United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-96-470 - Wolf Creek 1 (Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.)

April 3, 1997

EA 96-470

Otto L. Maynard, President and
Chief Executive Officer
Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation
P.O. Box 411
Burlington, Kansas 66839

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL
          PENALTY -$100,000 
          (NRC INSPECTION REPORT 50-482/96-21)

Dear Mr. Maynard:

This refers to the predecisional enforcement conference held on January 16, 1997, in the NRC's Region IV office in Arlington, Texas. The purpose of the conference was to review the circumstances surrounding apparent violations described in the subject inspection report, which was issued on December 31, 1996. The inspection reviewed the effectiveness of the Wolf Creek Generating Station system and design engineering organizations. The onsite portion of this inspection ended on November 8, 1996. The overall scope and results of the inspection were discussed with your staff on December 31, 1996.

Based on the information developed during the inspection, the information that your staff provided during the conference, and the additional information provided in your staff's January 22, 1997 letter, the NRC has determined that several violations of NRC requirements occurred. These violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty. The circumstances surrounding them were described in detail in the subject inspection report. The first violation involves five examples of a violation of 10 CFR Appendix B, Criterion XVI. Specifically, while evaluating and responding to a Quality Assurance finding in 1994, your managers and staff failed to identify and correct conflicting positions between Wolf Creek's Technical Specification Clarifications (TSCs) and the actual Technical Specification requirement. As a result of your staff's use of some of these TSCs, Technical Specifications were violated.

Your staff stated that one cause was a "mind set" that permitted the use of operational knowledge in the application of Technical Specifications which, in some cases, compromised compliance. Although the actual safety significance of this violation was low, the circumstances surrounding it are of regulatory significance because of: (1) the management involvement in the violation, and (2) the fundamental importance of complying with Technical Specification requirements.

The second violation involves an inappropriate application of the regulatory guidance for determining the frequency of Reactor Coolant Pump (RCP) flywheel inspections. This is a violation of 10 CFR 50.59 because your staff changed a procedure described in the safety analysis report without recognizing that it also involved a change to Technical Specifications. This violation is significant because it resulted in a violation of Technical Specifications.

The third violation involves the continuing existence of TSC 001-94 after we informed your staff at the predecisional enforcement conference that the NRC considered it incorrect. This TSC involved an incorrect interpretation of Technical Specification 3.3.1, Table 3.3-1, Functional Unit 6.b, Action 5, associated with positive reactivity additions in conjunction with an inoperable source range nuclear instrumentation channel. Your staff's position at the conference was that this TSC did not conflict with the Technical Specification requirements. We continue to disagree with your position regarding this TSC. This is of concern to us because your staff did not either rescind the TSC after the inspection, request formal clarification from the NRC, or request a change to the Technical Specifications. Although a situation to implement the incorrect clarification has not occurred, this TSC was still in effect and available for use as of March 21, 1997. In a telephone conversation on that date between Mr. Bill Johnson of this office and Mr. Clay Warren of your staff, we informed your staff that the NRC considered that the continued existence of this TSC constituted a continuing violation. Subsequently, on March 21, 1997, the TSC was removed. We conclude that this incorrect interpretation of Technical Specifications, which remained in effect following our stated position at the predecisional enforcement conference on January 16, 1997 until March 21, 1997, represents an inappropriate instruction for an activity potentially affecting quality and, as such, constitutes a violation of Criterion V of 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B.

Given the regulatory significance of these violations that resulted in noncompliances with Technical Specifications and failure to take corrective actions, they are classified in the aggregate in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, as a Severity Level III problem.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a civil penalty with a base value of $50,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Because your facility has been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last 2 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.

