United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-96-079 - Nine Mile Point 1 (Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation)

June 18, 1996

EA 96-079

Mr. B. Ralph Sylvia, Executive Vice President
Generation Business Group and
Chief Nuclear Officer
Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation
Generation Business Group D-2
300 Erie Boulevard West
Lycoming, New York 13202

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL 
         PENALTY - $50,000
         (NRC Inspection Report Nos. 50-220/96-05; 50-410/96-05)

Dear Mr. Sylvia:

This letter refers to the NRC inspection conducted at the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station between February 17 and March 11, 1996, concerning a safety vulnerability in that the reactor and turbine building blowout panels would not have relieved until a pressure in excess of the structural design pressure for the buildings was reached. This vulnerability existed from initial operation in December 1969 to March 1995. You submitted a Licensee Event Report, (LER) 95-05, dated November 30, 1995, that was reviewed by the NRC. The inspection report was sent to you on March 29, 1996. On April 12, 1996, a predecisional enforcement conference was conducted with you and members of your staff to discuss the related apparent violations identified during the inspection, their causes, and your corrective actions.

Based on our review of the LER, inspection findings, and information provided during the conference, four violations are being cited and are described in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice). Violations I.A and I.B of the Notice involved the following: (1) failure to ensure that the Unit 1 reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels would function at the specified 45 pounds per square foot (psf) as stated in your Updated Final Safety Analysis Report (UFSAR), and (2) the failure to perform the safety evaluation required by 10 CFR 50.59 to address the use of the wrong size bolts resulting in indications that the panels would not relieve until 53 and 60 psf, respectively, beyond the design basis described in the FSAR.

Furthermore, in March 1995, when the design control deficiencies were identified, your staff determined that the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels would not function until pressures in excess of the superstructure design blowout pressure of 80 psf as stated in your UFSAR. Although actions were taken at that time in an attempt to reduce the blowout pressure for the panels to 45 psf, in accordance with the UFSAR, the NRC is particularly concerned that a weak safety assessment, coupled with design control deficiencies involving a calculation error and inadequate design review of that calculation, led to an untimely resolution of the problem identified in October 1993.

These violations are being classified in the aggregate as a Severity Level III problem 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 $50,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Your facility has not been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last 2 years. Therefore, 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 was not warranted for the Corrective Action factor because at the time of the enforcement conference, your actions were not considered prompt nor comprehensive, in that, in 1993 you initially identified that the blowout panels would not relieve at 45 psf (as stated in the UFSAR) and concluded that the margin of safety had not been reduced, therefore, no substantial corrective actions had been implemented to address the underlying human performance causes of the design control violation, and the safety evaluation as required by 10 CFR 50.59 had not been completed.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of prompt identification and comprehensive correction of violations at your facility, 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 (Notice) in the base amount of $50,000 for the Severity Level III problem.

Based on the information provided during the enforcement conference, the apparent violation pertaining to 10 CFR 50.59 with respect to the March 1995 modification that restored the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panel blowout pressures to those described in the Unit 1 UFSAR is being considered an unresolved item (URI 50-220/96-05-03). This issue currently is being reviewed by the NRC. Future enforcement actions associated with this modification, if required, will be addressed upon completion of our review.

In addition, two other violations were identified during the inspection and are being cited at Severity Level IV in the enclosed Notice. Violation II.A involves the failure to write a Deviation Event Report (DER) to address human performance and personnel performance problems adverse to quality in the handling of the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panel issues. Violation II.B involves the failure, in October 1993, to notify the NRC within one hour of a condition outside the design basis of the plant and the failure to submit an LER within 30 days after discovery of a condition outside the design bases. Another violation identified during the inspection is not being cited in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600. This violation involved the failure to make a one hour report to the NRC in March 1995, and the failure to submit an LER within 30 days after discovery of a condition outside the design basis of the plant. This violation was licensee-identified and corrected and is being treated as a Non-Cited Violation, consistent with Section VII of the Policy.

You are required to respond to this letter and should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice when preparing your response. In your response, you should document the specific actions taken and any additional actions you plan to prevent recurrence. After reviewing your response to this Notice, including your proposed corrective actions and the results of future inspections, the NRC will determine whether further NRC enforcement action is necessary to ensure compliance with NRC 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 (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. If redactions are required, a proprietary version containing brackets placed around the proprietary, privacy, and/or safeguards information should be submitted. In addition, a non-proprietary version with the information in the brackets redacted should be submitted to be placed in the PDR.

The responses directed by this letter and the enclosed Notice are not subject to the clearance procedures of the Office of Management and Budget as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96.511.

                               Sincerely,

                               ORIGINAL SIGNED BY
                               WILLIAM F. KANE FOR 

                               Thomas T. Martin
                               Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-220
License No. DPR-63

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/encl:
R. Abbott, Vice President & General Manager - Nuclear
C. Terry, Vice President - Nuclear Engineering
M. McCormick, Vice President - Safety Assessment and Support
N. Rademacher, Unit 1 Plant Manager
J. Conway, Unit 2 Plant Manager
D. Wolniak, Manager, Licensing
J. Warden, New York Consumer Protection Branch
G. Wilson, Senior Attorney
M. Wetterhahn, Winston and Strawn
Director, Electric Division, Department of Public Service, State of New York
C. Donaldson, Esquire, Assistant Attorney General, New York Department of Law
J. Vinquist, MATS, Inc.
P. Eddy, Power Division, Department of Public Service, State of New York
State of New York SLO Designee


