United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-99-080 - U. S. Enrichment Corporation

June 29, 1999

EA 99-080


Mr. J. N. Adkins
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 70-7002/99006(DNMS))

Dear Mr. Adkins:

This refers to the inspection conducted March 22 through 26, 1999, at the United States Enrichment Corporation's (USEC) Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio. The inspection report detailing our findings was issued on April 22, 1999. One apparent violation was identified and considered for escalated enforcement action, and you were provided an opportunity to respond to the apparent violation or request a predecisional enforcement conference. At your request, a predecisional enforcement conference was held on June 10, 1999, to discuss the apparent violation, the root causes, and the corrective action. A summary report of the conference will be sent to you by separate correspondence.

Based on the information developed during the inspection, the information provided in your letter dated March 19, 1999, and the information provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that a violation of NRC requirements occurred. The violation is cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice), and the circumstances surrounding the violation are described in detail in the subject inspection report. The violation involves a failure to classify an emergency situation as an Alert.

On December 9, 1998, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant experienced a significant fire in the first cell of the Side Purge Cascade located in Building X-326. During the two hour duration of the fire, firefighters observed thick smoke, twenty foot flames, and large quantities of oil on the cell floor indicating that the fire had the potential to affect the health and safety of personnel in Building X-326 and the immediate surrounding area. In addition, visible holes in the process gas cascade piping showed that the piping barrier between the process gas (uranium hexafluoride) and the environment had been breached and that the single control relied upon for nuclear criticality safety had been violated.

The failure to declare an Alert during this event resulted in not activating the onsite emergency operations facility which would have provided technical and management support to the onsite incident response efforts. This increased the duration of your event response and prevented prompt corrective actions to reestablish criticality controls. Failure to declare an Alert also resulted in not notifying local, state and Federal agencies of the event, or its significance, so that they could fulfill their emergency response functions.

During the enforcement conference, USEC stated that the immediate cause of the violation was an inconsistency between the Emergency Plan and the Emergency Plan Implementing Procedure. Section 3 of the Emergency Plan states that significant emergencies are classified as either Alerts or Site Area Emergencies (SAE). Section 3.1.1 of the Plan further defined an Alert as an emergency situation that: (1) could lead to a release to the environment of radioactive or other hazardous material, or (2) could have a direct effect on the health and safety of plant personnel. Plant Procedure XP2-EP-EP1050, Appendix B included guidance, in the form of emergency action levels to aid in the proper classification of emergency situations. However, the procedure also included a note which indicated that fire should not be classified as an Alert. Specifically, the note stated that "Events or conditions that do not meet the criteria for Alert or SAE such as fire, bomb threat, natural phenomena, and others are considered to be Operational Emergencies and may be reportable to NRC and DOE. Refer to applicable event reporting procedures for guidance." While this inconsistency was identified on the day of the event by both the NRC and USEC, the NRC inspection team identified several additional inconsistencies in March 1999 between the Plan and the Implementing Procedures.

The NRC has considered all of the information surrounding this violation and concluded that while the actual safety consequences were minimal, the violation is of significant safety concern. Therefore, the violation has been categorized in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions (Enforcement Policy)," NUREG-1600, as a Severity Level III violation.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. Because Portsmouth has been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last two years(1) the NRC considered whether credit was warranted for Identification and Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process in Section VI.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy. Identification credit is not warranted for the following reasons. In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, the NRC evaluated missed opportunities for your staff to identify the causes of the violation. The Emergency Plan is required to be implemented by approved procedures, and since March 1997, activities that should have identified deficiencies in the Emergency Plan Implementing Procedures such as response to emergencies, training, drills and exercises, failed to detect the inconsistencies between the Emergency Plan and the required Implementing Procedures. Your staff also stated at the enforcement conference that a root cause of the violation was a reluctance on the part of managers to activate the Emergency Operations Facility because they had been criticized for doing so in the past. This appears to be a pre-certification cultural issue that USEC had not resolved prior to this event. Further, Compliance Plan Issue 30, "Procedures Program," required upgrade of procedures; however, required Alarm Response Procedures for cell alarms or cell coolant alarms had not been developed at the time of the event. Your staff's failure to develop these procedures contributed to the magnitude and duration of the event. In addition, the NRC staff also questioned the USEC facility staff about whether the event classification was appropriate during the event. At the enforcement conference, senior USEC managers stated that they questioned the lack of an emergency declaration on the day of the event, but after the fire was out; however, because of these numerous missed opportunities, identification credit is not warranted.

