United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-012 - U. S. Enrichment Corporation

March 19, 1998

EA 98-012

Mr. J. H. Miller
Vice President - Production
United States Enrichment Corporation
Two Democracy Center
6903 Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD 20817

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY - $55,000
(NRC Inspection Report 070-07002/97013(DNMS))

Dear Mr. Miller:

This refers to the inspection conducted December 8, 1997 through January 9, 1998, at the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Portsmouth, Ohio. The purpose of the inspection was to review the activities authorized by NRC Certificate No. GDP-2. The inspection report detailing our findings was issued on February 4, 1998. A predecisional enforcement conference was held with you and members of your staff on February 19, 1998 to discuss the apparent violations, the root causes, and the corrective actions.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. The violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding the violations are described in detail in the subject inspection report.

The violations involve major deficiencies in the nuclear criticality safety and self-assessment programs at the Portsmouth facility. The NRC considers these violations to be of significant regulatory concern because the root causes spanned the breadth and depth of the nuclear criticality safety program and represented an increased risk for fissile material operations. While the violations did not result in an immediate safety issue, the magnitude of the underlying problems indicate that USEC was not effective in identifying and promptly correcting these problems. In addition, considerable NRC involvement was necessary between October 1997 and January 1998, to ensure that the full breadth of program deficiencies were pursued, the root causes were identified, and appropriate corrective actions were implemented. Significant NRC effort was necessary to focus USEC's corrective action processes in order to obtain comprehensive corrective actions

During the conference, USEC staff was in agreement with the violations as discussed in the inspection report and provided information which indicates that the root causes for these violations included inadequate management oversight of processes used to develop the criticality controls and to monitor day-to-day implementation of the approved controls. In regard to Violation A, your staff also provided information, developed since the inspection period, which demonstrated that the potential for an inadvertent criticality associated with the large uranium deposit in an idle portion of the cascade was very low. The NRC noted that the very low probability for an inadvertent criticality was not based upon your staff's proper implementation of the system criticality controls. Instead, the low probability was based upon a combination of operations practices which resulted in two physical barriers being present between the recirculating cooling water and the deposit.

The violations, in the enclosed Notice, represent a programmatic problem in the development and implementation of the nuclear criticality safety program. Therefore, the violations have been classified in the aggregate in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure 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 $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Because Portsmouth has not been the subject of escalated enforcement actions since March 3, 1997, when NRC began its regulatory oversight, 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. At the predecisional enforcement conference, your staff presented corrective actions taken and/or planned to address the violations. Those actions included but were not limited to: Inspection of all other condensers in a shutdown condition to assure compliance with controls, modification of the nuclear criticality safety procedure to include a review of pre-existing conditions, revision of all nuclear criticality safety approvals to eliminate confusing controls, and a root cause analysis to define program deficiencies. However, due to the significant NRC involvement to ensure comprehensive corrective actions, credit for corrective action is not warranted.

To emphasize the importance of prompt and comprehensive correction of violations, 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 in the base amount of $55,000 for the Severity Level III problem. The NRC encourages prompt identification of violations by licensees and certificate holders. Since Portsmouth has not been the subject of prior escalated enforcement, identification was not considered in our deliberations as described in the Enforcement Policy. However, we note that while USEC identified many of the specific problems in the nuclear criticality safety program, it failed to recognize the existence of a major programmatic problem in this area.

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 placed in the NRC Public Document Room.

Sincerely,



A. Bill Beach
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 070-07002
Certificate No. GDP-2

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

United States Enrichment Corporation
Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant
Portsmouth, Ohio
Docket No. 070-07002
Certificate No. GDP-2
EA 98-012

During an NRC inspection conducted December 8, 1997 through January 9, 1998, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the NRC proposes to impose a civil penalty pursuant to Section 234 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (ACT), U.S.C. 2282, and 10 CFR 2.205. The violations and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

