United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-362 - Met-Chem Testing Laboratories of Utah, Inc.

July 31, 1998


EA 98-362

Douglas R. Johnston, President/CEO
Met-Chem Testing Laboratories of Utah, Inc.
369 West Gregson Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115-3440

SUBJECT:      NOTICE OF VIOLATION
(NRC INSPECTION REPORT 030-32304/98-01)

Dear Mr. Johnston:

On June 23-26, 1998, the NRC conducted an inspection at your Salt Lake City, Utah, facility. The enclosed report presents the results of this inspection. Additionally, a telephonic exit briefing was subsequently conducted with you on July 9, 1998.

Based on the information developed during the inspection, 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 it are described in detail in the subject inspection report. The significance of the violation and the need for lasting and effective corrective action were discussed with members of your staff at the close of the on-site inspection on June 26, 1998. The violation involved a failure to control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material that was in a controlled or unrestricted area and that was not in storage. Specifically, on October 29, 1997, two qualified radiographers inadvertently failed to load a radiography camera (containing approximately 47 curies of Iridium-192) into their vehicle prior to leaving a temporary job site at the Tooele Army Depot. The temporary job site was located in an area in which Tooele Army Depot maintained restricted access and required security escorts at all times. After completing radiographic operations at the job site, the source had been locked in the fully shielded position within the camera, and the drive cables and guide tubes were removed from the camera in preparation for transport. However, when the radiographers returned to the office, they discovered that they had left the camera behind. One of the radiographers immediately returned to the job site to retrieve the camera. Upon arrival at the job site, the radiographer determined that the camera had not been disturbed and that the source had remained in the fully shielded position. The radiographers estimated that the camera was left unattended for approximately 3 hours. This violation is of concern because of the potential adverse impact on the health and safety of the public.

The day following the incident, October 30, 1997, the radiation safety officer (RSO) issued verbal reprimands to both of the radiographers involved in the incident and required that both radiographers document the circumstances which led to the camera being inadvertently left unattended at a temporary job site. Since both of the radiographers had over 5 years of experience as qualified radiographers and had not been involved in any similar incidents, the RSO determined that no further corrective actions were required regarding this isolated event.

In this case the actual risk to members of the public was limited in that: 1) the source was secured within the radiography camera, 2) the device was located in an area not readily accessible to the public, and 3) individuals working at your client's facility had previously been informed of the potential hazards associated with radiographic operations. However, the NRC considers the loss of control of byproduct material to be of significant concern because of the potential for members of the public to receive unintended and possibly significant radiation exposures. Therefore, this violation has been categorized in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600 at Severity Level III.

Based on our review of the inspection findings and your corrective actions described during an inspection on June 23-26, 1998, the NRC has concluded that we have sufficient information to make an enforcement decision without the need for a predecisional enforcement conference.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $5,500 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. Because your facility has not been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within two inspections, 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. Based on the corrective actions that you have previously described, it appears that credit is warranted for prompt and comprehensive corrective actions. As noted below, the decision on providing credit for corrective action will be subject to your confirming on the license docket that the actions previously described to the staff have been or are being taken.

Therefore, to encourage prompt and comprehensive correction of violations, and in recognition of the absence of previous escalated enforcement action, I have been authorized not to propose a civil penalty at this time. However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty. In addition, issuance of this Severity Level III violation constitutes escalated enforcement action that may subject you to increased inspection effort.

You are required to respond to this letter and should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice when preparing your response. For your consideration and convenience, NRC Information Notice 96-28, "SUGGESTED GUIDANCE RELATING TO DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF CORRECTIVE ACTION," is enclosed. The NRC will use your response, in part, to determine whether further enforcement action is necessary to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

As provided for in the enclosed Notice, you are required to include a description of the reasons for the violation, if admitted, and your corrective action. This description should address the actions taken following identification and the long term comprehensive actions taken or that will be taken to prevent recurrence. Your response should be submitted under oath or affirmation and may reference or include previous docketed correspondence if the correspondence adequately addresses the required response. If the NRC is satisfied with your response, you will be notified that this enforcement action is completed. However, if your documented corrective action is not sufficiently prompt and comprehensive such that a civil penalty may be warranted, we may telephone you or schedule a predecisional enforcement conference with you. In addition, if you dispute any of the enclosed violations or their severity levels, you should describe the basis for the dispute in your response. Further, you may request that an enforcement conference be held, in which case, please contact D. Blair Spitzberg, Ph.D., at (817) 860-8191 within 7 days of the date of this letter. In the absence of such a request but where matters are disputed, we may also elect to hold an enforcement conference. In the event that a conference is to be held, it will be scheduled at least 2 weeks after receiving the written response to the Notice. Following review of any disputes and the record of the conference, if held, a decision will be made to modify, withdraw, or affirm the Notice and, if warranted, issue a civil penalty.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter, its enclosures, and your response (if you choose to provide one) 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 inspection, please contact Mr. Jeffrey Cruz at (817) 860-8164 or Dr. Spitzberg at the number identified above.

Sincerely,

s/J.E. Dyer for

Ellis W. Merschoff
Regional Administrator

Docket No.: 030-32304
License No.: 43-27362-01

Enclosures: As stated


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Met-Chem Testing Laboratories of Utah, Inc.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Docket No.: 030-32304
License No.: 43-27362-01
EA 98-362

During an NRC inspection completed on July 9, 1998, a violation of NRC requirements was identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violation is listed below:

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, for approximately 3 hours on October 29, 1997, the licensee did not secure from unauthorized removal or limit access to 47 curies of iridium-192 contained within a radiography camera at a temporary job site, 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 VI).

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Met-Chem Testing Laboratories of Utah, 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 IV, 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 or severity level, (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.

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

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 Arlington, Texas
this 31st day of July 1998

 

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