Corrective Action credit is warranted because your corrective actions were both prompt and comprehensive. These actions, which were described in your March 19, 1999, letter and discussed during the conference included but were not limited to: (1) the Portsmouth Operations Department issued a lessons learned to the Incident Commanders regarding the need to activate the Emergency Operations Center for conditions such as fire, explosion or natural phenomena that could potentially impact personnel or public health and safety; (2) a Long-Term Order was issued clarifying actions to be taken for emergency action levels associated with a fire, security-related incident, natural phenomena, or equipment failure; (3) Procedure XP2-EP-EP1050 was revised to add an emergency action level consistent with NRC Regulatory Guide 3.67 and local and state emergency agency officials were briefed on the procedure changes; (4) affected personnel were trained on the revision of XP2-EP-EP1050; (5) emergency action levels in all Emergency Plan Implementing Procedures are being reviewed, and annual refresher training has been instituted on the emergency action levels; and (6) incident response teams are being established on each shift.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of early identification of deficiencies prior to the issues being revealed through an event, 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 violation.

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,

Original Signed By

J. E. Dyer
Regional Administrator


Docket No. 70-7002
Certificate No. GDP-2


Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty


cc w/encl:
J. M. Brown, Portsmouth General Manager
P. J. Miner, Manager, Nuclear Regulatory Affairs, Portsmouth
H. Pulley, Paducah General Manager
S. A. Toelle, Manager, Nuclear Regulatory
   Assurance and Policy, USEC
Portsmouth Resident Inspector Office
Paducah Resident Inspector Office
R. M. DeVault, Regulatory Oversight Manager, DOE
E. W. Gillespie, Portsmouth Site Manager, DOE


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

United States Enrichment Corporation
Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant
Piketon, Ohio

Docket No. 70-7002
Certificate No. GDP-2
EA 99-080

During an NRC inspection conducted March 22 through 26, 1999, 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 NRC proposes to impose a civil penalty pursuant to Section 234 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (ACT), 42 U.S.C. 2282, and 10 CFR 2.205. The violation and associated civil penalty is set forth below:

  10 CFR 76.91 requires, in part, that the Corporation shall establish, maintain, and be prepared to follow a written emergency plan.

Section 3 of the Emergency Plan, Revision 26, dated November 6, 1998, states, in part, that significant emergencies are classified as either Alerts or Site Area Emergencies. Section 3 of the Plan further defined an Alert, in part, as an emergency situation that has led or could lead to a release to the environment of radioactive or other hazardous material, or could have a direct effect on the health and safety of plant personnel.

Contrary to the above, on the morning of December 9, 1998, the Corporation failed to classify, as an Alert, an emergency situation which could have led to a release to the environment of radioactive or hazardous material, or could have had a direct effect on the health and safety of plant personnel. Specifically, on that date, the corporation failed to classify, as an Alert, a substantial ongoing fire in Building X-326, which: (1) involved the process gas cascade; (2) had the potential to release uranium hexafluoride or other hazardous materials to the environment; and (3) could have had a direct effect on the health and safety of plant personnel. (01013)

This is a Severity Level III violation (Supplement VIII).
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 to 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 and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the facility that is the subject of this Notice.

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 Imposition of Civil Penalty 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 29th day of June 1999


1.   A Severity Level III violation with a $55,000 civil penalty was issued July 14, 1998-EA's 98-249, 98-250, 98-251 - Air to close containment valve failures.

 

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