United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-357 - Ambric Engineering, Inc.

August 22, 1997

EA 97-357

Mr. Donald Meisel
Senior Vice President
Ambric Engineering, Inc.
3502 Scotts Lane
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19129

          (NRC Inspection Report No. 030-22164/97-001)

Dear Mr. Meisel:

This refers to the NRC inspection conducted on July 10, 1997, at a temporary field site at the Bally Meade Development in Claymont, Delaware, to review the circumstances associated with an incident involving the loss of a cesium-137 source from one of your moisture density gauges. The inspection was continued in the Region I office between July 11 and July 21, 1997, via several telephone conversations the NRC had with you and Mr. Michael Smith, Radiation Safety Officer, to obtain additional information concerning both the loss and subsequent recovery of the source on July 14, 1997. During the inspection, a violation of NRC requirements was identified, as described in the NRC inspection report transmitted with our letter, dated July 29, 1997. On August 13, 1997, a predecisional enforcement conference was held with you and Mr. Smith to discuss the violation, its causes, and your corrective actions. A copy of the enforcement conference report was sent to you by separate correspondence on August 19, 1997.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information you provided during the enforcement conference, the NRC has determined that a violation of NRC requirements occurred. The violation is cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice), and the circumstances surrounding the violation are described in detail in the subject inspection report. The violation involves the failure to maintain security of the source after it broke off its rod while being retracted into the gauge assembly on June 25, 1997. The source remained in the ground at the temporary jobsite unbeknownst to the gauge operator until it was found on July 14, 1997. The source was found after the NRC issued a Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL) to you on July 11, 1997, confirming your commitments to take actions to restrict access to the area where the source was believed to have been lost, survey the area and attempt to recover the source. On July 14, 1997, you reported to us that the source had been recovered.

The NRC is also concerned that this particular gauge was not inspected by the manufacturer prior to the loss of the source even though a Troxler Bulletin, issued in June 1996, as well as an NRC Information Notice (No. 96-52), dated September 26, 1996, recommended inspection of such gauges for cracks. An inspection of the rod/source weld may have detected a crack before the source actually broke off in June 1997. The failure to inspect and detect any crack in the weld beforehand resulted in the source being left in an unsecured area in the public domain for approximately two weeks. Although the source was buried about two feet underground, given the fact that the source was unsecured in the public domain, the violation has been classified at Severity Level III in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $2,750 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. Because your facility has not been the subject of an escalated enforcement action within the last two inspections conducted in 1994 and 1991, the NRC considered whether credit was warranted for Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process in Section VI.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy. Credit for corrective actions is warranted because your corrective actions were both prompt and comprehensive. These actions were described in a July 11, 1997 CAL, in our inspection report, in your letter dated August 8, 1997, and were discussed during the enforcement conference. These actions included, but were not limited to: (1) restricting access to the area where the source was lost; (2) obtaining a survey meter with a sodium iodide detector and performing a comprehensive survey which resulted in location of the source; (3) properly transferring the source back to the manufacturer; (4) making arrangements for the source manufacturer to inspect all of your portable gauges for source tube cracking by October 31, 1997; (5) training gauge operators to recognize the symptoms of a detached source; and (6) obtaining a survey meter to verify that the source has not become detached from the source rod.

Therefore, to encourage prompt and comprehensive correction of violations, I have been authorized to not propose a civil penalty in this case. However, similar violations in the future could result in further escalated enforcement action.

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 and its enclosure, will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR).


                             Hubert J. Miller
                             Regional Administrator

Docket No. 030-22164
License No. 37-20968-01

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
State of Delaware

Ambric Engineering, Inc.                                   Docket No. 030-22164 
Philadelphia, PA                                           License No. 37-20968-01
                                                           EA 97-357

During an NRC inspection conducted on July 10, 1997, at a temporary field site in Claymont, Delaware, and continued in the Region I office between July 11 and 21, 1997, a violation of NRC requirements was identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, the violation is listed below:

10 CFR 20.1802 requires, in part, that the licensee control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material that is in an unrestricted area and that is not in storage. As defined in 10 CFR 20.1003, unrestricted area means an area, access to which is neither limited nor controlled by the licensee.

Contrary to the above, from June 25, 1997 to July 10, 1997, the licensee did not control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material that was in an unrestricted area and not in storage. Specifically, a Troxler moisture density gauge source (containing approximately 6 millicuries of cesium-137) broke off from its source rod and was left at a jobsite in Claymont, Delaware, an unrestricted area, and the licensee did not control and maintain constant surveillance of this licensed material. (01013)

This violation is classified at Severity Level III (Supplement IV).

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Ambric Engineering Inc. is hereby required to submit a written statement or explanation to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555, with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region I, within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice). This reply should be clearly marked as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation" and should include for each violation: (1) the reason for the violation, or, if contested, the basis for disputing the violation, (2) the corrective steps that have been taken and the results achieved, (3) the corrective steps that will be taken to avoid further violations, and (4) 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. Where good cause is shown, consideration will be given to extending the response time.

Under the authority of Section 182 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2232, this response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

Because your 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. 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.

Dated at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
this 22nd day of August 1997

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