A. Technical Safety Requirement Section 3.11.2 requires, in part, that all operations involving uranium enriched to 1.0 wt% or higher of U-235 and 15 grams or more of U-235 shall be based upon a documented nuclear criticality safety evaluation and shall be performed in accordance with a documented nuclear criticality safety approval (NCSA).
NCSAs-0330-004.A00 and A01, "Cascade Operations in the X-330 Building," dated October 21, 1996 and October 24, 1997, require, in part, that to ensure introduction of water into the uranium enrichment cascade does not occur, the following two controls shall be implemented and maintained:
Control A, Administrative Controls 7 (A00) and 8 (A01), require, in part, that protection from RCW (re-circulating cooling water) leakage into the Cascade shall be assured by maintaining the coolant pressure above both the UF6 [uranium hexafluoride] and RCW pressures.
Control B, Administrative Controls 9 (A00) and 10 (A01), require, in part, that when a cell is shut down and the R-114 (Freon) removed from a cell, the RCW supply to the affected cell shall be valved off, the condenser drained and drain valve left open. The RCW shall remain valved off until the R-114 is returned to the system.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and November 4, 1997, criticality controls A and B were not maintained for Cell 29-5-8 located in Building X-330. Specifically, the Freon coolant system pressure was not maintained greater than the UF6 system and RCW system pressures and the condenser drain valve was not maintained open. (01013)
B. Technical Safety Requirement 3.11.1 requires, in part, that the nuclear criticality safety program shall be established, implemented, and maintained as described in the Safety Analysis Report. Section 5.2.2.2 of the Safety Analysis Report entitled "Nuclear Criticality Safety Responsibilities," requires, in part, that Managers ensure all appropriate personnel receive nuclear criticality safety training as specified in the plant procedures.
Plant procedure XP4-EG-NS1102, "Nuclear Criticality Safety Personnel Qualification," Revision 1, dated May 1, 1997, requires contractor personnel to complete training equivalent to qualified nuclear criticality safety walk-through team members, engineers and senior engineers.
Contrary to the above, as of December 11, 1997, four nuclear criticality safety contractors did not receive criticality safety training as specified in plant Procedure XP4-EG-NS1102. Specifically, no documentation existed to determine if the minimum nuclear criticality safety qualifications specified in this procedure were met. (01023)
C. Technical Safety Requirement 3.11.1 requires, in part, that the nuclear criticality safety program shall be established, implemented, and maintained as described in the Safety Analysis Report. Section 5.2.2.3 of the Safety Analysis Report entitled "Nuclear Criticality Safety - Process Evaluation and Approval," requires, in part, that the minimum requirements for a qualified nuclear criticality safety engineer include the performance of at least four evaluations under the direction of a senior nuclear criticality safety engineer.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and December 11, 1997, three of the "qualified," permanent nuclear criticality safety engineers did not perform at least four evaluations under the direction of a senior nuclear criticality safety engineer before being qualified as a nuclear criticality safety engineer. (01033)
D. Technical Safety Requirement 3.3, "Facility Staff Qualification," requires, in part, that facility positions be filled with persons whose experience and/or training qualify them for their respective positions. The minimum qualifications, functions, and responsibilities for key staff positions are described in the Safety Analysis Report. Section 5.2.2.2 of the Safety Analysis Report entitled "Nuclear Criticality Safety Responsibilities," requires managers to be trained in nuclear criticality safety. This training provides personnel with the knowledge necessary to fulfill their nuclear criticality safety responsibilities.
Contrary to the above, as of December 11, 1997, the Certificatee did not ensure that training was provided for the nuclear criticality safety manager that was necessary to ensure that the manager could fulfill his nuclear criticality safety responsibilities. (01043)
E. Technical Safety Requirement 3.11.1 requires, in part, that a criticality safety program shall be established, implemented, and maintained as described in the Safety Analysis Report. Section 5.2.2.9 of the Safety Analysis Report entitled "Nuclear Criticality Safety - Operation Surveillance and Assessment," requires, in part, that in order to ensure that the nuclear criticality safety program is properly established and implemented: 1) USEC utilizes walk-throughs, assessments, and audits; 2) the results of these walk-throughs, assessments, and audits are documented and reported to appropriate managers, and; 3) nuclear criticality safety deficiencies are recorded and corrected according to the problem reporting system, and the data is trended to monitor and prevent future violations.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and December 11, 1997, walk-throughs, assessments, and audits conducted under the Management Self-Assessment Program, the Nuclear Criticality Safety Department Self-Assessment Program, and the Organization Self-Assessment Program did not ensure that the nuclear criticality safety program was properly established and implemented. Specifically, the self assessment programs did not: a) identify, record or correct numerous existing physical inconsistencies between plant operations in the cascade, laboratory, and withdrawal facilities and the applicable nuclear criticality safety evaluations and approvals; and b) incorporate the results of previous generic findings resulting in the recurrence of previously-identified nuclear criticality safety deficiencies as documented in the plant non-conformance reporting system. (01053)