In evaluating whether credit is warranted for Corrective Action , the NRC carefully considered all your corrective actions. At the predecisional enforcement conference, the time at which the judgement of the adequacy of corrective actions is normally made, your corrective actions included: (1) conducting an extensive evaluation of the existing TSCs and deleting or revising several, (2) the Chief Operating Officer issuing a letter to all personnel detailing expectations for compliance with requirements, (3) chartering an Incident Investigation Team, (4) changing the Onsite Review Committee, and (5) arranging for an outside audit of the plant's corrective action program. Also, corrective actions for the violation involving the RCP flywheel inspections included: (1) performing an operability evaluation, (2) requesting a license amendment, and (3) initiating a change to the Updated Safety Analyses Report.

Our deliberations on Corrective Action also considered your staff's position in the enforcement conference that certain TSCs "were reviewed and found to not violate Technical Specification requirements and did not constitute a change to the existing specifications." The inspection report identified these TSCs as examples of the apparent Criterion XVI violation. After the conference, your staff reiterated your position in a letter dated January 22, 1997. One of these involved TSC 002-96 (source range power supplies). Your staff's initial position was that this TSC did not conflict with Technical Specification 3.8.2. After questioning by NRC during the conference, your staff changed its position and agreed with the NRC that the interpretation was not conservative. (This position was confirmed in your staff's letter dated January 22, 1997.) Therefore, your corrective actions were not adequate, in this example, to have identified your staff's nonconservative position at the time of the conference.

Further, as stated above regarding the third violation, TSC 001-94 remained available for use after the NRC stated its conclusion that it conflicted with Technical Specifications. Thus, our position is that your corrective actions were not prompt, in this example, because you did not either: (1) immediately resolve the issue with the NRC, or (2) rescind the TSC until the issue was resolved with the NRC.

Based on the above two examples, which involve nonconservative and erroneous interpretations of Technical Specifications (the basis for the citation), it appears your corrective actions were not sufficiently prompt nor comprehensive. As a result, the NRC cannot justify giving you Corrective Action credit.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of compliance with Technical Specifications and of prompt identification and comprehensive correction of violations, and in recognition of your previous escalated enforcement action, 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 amount of $100,000 for the Severity Level III problem.

At the conference, we also discussed other apparent violations. The first involved four examples of 10 CFR 50.59 violations. At the conference, your staff brought additional information to show that, although the documentation was weak, an evaluation was performed of the Set Point Change Request for the essential service water self cleaning strainer. This is not a violation of 10 CFR 50.59 and is not cited. We have concluded that the remaining 10 CFR 50.59 violations do not represent a programmatic failure and, except the example involving the RCP flywheel inspections discussed above, are therefore cited at Severity Level IV.

The second apparent violation discussed involved noncompliance with Technical Specification 3.5.4 which requires one centrifugal charging pump to be inoperable when in cold shutdown with the reactor vessel head on. After evaluating all the information, we have decided that citing this as another example of the Criterion XVI violation is more appropriate.

Also, one example of the apparent violation of 10 CFR Part 50 Criterion XVI involved TSC 026-85 (quadrant power tilt ratio [QPTR]). Your staff's position, as described in your January 22, 1997, letter, is that, "Action statements [Technical Specification 3.2.4] a.3, and thus a.4, should not be entered until just prior to 24 hours after exceeding the QPTR limit." We have reevaluated this issue and have determined that the wording of the Technical Specification supports your position. As such, this issue is not a violation of a legally binding requirement. However, we continue to believe that your interpretation is nonconservative. If, for example, an unknown stuck rod situation were to occur, your position would not require operators to "[i]dentify and correct the cause of the out-of-limit condition prior to increasing THERMAL POWER..." until just prior to 24 hours after exceeding the QPTR limit. Your position is nonconservative because it could allow for power increases that could ultimately lead to fuel failure. The Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation will discuss our concern with you further in separate correspondence.

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. With regard to the Criterion XVI violation, we note that your staff and the NRC team identified several examples of conflicts between your TSCs and the Technical Specifications. We limited the citation to the more important issues, those examples that actually resulted in violations of the Technical Specifications. Nevertheless, your corrective actions should be sufficiently comprehensive to identify and correct all other conflicting interpretations so that no future Technical Specification violations occur from this problem. 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 (PDR).

