United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-96-493 - Dresden 2 & 3 (Commonwealth Edison Company)

September 18, 1998

EA 96-493

Mr. Oliver D. Kingsley
President, Nuclear Generation Group
Commonwealth Edison Company
ATTN: Regulatory Services
Executive Towers West III
1400 Opus Place, Suite 500
Downers Grove, IL 60615

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION
(NRC OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS REPORTS 3-96-036 AND 3-96-036(S))

Dear Mr. Kingsley:

This refers to the June 29, 1996 compromise of the NRC operator licensing examination, which was scheduled to be administered at the Commonwealth Edison Company's (ComEd) Dresden Station on July 8, 1996. On July 1, 1996, ComEd representatives notified the NRC that a copy of the NRC examination had been found in a photocopy machine at the Dresden Station. Based on this notification, the NRC examination was canceled and the NRC Office of Investigations (OI) initiated an investigation into the matter. The investigation led to the criminal convictions of two former ComEd employees for their willful activities that compromised the integrity of the NRC operator licensing examination. At the time these two former ComEd employees willfully compromised the integrity of the NRC examination, they were also applicants for NRC operator's licenses. Pertinent information developed by OI during the investigation was provided to ComEd by letters dated June 9 and July 1, 1998, and an open predecisional enforcement conference with ComEd regarding the matter was conducted in the NRC Region III office on July 7, 1998.

Based on the findings of an OI investigation, on June 29, 1996, two former ComEd employees, who were also applicants for NRC operator's licenses, compromised the integrity of an NRC operator licensing examination. The two former employees entered the unlocked Dresden Station licensing instructors' office on June 29, 1996, to look for their student performance and progress evaluations. According to the former employees, ComEd licensing instructors maintained old examination questions and in-plant job performance measures in the instructors' office, and it was common knowledge among applicants that the keys to the locked desks and filing cabinets in the instructors' office were kept in a secretary's desk. After entering the unlocked instructors' office, the two former employees obtained the keys to one of the licensing instructors' desks and began searching through the instructor's files. While searching through these files, the two former employees discovered the NRC operator licensing examination, which was scheduled to be administered at ComEd's Dresden Station on July 8, 1996. One former employee made photocopies of the NRC examination questions while the second former employee stood at the window to watch for anyone entering the training building. On June 30, 1996, one of the two former employees returned to the instructors' office and made additional copies of the NRC examination questions for his personal use, and he left the instructors' office without realizing that he had left several photocopies of NRC examination questions in the photocopier sorting bin. The examination compromise was identified by a ComEd licensing instructor on July 1, 1996, and reported to the NRC. The NRC operator licensing examination was in the ComEd licensing instructor's desk because it had been given to the licensing instructor for review and storage on June 28, 1996. The OI investigation into this matter further determined that on June 30, 1996, one of the two former ComEd employees also found reactor simulator alarm printouts related to the NRC examination in a trash receptacle.

Based on the information obtained during the OI investigation and the information presented by ComEd at the enforcement conference, the NRC has determined a violation of NRC requirements has occurred. The violation is cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice). The causes of the violation are rooted in practices associated with the control of examination materials and the lack of personal integrity of the individuals involved. The NRC notes that the control of examination materials at the time of the violation was neither rigorous nor adequate to prevent premature disclosure of sensitive test material. Furthermore, it is noted that personal integrity among employees at an NRC-licensed facility is absolutely essential to the safe operation of the facility and to protection of public health and safety. This was not the case for two of the individuals involved in this matter, and the willful activities of these two individuals caused ComEd to be in violation of 10 CFR 55.49, which prohibits license applicants and facility licensees from engaging in any activity that compromises the integrity of an NRC operator licensing examination.