F. Technical Safety Requirement 3.5, "Reviews, Assessments, and Audits," requires, in part, that a system of reviews, assessments, and audits shall be implemented as defined in the Quality Assurance Program and Section 6.8 of the Safety Analysis Report. Section 6.8.1 of the Safety Analysis Report entitled "Audits," requires, in part, that: 1) audits be conducted by the USEC Safety, Safeguards, and Quality organization, and; 2) audits verify the effectiveness of health, safety, and environmental programs and their implementation and determine the effectiveness of the assessment process.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and December 11, 1997, audits conducted by the USEC Safety, Safeguards and Quality Organization, did not correctly determine the effectiveness of the nuclear criticality safety internal assessment programs. Specifically, the audits did not: a) identify that the nuclear criticality safety self-assessment program was not finding existing physical differences between plant operations and nuclear criticality safety evaluations and approvals; b) identify inconsistencies between management controls defined in the Safety Analysis Report and the management controls described in plant procedures, and; c) identify the recurrent nature of nuclear criticality safety requirement deficiencies documented in the plant non-conformance report system. (01063)
G. Technical Safety Requirement 3.11.1 requires, in part, that a nuclear criticality safety program shall be established, implemented, and maintained as described in the Safety Analysis Report. Section 5.2.2 of the Safety Analysis Report entitled "Program Elements," requires, in part, that the plant nuclear criticality safety procedures shall address responses to nuclear criticality safety approval violations.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and December 12, 1997, the Certificatee did not develop plant nuclear criticality safety procedures to address responses to nuclear criticality safety approval violations. (01073)
H. Technical Safety Requirement 3.9.1 requires, in part, that written procedures shall be prepared, reviewed, approved, implemented, and maintained to cover activities described in Safety Analysis Report Section 6.11.4.1. and listed in Appendix A. Appendix A of the Safety Analysis Report, states, in part, that activities involving internal audits and inspection, investigations, and nuclear criticality safety shall be covered by written procedures.
Contrary to the above, from November 10, 1997 through December 12, 1997, activities described in Safety Analysis Report Section 6.11.4.1 involving nuclear criticality safety were not covered by written procedures. Specifically, the nuclear criticality safety approval and implementing procedure tabletop reviews and walkdowns were conducted utilizing a "Desktop Reference," an unapproved plant procedure. (01083)
I. Technical Safety Requirement 3.11.1 requires, in part, that a nuclear criticality safety program shall be established, implemented, and maintained as described in the Safety Analysis Report. Section 5.2.2.1 of the Safety Analysis Report, requires, in part, that the nuclear criticality safety program comply with American National Standards Institute/ American Nuclear Society (ANSI/ANS) 8.19-1984.
Section 9.2 of ANSI/ANS 8.19-1984 entitled "Administrative Practices for Nuclear Criticality Safety," requires, in part, that appropriate material labeling and area postings shall be maintained specifying material identification and all limits on parameters that are subject to procedural controls.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and December 12, 1997, appropriate material labeling and area postings were not maintained specifying material identification and limits on parameters subject to procedural controls. Specifically, area postings of limits on parameters subject to the nuclear criticality safety controls specified in Procedure XP3-TS-TS1050, "Laboratory NCSA Commitments," were not maintained for the following Building X-710 areas:
  • Hallways between Rooms 120 and 135 where dry activated waste (DAW) was stored on a daily basis.
  • Rooms 120, 135, 138, 142, and 157 where fissile poly-bottle storage areas were maintained.
  • Room 135 where fissile sample container waste solutions were stored throughout the room on laboratory benches.
  • Room 142 where a mobile uranium hexafluoride sample can cart was located. (01093)
J. 10 CFR 76.93, Quality Assurance, requires, in part, that the Corporation shall establish, maintain, and execute a quality assurance program satisfying each of the applicable requirements of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) NQA-1-1989, "Quality Assurance Program Requirements for Nuclear Facilities."
ASME NQA-1-1989 Basic Requirement 16, "Corrective Action," requires, in part, that conditions adverse to quality shall be identified promptly and corrected as soon-as-practical. In the case of significant conditions adverse to quality, the cause of the condition shall be determined and corrective actions taken to preclude recurrence. USEC plant Procedure UE2-HR-CI1031, "Corrective Action Process," Revision 0, dated August 31, 1996, defined issues which are reportable or result in a notice (i.e. NOV, NCV) are significant conditions adverse to quality.
Contrary to the above, between March 3, 1997 and December 12, 1997, the Certificatee failed to correct some nuclear criticality safety deficiencies, conditions adverse to quality, as soon-as-practical and failed to determine the cause of some significant conditions adverse to quality and take corrective actions to preclude recurrence. For example, Portsmouth staff did not correct nuclear criticality training, and procedural adherence deficiencies and did not determine the cause for and develop corrective actions to preclude recurrence of significant conditions adverse to quality as identified in problem reports PR PTS-97 08987,09722,10320, 09495, and 09035. (01103)
