United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-545 - Environmental Protection Agency

January 15, 1999

EA 98-545

United States Environmental Protection Agency
ATTN: Mr. Edwin L. Sensintaffar, Acting Director
National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory
390 South Morris Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36115-2601

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION
(NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 030-03576/98-01)

Dear Mr. Sensintaffer:

This refers to the inspection conducted on November 19 and 20, 1998, at the United States Environmental Protection Agency's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, Alabama. The purpose of the inspection was to follow up on the loss of a 0.1 microcurie (µCi) plutonium 239 (Pu-239) source that was discovered missing on September 29, 1998, by the licensee's Radiation Protection Officer (RPO) during a routine inventory of radioactive material possessed under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license. NAREL reported the missing licensed material to the NRC on October 29, 1998. The results of the inspection were formally transmitted to you by letter dated December 10, 1998. That letter also provided you the opportunity to respond to the apparent violations or request a predecisional enforcement conference. By letter dated January 5, 1999, you responded to the apparent violations and addressed the root causes and your corrective actions to prevent recurrence. 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 that was provided in your January 5, 1999, response, 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 involves two examples: failure to secure licensed materials from unauthorized removal or access, including the loss of the 0.1 µCi Pu-239 source, and failure to implement adequate controls of licensed material in controlled or unrestricted areas. The lack of adequate controls included unauthorized keycard access, master key distribution to unauthorized individuals, and the bypassing of the keycard security system by propping open doors. Although the circumstances surrounding the unaccounted for Pu-239 source are indeterminate, the inadequate security controls may have contributed to the loss.

The 0.1 µCi of Pu-239 was 100 times the limit set forth in 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix C. Other materials located in the room where the Pu-239 source was stored also contained various isotopes in quantities ranging from 10 to 2,200 times the applicable limit. Accordingly, the failure to secure, maintain constant surveillance and restrict access to licensed material constitutes a significant concern that could have caused unprotected personnel to be exposed to radioactive materials. In addition, review of your Radiation Protection Committee meeting minutes indicated that in March 1995, the RPO had previously identified and discussed a problem concerning licensee staff propping open doors to bypass the keycard security system.

It was determined that your corrective actions for this problem, which consisted of reminding staff not to prop open doors, were inadequate and failed to assure that the staff did not bypass building security. In addition, routine oversight activities by the RPO failed to adequately identify subsequent security deficiencies. The failure to take adequate corrective actions for your own previously identified security issues together with the multiple examples of failure to maintain security of controlled areas appears to be indicative of a programmatic failure to implement effective security for licensed materials. Therefore, the violation has been categorized in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Action" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600 at Severity Level III.

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. Your corrective actions included (1) the realignment of the RPO to the Office of the Director for NAREL; (2) the RPO's full time assignment and commitment to the NAREL radiation safety program; (3) the re-keying of the lock on the radioactive waste storage building so that the NAREL master key cannot be used to gain access to the room; (4) the granting of keycard access only to authorized licensee personnel; (5) the repairing of the main entry access release button to control visitor access; and (6) the conduct of various meetings with laboratory personnel to discuss the corrective measures implemented.

Therefore, to encourage prompt and comprehensive correction of violations and in recognition of the absence of previous escalated enforcement, I have been authorized not to propose a civil penalty in this case. 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.

In addition, Violation B involved your failure to perform at least annual reviews of the content and implementation of the radiation protection program. Violation B has been characterized as a Severity Level IV violation. Although the NRC was unable to connect the missed audits to the security issues, it is noted that the effective audits may have provided you an opportunity to identify the previously described security deficiencies earlier.

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 dates when full compliance was achieved are addressed on the docket in Inspection Report No. 030-03576/98-01 and your January 5, 1999, letter. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter unless the description therein does not adequately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to provide additional information, you should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter, its enclosure, and your response, if any, will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room.


Sincerely,

original signed by
Jon R. Johnson

Luis A. Reyes
Regional Administrator


Docket No. 030-03576
License No. 01-07317-01

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
State of Alabama




NOTICE OF VIOLATION

US Environmental Protection Agency
Montgomery, Alabama
Docket No. 030-03576
License No. 01-07317-01
EA 98-545

During an NRC special inspection conducted on November 19 and 20, 1998, 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.   10 CFR 20.1801 requires that licensee secure from unauthorized removal or access licensed materials that are stored in controlled or unrestricted areas. 10 CFR 20.1802 further requires that licensees control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material that is in a controlled or unrestricted areas and that is not in storage.

10 CFR 20.1003, defines the term "controlled area" as used in this part as an area, outside of a restricted area but inside the site boundary, access to which can be limited by the licensee for any reason. 10 CFR 20.1003, defines the term "restricted area" as used in this part as an area, access to which is limited by the licensee for the purpose of protecting individuals against undue risks from exposure to radiation and radioactive materials. 10 CFR 20.1003, defines the term "unrestricted area" as used in this part as an area, access to which is neither limited nor controlled by the license.

Condition 20 of NRC License No. 01-07317-01 requires that the licensee conduct its licensed program in accordance with the statements, representations, and procedures contained in various documents including the license renewal application dated October 24, 1990. Section 9.1 of the application states that access will be controlled through the use of an electronic key card reader system to limit access to radioactive material storage areas. Section 9.2 of the application specifically limits access to Room 215, the Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Laboratory of the National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory to the QA/QC Officer, the RPO, the Assistant RPO, the Environmental Compliance Officer and an upper management person.

Contrary to the above, the licensee failed to comply with the requirements of 10 CFR 20.1801, 10 CFR 20.1802, and Condition 20 of the License as evidenced by the following examples:

(1)   Prior to September 29, 1998, the licensee did not secure from unauthorized removal or access licensed materials that were stored in controlled or unrestricted areas. Specifically, the licensee did not secure Room 215, the QA/QC Laboratory, a room that contained 85 sources of 36 different radioactive isotopes. Subsequently, on September 29, 1998, the licensee was unable to account for an ampule containing 0.1 microcuries of plutonium 239 which had been previously stored in the QA/QC Laboratory.

(2) Prior to September 29, 1998, the licensee failed to limit access to radioactive material storage areas. Specifically, the licensee did not program the keycard system or maintain control over master keys to ensure that access to the QA/QC Laboratory and other radioactive material storage areas was limited to those persons named in the license application. (01013)

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

B.   10 CFR 20.1101(a) requires that each licensee develop, and implement a radiation protection program commensurate with the scope and extent of licensed activities and sufficient to ensure compliance with the provisions of this part. 10 CFR 20.1101(c) further requires that the licensee periodically (at least annually) review the radiation protection program content and implementation.

Contrary to the above, as of November 20, 1998, the licensee did not review the content or implementation of its radiation safety program at least annually in 1994, 1995, or in 1997. Specifically, the required reviews were not conducted. (02014)

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

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in Inspection Report No. 030-03576/98-01 and your January 5, 1999, letter. However, you are required to submit a written statement or explanation pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201 if the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you chose 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).

If you contest this enforcement action, you should also provide a copy of your response, with the basis for your denial, 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, any response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

If you choose to respond, your response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). Therefore, to the extent possible, the response should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be place in the PDR without redaction.

In accordance with 10 CFR 19.11, you may be required to post this Notice within two working days.

Dated this 15th day of January 1999
at Atlanta, Georgia

 

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