United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-96-151 - Millstone 1 (Northeast Nuclear Energy Company)


May 25, 1999

EA 96-151

Mr. R. P. Necci, Vice President, Nuclear
   Oversight and Regulatory Affairs
   c/o Mr. David A. Smith, Manager Regulatory Affairs
Northeast Nuclear Energy Company
Post Office Box 128
Waterford, Connecticut 06385


SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND EXERCISE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION
                    (Investigation Report No. 1-94-021)


Dear Mr. Necci:

This letter refers to the investigation conducted at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station, by the NRC's Office of Investigations (OI), concerning the performance of fuel offloads at Millstone Unit 1 prior to 1993. The synopsis of the OI investigation is enclosed (Enclosure 2).

Based on the information developed during the OI investigation, four violations of NRC requirements are being cited as described in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice). Specifically, the NRC determined that, in careless disregard of NRC requirements you (1) performed both partial and full core reactor fuel offloads prior to the decay times assumed in the FSAR without the appropriate engineering analyses; (2) utilized unapproved and unanalyzed system configurations to augment spent fuel pool (SFP) cooling during refueling outages, without procedures to govern those activities; and (3) in two instances submitted incomplete and inaccurate information to the NRC related to the performance of fuel offloads that were actually being commenced before the delay times assumed in the analyses submitted to the NRC.

These violations, which existed for a long period of time, appear to be the result of the deficient safety culture which contributed to the shutdown of all three units for an extended period, and resulted in a number of other violations for which the NRC issued a $2,100,000 civil penalty to NNECo on December 10, 1997. That penalty was based, in part, on (1) the failure to assure that the plant was maintained in the configuration as designed and specified in the licensing basis, and (2) the failure to promptly correct nonconforming conditions. In the letter transmitting that civil penalty, the NRC Executive Director for Operations noted that "...many of these violations and underlying causes were long-standing and indicative of a deficient safety culture, fostered by plant and corporate management, which neither set high standards or actively encouraged workers to identify and report safety issues or act upon issues once they were reported." The NRC concluded that management's failure to establish standards to ensure that the plant was maintained and operated as designed, and to ensure that nonconforming conditions were promptly identified and corrected, constituted careless disregard of requirements. As such, the violations that resulted from that deficient safety culture, which fostered such disregard, are considered willful in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Action (NUREG-1600)" (Enforcement Policy).

With respect to the cited violations, you failed to meet the requirements of 10 CFR 50.59 when you performed fuel offloads commencing prior to the decay times analyzed in the FSAR during most of the refueling outages between 1974 and 1991, and did not perform safety evaluations to support these activities. During these refueling outages, you also used the shutdown cooling (SDC) system to augment the SFP cooling system for SFP heat removal, as assumed in the FSAR analysis for the abnormal offload scenario. However, no analysis was performed at the time to assure that the design SFP heat loads were not exceeded when considering the shorter decay times. Additionally, the SDC system was cross-tied with the SFP cooling system without approved procedures to govern the activity, contrary to 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion V.

Finally, you had opportunities to identify that fuel offloads were not being performed consistent with the FSAR analysis when you prepared license amendment requests for SFP reracking. However, in those requests you provided information to the NRC regarding scenarios described in the FSAR without indicating that those scenarios did not accurately reflect your refueling practices. These scenarios were less conservative than the analyzed scenarios that supported the amendment requests. Also, when you reported the nonconforming condition in Licensee Event Report (LER) 93-011 in 1993, you described a hypothetical scenario that was more conservative than conditions that actually existed, and you failed to report the dates and times of occurrences that the SFP design temperature limit could have been exceeded, contrary to the requirements of 10 CFR 50.73. Although you were slow to recognize, after the issue was raised in June 1992, that the performance of full core offloads after only 150 hours decay time was potentially a condition outside of the design basis of the plant, the NRC concluded that the delay did not constitute a violation of NRC requirements. This is because no core offloads were conducted while you were evaluating the issue and the issue was promptly reported once the analysis conducted by your contractor was available.