K. 10 CFR 76.93, requires, in part, that the certificant shall establish, maintain, and execute a quality assurance program satisfying each of the applicable requirements of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) NQA-1-1989, "Quality Assurance Program Requirements for Nuclear Facilities."
ASME NQA-1-1989 Basic Requirement 16, "Corrective Action," requires in part that conditions adverse to quality shall be identified promptly and corrected as soon as practical. In the case of a significant condition adverse to quality, the cause of the condition shall be determined and corrective actions taken to preclude recurrence.
Contrary to the above, from September through December 1997, the Certificatee failed to promptly identify and correct conditions adverse to quality and implement corrective actions to preclude the recurrence of significant conditions adverse to quality, identified as violation 97203-05 in NRC Inspection Report 070-07002/97-203. (01113)
Technical Safety Requirement Section 3.11.2 requires, in part, that all operations involving uranium enriched to 1.0 wt% or higher U-235 and 15 grams or more of U-235 shall be based upon a documented nuclear criticality safety evaluation and shall be performed in accordance with a documented nuclear criticality safety approval.
L. Nuclear Criticality Safety Approval-PLANT045, Control A, required, in part, that the volume for a container used to collect waste is less than a nominal volume of 1-Liter (1.25 Liters). Control B, required, in part, that a second operator or supervisor verify that the correct volume container is utilized.
Contrary to the above, on December 9, 1997, plant staff failed to implement either of the controls specified in Nuclear Criticality Safety Approval-PLANT045 for a waste storage bottle attached to an Atomic Absorption Unit used to analyze samples, in Building X-710, Room 138. (01123)
M. Nuclear Criticality Safety Approval-PLANT011, Control B, Item 6, required, in part, that all other uranium-bearing material, including other units, shall be kept at least two feet edge-to-edge from the unit [HEPA ventilation unit].
Contrary to the above, on December 10, 1997, two Building X-330 HEPA ventilation units were stored next to each other, with less than two foot spacing as required by NCSA-PLANT011. (01133)
N. Nuclear Criticality Safety Approval-PLANT018, Control A, Item 5, required, in part, that a minimum spacing of two feet edge-to-edge must be maintained between dry active waste containers/bags and other types of uranium bearing equipment or materials prior to nondestructive assay surveys.
Contrary to the above, on December 10, 1997, several uncharacterized drums of dry activated waste were stored on the ground floor in Building X-330 with less than two foot spacing from several drums of contaminated scrap metal, another type of uranium bearing material as required by NCSA-PLANT018. (01143)
O. Nuclear Criticality Safety Approval-PLANT064, Control A, Item 11, required, in part, that a minimum spacing of four feet edge-to edge must be maintained between groups of stored seals.
Contrary to the above, on December 10, 1997, two groups of seals were stored in Building X-330 with less than four foot spacing between the two groups as required by NCSA-PLANT064. (01153)
P. Nuclear Criticality Safety Approval-PLANT048, Control A, Item 10b, required, in part, that a minimum spacing of two feet edge-to-edge must be maintained between Blow-Out Prevention Actuators being stored.
Contrary to the above, on December 11, 1997, several Blow-Out Prevention Actuators were stored on the cascade floor in Building X-330 with less than two foot spacing between the actuators as required by NCSA-PLANT048. (01163)

These violations represent a Severity Level III Problem (Supplement VI).
Civil Penalty - $55,000

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 76.70, the United States Enrichment Corporation (Certificatee) 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. 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 why the Certificate of Compliance 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 76.70, the Certificatee may pay the civil penalty by letter addressed to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with a check, draft, money order, or electronic transfer payable to the Treasurer of the United States in the amount of the civil penalty proposed above, or the cumulative amount of the civil penalties if more than one civil penalty is proposed, 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 Certificatee fail to answer within the time specified, an order imposing the civil penalty will be issued. Should the Certificatee 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 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.B.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 76.70, but may incorporate parts of the 10 CFR 76.70 reply by specific reference, (e.g., citing page and paragraph numbers) to avoid repetition. The attention of the Certificatee 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 234c of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2282c.

The response noted above (Reply to Notice of Violation, letter with payment of civil penalty, and Answer to a Notice of Violation) should be addressed to: James Lieberman, 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 III, 801 Warrenville Road, Lisle, Illinois 60532.

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 Lisle, Illinois
this 19th day of March 1998

 

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