                             Sincerely, 

                             org signed by

                             Ellis W. Merschoff
                             Regional Administrator

Docket: 50-482
License: NPF-42

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/Enclosure:
Vice President Plant Operations
Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.
P.O. Box 411
Burlington, Kansas 66839

Jay Silberg, Esq.
Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge
2300 N Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037

Supervisor Licensing
Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.
P.O. Box 411
Burlington, Kansas 66839

Supervisor Regulatory Compliance
Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.
P.O. Box 411
Burlington, Kansas 66839

Chief Engineer
Utilities Division
Kansas Corporation Commission
1500 SW Arrowhead Rd.
Topeka, Kansas 66604-4027

Office of the Governor
State of Kansas
Topeka, Kansas 66612

Attorney General
Judicial Center
301 S.W. 10th
2nd Floor
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1597

County Clerk
Coffey County Courthouse
Burlington, Kansas 66839-1798

Public Health Physicist
Division of Environment
Kansas Department of Health
and Environment
Bureau of Air & Radiation
Forbes Field Building 283
Topeka, Kansas 66620

Mr. Frank Moussa
Division of Emergency Preparedness
2800 SW Topeka Blvd
Topeka, Kansas 66611-1287


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Corporation              Docket:  50-482
Wolf Creek Generating Station                          License:  NPF-42
                                                       EA 96-470

During an NRC inspection conducted on October 7-25, 1996, violations of NRC requirements were 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 violations and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

I. Violations Assessed a Civil Penalty

A. 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI requires, in part, that measures be established to assure that conditions adverse to quality are promptly identified and corrected.

Contrary to the above, on March 31, 1994, the licensee's corrective actions in response to Quality Assurance Audit K381 findings failed to identify and correct conflicts between Technical Specification Clarifications (TSCs) and the Technical Specifications (TS), a condition adverse to quality. Specifically, the licensee's screenings of the following TSCs did not identify conflicts between the TSCs and the TS as indicated by the following examples:

(1) TSC 009-85 conflicted with TS 3/4.5.3 and TS 3/4.5.4 (applicable in Modes 4 and 5, respectively) by allowing two centrifugal charging pumps to be available while in cold shutdown. TS 3/4.5.3 and TS 3/4.5.4 allowed only one centrifugal charging pump to be available while in cold shutdown.

(2) TSC 010-85 conflicted with TS 3.5.3 and 4.5.2 by allowing daily containment closeout inspections following multiple containment entries in one day. TS 3.5.3 and 4.5.2 specify a containment visual inspection for loose debris be performed following each containment entry.

(3) TSC 033-85 conflicted with TS 3.6.1.1 by allowing containment penetrations to be considered operable if dedicated operators were assigned to close inoperable containment isolation valves. TS 3.6.1.1 requires for operability that all containment penetrations be isolable by automatic isolation valves.

(4) TSC 004-86 conflicted with TS 4.5.1 and 4.0.3 allowing cold leg accumulators to be considered operable upon receipt of level and pressure alarms if accumulator level and pressure were within prescribed limits. TS 4.5.1 and 4.0.3 require the accumulators to be considered inoperable upon receipt of these alarms.

(5) TSC 005-94 conflicted with TS 4.8.1.1.2.g.7 by allowing hot restart testing of an emergency diesel generator to be performed any time before or after the 24 hour load test as long as the hot restart test was performed within 5 minutes of a 2 hour diesel run. TS 4.8.1.1.2.g.7 specifies that a hot restart test be performed within 5 minutes following the 24 hour test except that the hot restart test may be done following a warmup run only if it previously failed the test immediately following the 24 hour test. (01013)

B. 10 CFR 50.59 (a)(1) allows the holder of a license to make changes to the facility and procedures as described in the safety analysis report without prior Commission approval unless the proposed change involves a change in the Technical Specifications or an unreviewed safety question. 10 CFR 50.59(b)(1) requires that the licensee maintain records of changes to the facility and that these records include a written safety evaluation which provides the basis for the determination that the change does not involve an unreviewed safety question.