As discussed at the enforcement conference, the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, Rev.1, does not specifically provide a severity level categorization example for this violation. Therefore, the major considerations used in assessing the severity level for this violation were the lack of examination security, the willful nature of the violation, and the potential for adverse impact upon the operation of the Dresden Nuclear Station and upon public health and safety. In this case, two applicants were within several days of taking their licensing examination when they obtained copies of the NRC examination materials. Had these applicants used these materials to prepare for the NRC examination, the individuals could have been granted an operator's license without successfully demonstrating that the subject matter was actually learned. Accordingly, the NRC considers this violation to be of safety significance, and has categorized the violation at Severity Level III.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $50,000 was considered for a Severity Level III violation occurring on June 29, 1996. Because the Dresden Station was the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the two years prior to this violation,(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. Credit for the Identification factor was warranted because ComEd identified the violation and immediately notified the NRC. While assessing the Identification factor, the NRC noted the high level of personal integrity demonstrated by the ComEd licensing instructor who identified the violation and reported it to station management. His actions demonstrated that a high level of personal integrity does exist among employees at the Dresden Station. His actions were commendable, in contrast to the lack of personal integrity demonstrated by the two license applicants. Credit was also warranted for the Corrective Action factor because of the timely and comprehensive corrective measures instituted by ComEd. A significant corrective action was the creation of a controlled office for developing, processing, and storing examination materials (e.g., limited personnel access, stringent key control, access to computers was controlled through password protection, and no physical connection to computers outside of that room). Other corrective actions included requirements that NRC examination materials always be in the physical possession of authorized personnel when not in locked storage, and simulator alarm printouts are maintained by authorized examiners. Also noteworthy were the special audits that have been conducted to confirm the adequacy of the above measures and the extension of upgraded examination security requirements at all of the ComEd nuclear stations. The NRC also recognizes that this violation is not indicative of current activities associated with the administration of NRC license examinations at the Dresden Station.

Therefore, to encourage prompt identification and comprehensive correction of violations, I am not proposing a civil penalty in this case. However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty.

During the enforcement conference, the significance of the printout the SRO license applicant allegedly found in a trash receptacle was discussed. This printout recorded alarm signals produced while the NRC examination was validated using the reactor simulator. At the enforcement conference, the ComEd representatives noted that this printout would not be useful to an applicant preparing for the simulator examination. However, the NRC believes that by studying the printout an examination candidate could deduce information concerning the problem scenarios that were to be presented during the reactor simulator portion of the NRC examination.

With respect to the license applicants, the OI investigation was presented to the U.S. Attorney, Chicago, IL. Both individuals subsequently pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to criminal charges related to the compromise of the NRC examination. Today, the NRC issued a separate enforcement action to each of the individuals. An Order Prohibiting Involvement in NRC Licensed Activities for a period of five years was issued to the RO applicant. A letter was sent to the SRO applicant confirming the NRC's understanding that in his plea agreement, accepted by the sentencing court, the SRO applicant agreed to never seek employment at any facility licensed by the NRC. A copy of each enforcement action is being provided to you.

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,

William D. Travers
Deputy Executive Director for
   Regulatory Effectiveness

Docket Nos. 50-237; 50-249
License Nos. DPR-19; DPR 25

Enclosure: Notice of Violation


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Commonwealth Edison Company
Dresden Nuclear Station
Units 2 and 3
Docket Nos. 50-237; 50-249
License Nos. DPR-19; DPR-25
EA 96-493

During an NRC investigation, completed on March 30, 1998, a violation of NRC requirements was identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violation is listed below:

10 CFR 55.49 provides that applicants, licensees, and facility licensees shall not engage in any activity that compromises the integrity of any application, test, or examination required by 10 CFR Part 55, "Operators' Licenses."

Contrary to the above, on June 29, 1996, two applicants for NRC operator licenses at the Dresden Station (one was an applicant for a reactor operator (RO) license and the other was an applicant for a senior reactor operator (SRO) license) engaged in activities that compromised the integrity of an NRC examination required by 10 CFR Part 55. This examination was scheduled to be administered by the NRC beginning on July 8, 1996. Specifically, on June 29, 1996, the applicants, both employed by the facility licensee, found keys to desks and cabinets in which instructional materials for licensing operators were stored. Using those keys, they unlocked a desk, found the NRC examination, and copied the exam for their use. (01013)

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

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd or licensee), is hereby required to submit a written statement or explanation to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, DC 20555-2001, with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region III, and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the Dresden Station, within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice). This reply should be clearly marked as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation" and should include for each violation: (1) the reason for the violation, or, if contested, the basis for disputing the violation, (2) the corrective steps that have been taken and the results achieved, (3) the corrective steps that will be taken to avoid further violations, and (4) the date when full compliance will be achieved. Your response may reference or include previous docketed correspondence, if the correspondence adequately addresses the required response. 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. Where good cause is shown, consideration will be given to extending the response time.

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.

Under the authority of Section 182 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2232, this response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

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 Rockville, Maryland
this 18 th day of September 1998


1. A Notice of Violation categorized at Severity Level III and a $50,000 civil penalty were issued on June 13, 1996, concerning the failure, from 1991 to March 1996, to promptly identify and correct known deficiencies in structural steel located in the corner rooms for the Low Pressure Collant Injection system of Units 2 and 3 (EA 96-115).

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