The NRC recognizes that there were no actual safety consequences as a result of commencing core offloads prior to the decay times specified in the FSAR, because the actual heat load never exceeded the total available SFP cooling capability, when augmented by shutdown cooling, and the temperature of the SFP never exceeded the design limit. However, the maximum actual SFP heat load during most of these refueling outages exceeded the design capability of the SFP cooling system heat exchangers. Therefore, the potential existed for the design temperature limit of the SFP to be exceeded, as you reported in your LER dated October 18, 1993. The operation of the SDC system, cross-tied with the SFP cooling system, without approved procedures permitted operation of the systems in an uncontrolled, potentially less reliable manner.

The NRC is concerned that in preparation of your license amendment requests for SFP reracking, you either failed to recognize that core offloads were not being performed in accordance with the FSAR, or if you did recognize such, you did not inform the NRC. In support of these license amendment requests, your staff analyzed fuel offload scenarios to demonstrate that there was sufficient SFP heat removal capability to accommodate the increase in SFP storage capacity requested in the license amendments. This analysis provided an obvious opportunity for your staff to consider the actual refueling practices that were used at Millstone Unit 1. However, no one involved in the preparation and review process for the amendment requests questioned whether the analyzed scenarios were representative of actual offload practices. The NRC is also concerned that when you did recognize that core offloads were performed that were not consistent with the FSAR, you failed to provide complete information to the NRC with respect to the extent and significance of the deviation from the licensing basis.

In consideration of (1) the undesirable consequences of performance of unanalyzed core offloads and failure to ensure that SFP heat removal was conducted in accordance with approved procedures; (2) the significance of providing incomplete and inaccurate information to the NRC; and (3) the significance that the NRC places on careless disregard of its requirements, the four violations set forth in the enclosed Notice have been classified, in the aggregate, as a Severity Level III problem in accordance with the Enforcement Policy. Issuance of a civil penalty for this Severity Level III problem would normally be considered in accordance with the Enforcement Policy. Since the violations occurred more than five years ago, they are outside the statute of limitations for issuance of a civil penalty, with the exception of violation D for which you waived the Statute of Limitations on October 15, 1998. Even if the statute of limitations had not expired, the NRC determined that it would be appropriate to exercise discretion and not issue a civil penalty because: (1) these violations at Unit 1, which has permanently shut down, were additional examples of the underlying performance problems at all the Millstone units for which the NRC issued the $2,100,000 civil penalty to you in December 1997; (2) you maintained all three of the Millstone units in a shutdown condition for approximately 2 years to address underlying performance problems at the facility; and (3) you essentially replaced the entire management infrastructure since the time these fuel offload problems occurred, and the new management team has been reasonably effective in managing the restart and operation of Millstone 2 and 3. Therefore, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Commission, to exercise discretion and not issue a civil penalty for these violations. In sum, discretion is appropriate because you have already implemented corrective actions to address the underlying performance problems at Millstone and further enforcement action is not necessary to achieve additional remedial actions.

Regarding the original question concerning the Millstone 1 full core offload practices, the NRC has drawn a distinction between routinely conducting full core offloads and conducting any offloads prior to the decay times assumed in the FSAR. The NRC has concluded that enforcement action is not warranted at Millstone 1 and other facilities for conducting full core offloads on a routine basis. The use of the terms "abnormal" and "emergency" in describing the full core offload scenario in the FSAR could imply that full core offloads were to occur on a less frequent basis than partial core offloads. However, the NRC was unable to conclude that the use of these terms represented a specific commitment to limit the frequency with which full core offloads were conducted at Millstone 1. In this regard, NNECo informed the NRC staff of its practice of offloading the full core at Millstone 1 in a meeting on June 16, 1988 associated with the License Amendment 40 request pertaining to SFP reracking. Further, although the analytical constraints and assumptions for the full core offload were generally less restrictive than those for a partial core offload, in licensing actions (typically rerack amendments), the NRC found the plant design for removing the full core acceptable. Finally, as a way of addressing shutdown risk, the NRC encouraged, and still does, the practice of full core offloads. Thus, consistent with the conclusions drawn for all other plants that routinely performed full core offloads, additional enforcement is not being proposed for the Millstone 1 full core offloading practices.