Contrary to the above, on January 11, 1995, the licensee made a change to a procedure described in the safety analysis report that involved a change to the Technical Specifications, without prior Commission approval. Specifically, the licensee changed the frequency for scheduled surface and ultrasonic examinations of reactor coolant pump flywheels, as described by Regulatory Guide 1.14, "Reactor Coolant Pump Flywheel Integrity," which is described in Chapters 3A and 5.4.1 of the Updated Safety Analysis Report. However, the licensee did not recognize that the change also involved a change to the Technical Specifications, because the Regulatory Guide's examination schedule was specified by reference in Technical Specification 4.4.10 (which was superseded by Technical Specification 6.8.5.b on October 2, 1995). (01023)

C. 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion V, "Instructions Procedures, and Drawings," requires, in part, that activities affecting quality shall be prescribed by documented instructions, procedures, or drawings, of a type appropriate to the circumstances.

TS 3.3.1, Table 3.3-1, Functional Unit 6.b, Action 5 specifies that with one inoperable source range channel, all operations involving positive reactivity changes be suspended.

Contrary to the above, for an activity affecting quality, a documented instruction was not of a type appropriate to the circumstances in that TSC 001-94 conflicted with TS 3.3.1, Table 3.3-1, Functional Unit 6.b, Action 5 by allowing the reactor coolant system to be cooled down, an activity which involves a positive reactivity change, with one inoperable source range channel of nuclear instrumentation. This instruction remained in place after the licensee was notified by the NRC, on January 16, 1997, that it conflicted with TS, until it was canceled on March 21, 1997. (01033)

These violations represent a Severity Level III problem. (Supplement I).
Civil Penalty - $100,000.

II. Violations Not Assessed a Civil Penalty

10 CFR 50.59 (a)(1) allows the holder of a license to make changes to the facility and procedures as described in the final safety analysis report without prior Commission approval unless the proposed change involves a change in the Technical Specifications or an unreviewed safety question. 10 CFR 50.59(b)(1) requires that the licensee shall maintain records of changes to the facility and that these records include a written safety evaluation which provides the basis for the determination that the change does not involve an unreviewed safety question.

Contrary to the above, in the following examples, the licensee made changes to procedures described in the safety analysis report without an adequate written safety evaluation which provided the basis for the determination that the changes did not involve an unreviewed safety question as indicated by the following examples:

A. On December 13, 1995, the licensee's screening for revisions to Procedures STS PE-049C, "A Train Underground Essential Service Water System Piping Flow Test," and STS PE-049D, "B Train Underground Essential Service Water System Piping Flow Test," failed to indicate that Chapter 9.2 of the Updated Safety Analysis Report was affected by the change. The procedure changes reclassified the systems as non-redundant whereas the Updated Safety Analysis Report described the essential service water system as redundant. As a result, the licensee failed either to submit a request for an alternative to the inservice inspection requirements or process a change to Chapter 9.2 of the Updated Safety Analysis Report and determine whether the change involved an unreviewed safety question.

B. On March 26, 1996, the licensee performed a 10 CFR 50.59 unreviewed safety question determination regarding changing the main turbine overspeed protection test frequency as stated in Chapter 16.3.2 of the Updated Safety Analysis Report from every 7 days to every 92 days, without providing supporting documentation to conclude that an unreviewed safety question was not involved. The unreviewed safety question determination did not address the licensee's experience with the testing of these valves and did not contain any information as to the acceptability, by the turbine vendor, of the decreased surveillance frequency of the turbine valves. (02014)

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

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating 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 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 violations 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 234(c) 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: Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Region IV, 611 Ryan Plaza Drive, Suite 400, Arlington, Texas 76011, 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 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 Arlington, Texas,
this 3rd day of April 1997


1. A $300,000 civil penalty was proposed for three Severity Level III violations/problems on July 1, 1996 (EA 96-124) related to a frazil ice condition which rendered one train of the Emergency Service Water inoperable and the other train degraded, in addition to problems related to a degraded turbine driven auxiliary feedwater pump.

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