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation                       Docket No. 50-220
Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station Unit 1                 License No.DPR-63
                                                       EA 96-079

During an NRC inspection conducted between February 17 and March 11, 1996, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG 1600, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 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 particular violations and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

I. Violations Assessed a Civil Penalty

A. Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 50, (10 CFR 50), Appendix B, Criterion III, "Design Control," requires that measures be established to verify the adequacy of design, such as by design reviews, alternate or simplified calculational methods, or suitable testing.
Nine Mile Point Unit 1 Updated Final Safety Analysis Report (UFSAR), Sections VI.C.1.2 and III.A.1.2, state that the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels will blow out at 45 pounds per square foot (psf) to prevent failure of the building superstructures at an internal pressure in excess of 80 psf.
Contrary to the above, between October 1993 and March 1995, measures established failed to verify the adequacy of design for Unit 1 reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels to blow out at the specified pressures. Specifically, in October 1993, NMPC made an error in the assumptions for calculations regarding the installed, oversized bolts in the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels. The error was not identified, during the review process, by either the independent engineering reviewer or approver. It was not recognized until March 1995 that the relief pressures were in excess of the designed blowout pressure of the superstructures. (01013)

B. 10 CFR 50.59(a)(1), allows, in part, the holder of a license to make changes to the facility as described in the safety analysis report unless the proposed change involves an unreviewed safety question.

10 CFR 50.59(b)(1) requires, in part, the licensee to maintain records of changes in the facility, to the extent that these changes constitute changes in the facility as described in the safety analysis report. The records must include a written safety evaluation which provides the bases for the determination that the change does not involve an unreviewed safety question.
Nine Mile Point Unit 1 UFSAR Sections VI.C.1.2 and III.A.1.2 state that the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels will blow out at 45 psf to prevent failure of the building superstructure at an internal pressure in excess of 80 psf.
Contrary to the above, from December 1969 to March 1995, the actual design configuration of the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels was different from that described in the UFSAR, and Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (NMPC) did not perform the required written safety evaluation to provide the bases for a determination that the deviation from the UFSAR description did not involve an unreviewed safety question. Specifically, in October 1993, NMPC identified that the wrong size bolts had been installed in the relief panels during initial construction. Calculations revealed that the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels would not relieve until 53 and 60 psf, respectively. Subsequent calculations revealed that the panels would not relieve until the pressure was in excess of the superstructure design blowout pressure of 80 psf stated in the UFSAR, and the licensee neither performed the evaluation required by 10 CFR 50.59, nor did it undertake adequate corrective action to restore the facility to the licensing basis configuration as specified in the UFSAR. (01023)

This is a Severity Level III problem (Supplement I).
Civil Penalty - $50,000

II. Violations Not Assessed a Civil Penalty

A. The Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station Unit 1 Technical Specification (TS) 6.8.1, requires that written procedures and administrative policies shall be established, implemented and maintained that meet or exceed the requirements or recommendations of Sections 5.1 and 5.3 of ANSI N18.7-1972 and Appendix A of NRC Regulatory Guide 1.33 except as provided in TS 6.8.2 and 6.8.3. Procedure NIP-ECA-01, "Deviation Event Report," Section 1 of Revision 8, implements, in part, TS 6.8.1 and requires that a deviation/event report (DER) be written to address human performance problems/issues adverse to quality.
Contrary to the above, on March 27, 1995, a DER was not written to address the human performance problems of the 1993 calculation error and the failure to identify the error during the initial review process for the reactor and turbine building relief panels. Specifically, NMPC identified an error in the October 1993 calculation related to oversized bolts installed in the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels, and NMPC did not prepare the required DER. (02014)

This is a Severity Level IV Violation (Supplement I).

B. 10 CFR 50.72(b)(1)(ii)(B), requires, in part, that the licensee shall notify the NRC as soon as practical and in all cases within one hour of the occurrence of any event or condition, during operation, that results in the nuclear power plant, including its principal safety barriers, being seriously degraded or in a condition that is outside the design basis of the plant.
10 CFR 50.73(a)(2)(ii)(B) requires that the licensee shall submit a Licensee Event Report (LER) within 30 days of the discovery of any event or condition that results in the condition of the nuclear power plant, including its principal safety barriers being seriously degraded or in a condition that is outside the design basis of the plant.
Contrary to the above, in October 1993, NMPC did not notify the NRC within one hour of the discovery of a condition outside the design basis of the plant, nor did NMPC submit a LER within 30 days of discovery of a condition outside the design basis of the plant. Specifically, with the plant operating, NMPC determined that the actual blowout pressures of the reactor and turbine building pressure relief panels were in excess of the buildings' design basis pressures identified in the Unit 1 UFSAR, and NMPC failed to make and submit the required reports in the required time periods. (02024)

This is a Severity Level IV Violation (Supplement I).

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (Licensee) 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 license 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 2.201, the Licensee 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 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 Licensee fail to answer within the time specified, an order imposing the civil penalty will be issued. Should the Licensee 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(s) 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 2.201, but may incorporate parts of the 10 CFR 2.201 reply by specific reference (e.g., citing page and paragraph numbers) to avoid repetition. The attention of the Licensee 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 I, and a copy to the NRC Senior 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. If redactions are required, a proprietary version containing brackets placed around the proprietary, privacy, and/or safeguards information should be submitted. In addition, a non-proprietary version with the information in the brackets redacted should be submitted to be placed in the PDR.

Dated at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania this 18th day of June 1996

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