As noted above, enforcement action is being proposed for violations associated with the timing of core offloads. In this regard, the Non-Cited Violation (NCV) documented in Inspection Report 50-245, 336, 423/94-01, dated April 22, 1994, for failure to maintain the spent fuel pool analysis design assumptions (based on LER 93-011) was issued without full knowledge pertaining to the extent that offloads commenced before the assumed FSAR decay times. The NRC concludes that had it known at the time the extent of the issue, as well as the careless disregard toward NRC requirements, a more significant enforcement action would have been warranted. Therefore, pursuant to Section XIII of the Enforcement Policy, this NCV is being reissued as a cited violation and is included in the enclosed Notice of Violation.

The NRC has concluded that you have already addressed the broad, programmatic problems that led to the violations cited in the enclosed Notice in your response to the $2,100,000 civil penalty. Corrective actions for the specific issues associated with the violations are no longer applicable since Unit 1 is permanently retired. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter. 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 will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Wayne D. Lanning at 610-337-5126.

Sincerely,

Hubert J. Miller
Regional Administrator


Docket No. 50-245
License No. DPR-21

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encls:
B. Kenyon, President - Generation Group
L. Olivier, Senior Vice President & Chief Nuclear Officer
M. Brothers, Vice President - Operations
J. Carlin, Vice President - Human Services
E. Harkness, Director - Unit 1 Operations
J. Price, Director - Unit 2 Operations
C. Schwarz, Director - Unit 3 Operations
D. Amerine, Vice President - Engineering Services
F. Rothen, Vice President - Nuclear Work Services
G. Hicks, Director - Nuclear Training Services (CT)
L. Cuoco, Senior Nuclear Counsel
J. Egan, Esquire
N. Burton, Esquire
V. Juliano, Waterford Library
J. Buckingham, Department of Public Utility Control
S. Comley, We The People
State of Connecticut SLO Designee
First Selectmen, Town of Waterford
D. Katz, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN)
R. Bassilakis, CAN
J. Block, Attorney, CAN
S. Luxton, Citizens Regulatory Commission (CRC)
T. Concannon, Co-Chair, NEAC
E. Woollacott, Co-Chairman, NEAC




ENCLOSURE 1

NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Northeast Nuclear Energy Company
Millstone 1
Docket No. 50-245
License No. DPR-21
EA 96-151

During an investigation conducted by the NRC Office of Investigations from May 6, 1994 to March 29, 1996, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violations are listed below:

A.   10 CFR 50.59(a) allows licensees to make changes to the facility or procedures as described in the safety analysis report, without prior Commission approval unless the change involves an unreviewed safety question (USQ).

10 CFR 50.59(b) requires, in part, that the licensee maintain written safety evaluations that provide the bases for the determination that the change does not involve a USQ.

Updated Final Safety Analysis Report (UFSAR), Section 9, stated that the normal heat load for the spent fuel pool (SFP) during a refueling outage (RFO) was based on a partial core offload decayed for 150 hours, and the emergency (abnormal) heat load was based on a full core offload decayed for 250 hours. The UFSAR also stated that the SFP cooling heat exchangers were designed to remove the maximum normal heat load from the fuel pool, and that the SFP cooling system and the shutdown cooling (SDC) system, working together, could remove the emergency heat load.

