United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-96-402 - Prairie Island 1 & 2 (Northern States Power Company)

January 23, 1997

EA 96-402

Mr. E. Watzl
Vice President, Nuclear Generation
Northern States Power Company
414 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL
          PENALTY - $50,000 
          (NRC Special Inspection Report Nos. 50-282/96015; 50-306/96015) 

Dear Mr. Watzl:

This refers to the special inspection conducted from December 22, 1995, through October 9, 1996, at the Prairie Island facility. The inspection was conducted to determine if the licensee's proposal to take credit for the non-seismic intake canal and operator actions following an earthquake constituted an unreviewed safety question. The report documenting the inspection and transmitting the apparent violation was sent to you by letter dated November 1, 1996. A predecisional enforcement conference was held on November 22, 1996, to discuss the apparent violation, its cause, and your corrective actions.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information that you 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 and the circumstances surrounding it are described in detail in the subject inspection report.

On November 15, 1995, the licensee performed a test of the emergency intake line as part of a self-assessment of the cooling water system. The FSAR assumed that the emergency intake line was capable of providing at least 18,000 gallons per minute (gpm) of cooling water, without operator action, with the intake canal fully blocked and the river at minimum level following a lock and dam failure. The test determined that the emergency intake flow was approximately 17,500 gpm of cooling water at normal river water levels (11,600 gpm at low river levels). This test was not described in the safety analysis report and was performed without conducting a written safety evaluation. A violation for not performing a written safety evaluation prior to performance of the test was issued in Inspection Report 95014. Because the test results indicated that the design basis of the emergency intake line was not met, the licensee performed a safety evaluation and determined that no unreviewed safety question existed. A followup inspection in December questioned the conclusion that no unreviewed safety question existed because the evaluation relied on the use of manual operator actions to isolate non-safety-related cooling water loads and changed the assumptions such that reliance was placed upon a non-seismic canal remaining intact following an earthquake. This included reliance that the non-seismic sluice gates separating the non-safety-related intake structure from the safety-related one would remain open. The NRC reviewed the licensee's basis and determined in October 1996 that a violation of 10 CFR 50.59 occurred because an unreviewed safety question existed.

The licensee was able to justify continued interim operation by qualifying the sluice gates to the non-safety-related intake structure. However, the licensee's reliance on the non-seismic canal and on operator intervention is of regulatory concern. The use of operator action to meet the requirements of the FSAR created an unreviewed safety question because it introduced the potential for creating an accident or malfunction of a type different than evaluated previously in the FSAR, as well as potentially introducing unanalyzed failure modes due to operator actions of omission or commission. Additionally, the use of the non-seismic canal introduced the potential for increasing the probability of the consequences of the accident. The failure of Prairie Island to evaluate that operator intervention and use of non-seismic equipment constituted an unreviewed safety question is considered a significant failure to meet the requirements of 10 CFR 50.59. 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.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $50,000 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. Because your facility has not been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last two years, 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 Corrective Action. Although Prairie Island took broad corrective actions to improve the 50.59 process as a result of the violation issued in Inspection Report 95014, no corrective action was taken to address the NRC's concern over whether the non-seismic sluice gates would remain open during a seismic event. The concern is heightened by the fact that the NRC attempted to inform the licensee in April 1996 of the concern over the seismic qualification of the sluice gates. However, this concern was not addressed by the licensee and the NRC had to bring this issue to the attention of the licensee at the predecisional enforcement conference. Further, after this enforcement conference, NRC requested you to promptly determine if the sluice gates would be functional after a design basis seismic event. This was necessary in order for the NRC to determine if your justification for continued operation was valid.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of compliance with regulatory requirements and the prompt and comprehensive correction of violations, 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 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 
                            James L. Caldwell

                            A. Bill Beach 
                            Regional Administrator 

Docket Nos. 50-282; 50-306
License Nos. DPR-42; DPR-60

Enclosure:
Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/encl:
Plant Manager, Prairie Island
John W. Ferman, Ph.D.
Nuclear Engineer, MPCA
State Liaison Officer, State of Minnesota
State Liaison Officer, State of Wisconsin
Tribal Council, Prairie Island
Dakota Community


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY
Northern States Power Company                            Docket Nos. 50-282; 50-306
Prairie Island                                           License Nos. DPR-42; DPR-60
                                                         EA 96-402

During an NRC inspection conducted on December 22, 1995, through October 22, 1996, a violation of NRC requirements was identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," 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 particular violation and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

10 CFR 50.59(a) states, in part, that a holder of a license may make changes in the facility as described in the safety analysis report, without prior Commission approval, unless the proposed change involves an unreviewed safety question. A proposed change shall be deemed to involve a unreviewed safety question if the probability of occurrence or the consequences of an accident or malfunction of equipment important to safety previously evaluated in the safety analysis report may be increased or if the possibility for an accident or malfunctions of a different type than evaluated previously in the safety analysis report may be created.

Prairie Island Updated Safety Analysis Report, Section 10.4.1.2.2 states, in part, that the emergency cooling water intake line was designed to deliver no less than 18,000 gpm with a crib submergence of no more than 4.5 feet caused by the failure of Lock and Dam No. 3. Specific hydraulic analysis has shown that, with the expected lowest river level, the 36-inch intake line should be capable of delivering at least 22,500 gpm, and with Lock and Dam No. 3 intact, could deliver at least 30,000 gpm.

Contrary to the above, on November 28, 1995, after determining that the emergency cooling water intake line was incapable of meeting the required FSAR flows, the licensee approved a safety evaluation that credited the use of a non-seismic intake canal and operator action to ensure adequate cooling water flows to the safety-related cooling water pumps. The combination of operator action and the use of the non-seismic intake canal to meet the requirements of the FSAR created an unreviewed safety question because they introduced the potential for creating an accident or malfunction of a type different than evaluated previously in the FSAR.

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

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Northern States Power Company (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 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 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 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 III.

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 Lisle, Illinois,
this 23rd day of January 1997

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