with surface radiation levels of less than 0.5 millirem per hour be labeled "Radioactive White-I," (2) packages with surface radiation levels between 0.5 and 50 millirem per hour be labeled "Radioactive Yellow-II," and (3) packages with surface radiation levels greater than 50 millirem per hour be labeled "Radioactive Yellow-III."
Contrary to the above, on January 23, 1996, the licensee transported outside the confines of its plant a portable moisture density gauge containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241 in a package that was improperly labeled. Specifically, the package had surface radiation levels of approximately 750 millirem per hour, due to the source being in an unshielded position, and did not contain a "Radioactive Yellow-III" or any other label. (01043)
(4). 49 CFR 177.842 requires, in part, that packages of radioactive materials be so blocked and braced that they cannot change position during conditions normally incident to transportation.
Contrary to the above, on January 23, 1996, the licensee transported a portable nuclear gauge containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241, and the gauge was placed in the bed of the truck and was not blocked and braced such that it could not change position during conditions normally incident to transportation. (01043)
(5). 49 CFR 172.203(d) requires, in part, that the description for a shipment of radioactive material include: (1) the name of each radionuclide, (2) the physical and chemical form of the material, (3) the activity contained in each package of the shipment in terms of curies, millicuries, or microcuries, (4) the category of label applied to each package (e.g., Radioactive White-I), and (5) the transport index assigned to each package in the shipment bearing Radioactive Yellow-II or -III labels.
Contrary to the above, on January 23, 1996, the licensee transported outside the confines of its plant licensed material, and the description on the shipping paper that accompanied the shipment did not include the appropriate Transport Index. Specifically, the Transport Index on the shipping paper used during transport indicated 0.1 rather than 1.7, based on an exposure rate from the unshielded source rod. (01063)

This is a Severity Level III problem (Supplements V and VI).

C. 10 CFR 30.50(c)(2) requires that each licensee who makes a report of an event in which equipment disables or fails to function as designed shall submit a written follow-up report within 30 days of the initial report of the incident.
Contrary to the above, as of March 8, 1996, the licensee had not submitted a 30-day report of the incident, initially reported on January 23, 1996, wherein a source rod failed to return to its shielded position. (02014)

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

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reasons for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence and the date when full compliance will be achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in letters from Law Engineering, Inc., dated May 13 and 24, 1996. However, you are required to submit a written statement or explanation pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201 if the description therein and as described above 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, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region II, within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice). Under the authority of Section 182 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2232, any response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

Because any response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR), to the extent possible, it should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be placed in the PDR without redaction. However, if you find it necessary to include such information, you should clearly indicate the specific information that you desire not to be placed in the PDR, and provide the legal basis to support your request for withholding the information from the public.

Dated at Atlanta, Georgia
this 13th day of June 1996

 

 

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