Contrary to the above, between August 31, 1974 and April 7, 1991, the licensee made changes to the facility described in the safety analysis report for refueling core offloads without performing an evaluation to provide the basis that the changes did not involve a USQ. The licensee routinely performed core offloads without assuring that the specified decay times in the UFSAR had been met, and the licensee did not perform an analysis to assure that the design SFP heat loads were not exceeded. Specifically,

  • Full core offloads were commenced less than 250 hours after shutdown during RFOs 2 - 4 and 7 - 13. In all but three of these RFOs, fuel transfer began before the reactor had been shutdown for 150 hours

  • A partial core offload was commenced less than 150 hours after shutdown during RFO 5. (01013)

B.   10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion V, requires, in part, that activities affecting quality be accomplished in accordance with documented instructions or procedures.

Contrary to the above, between 1980 and 1991, the licensee provided augmented cooling to the SFP, an activity affecting quality, without documented instructions or procedures. Specifically, the licensee used the SDC system to augment the SFP cooling system during refueling operations with flow through the SFP cooling and SDC discharge intertie valves. No procedure existed for operation of the SFP cooling and SDC systems in this configuration.
(01023)

C.   10 CFR 50.9(a) requires, in part, that information provided to the Commission by a licensee be complete and accurate in all material respects.

Contrary to the above, in the submitted request for License Amendment 40 dated June 24, 1988, the licensee failed to provide the NRC complete and accurate information concerning the performance of core offloads. In an analysis submitted to the NRC to support the license amendment to increase the fuel storage capacity of the SFP, the licensee stated that it analyzed two scenarios for fuel offload to the SFP. However, the licensee failed to indicate, in that analysis, that its offload practices were different than the stated analyzed scenarios. Specifically, the licensee stated that the analysis performed to obtain the decay heat load and the bulk temperature profile for the SFP was based on conservative assumptions. These assumptions included: (1) a normal discharge, described as one third of the core discharged after 150 hours of decay in the reactor; and (2) an abnormal condition, described as the full core discharged with fuel transfer beginning 250 hours after reactor shutdown. This description implies that those scenarios represented the actual methods used by the licensee to discharge fuel from the reactor core. As such, this information was not complete and accurate because it did not reflect that full core offloads were routinely performed with fuel transfer beginning before the reactor had been shutdown for 250 hours as described above. The actual conditions for the majority of the fuel offloads performed by the licensee were less conservative with respect to SFP heat load than the conditions described in the analyzed scenarios. This information was material in that the time the fuel transfer begins is integral to the assessment of SFP heat removal capabilities. It was assumed that the supporting analysis bounded the actual conditions that would exist in the SFP during a core offload. (01033)

D.   10 CFR 50.9(a) requires, in part, that information provided to the Commission by a licensee be complete and accurate in all material respects.

10 CFR 50.73(b)(2)(ii)(C) requires that the narrative required to be included in a Licensee Event Report shall contain the dates and approximate times of occurrences of the events being reported.

Contrary to the above, on October 18, 1993, in a Licensee Event Report (LER) (No. 93-011) submitted to the NRC to report a condition outside of the design basis of the plant, the licensee failed to provide complete information concerning the performance of core offloads. The licensee reported that conditions may have existed where the SFP cooling system may have been incapable of maintaining the SFP temperature below the 150F design limit when performing full core offloads and described a scenario in which fuel transfer began 150 hours after reactor shut down. However, the information provided was not complete in that it did not report the dates of occurrences of at least seven refueling outages (RFOs 2 - 4 and 8 - 11), prior to the submittal of the LER, when full core offloads were actually commenced before the reactor had been shutdown for 150 hours. This information was material in that the NRC relies on LERs to assess the significance of events, assess licensee performance, and to identify issues that may impact the health and safety of the public. In this case, the NRC could not accurately assess the safety significance or licensee performance without the specific information that was omitted. (01043)

This is a Severity Level III problem (Supplement I).

The NRC has concluded that you have already addressed the broad, programmatic problems that led to the violations cited in the enclosed Notice in your response to the $2,100,000 civil penalty. However, if you choose 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 I, and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the facility that is the subject of this Notice, 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 to the Director, Office of Enforcement, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

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 placed in the PDR without redaction.

Dated at King of Prussia, PA
this 25th day of May 1999

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012