United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-160 - Hope Creek 1 (Public Service Electric and Gas Company)

October 20, 1997

EA 97-160

Mr. Leon R. Eliason
Chief Nuclear Officer & President
Nuclear Business Unit
Public Service Electric and Gas Company
Post Office Box 236
Hancocks Bridge, New Jersey 08038

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION 
          (NRC Inspection Report No. 50-354/97-01)

Dear Mr. Eliason:

This letter refers to the NRC routine inspection conducted at the Hope Creek Generating Station between February 2 and March 17, 1997, the results of which were discussed with Mr. L. Storz and other members of your staff at an exit meeting on March 27, 1997. The inspection report was sent to you on April 14, 1997. During the inspection, the NRC identified weaknesses in the safety evaluations for design change packages which added crosstie piping and valves between the Residual Heat Removal (RHR) subsystems. In a teleconference between Mr. M. Bezilla of your staff and Mr. J. Linville of the NRC, on June 26, 1997, another exit meeting was held to inform you that the NRC had concluded that two of the weaknesses in the safety evaluations involved apparent violations of NRC requirements. On August 12, 1997, a predecisional enforcement conference (conference) was conducted with you and other members of your staff to discuss the apparent violations identified during the inspection, their causes, and your corrective actions.

Based on our review of the inspection findings, and information provided during the conference, one violation of NRC requirements is being cited and is described in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice). The violation involves inadequate safety evaluations for a modification that was installed in April 1994. The modification involves the installation of crosstie piping, with two isolation valves, between the A and C RHR loops downstream of the RHR pumps to allow for additional flexibility during shutdown cooling operations. The safety evaluations were inadequate because you failed to identify that: 1) the change involved an unreviewed safety question (USQ) since the change introduced the possibility of a loss of independence of the low pressure coolant injection (LPCI) loops due to an erroneous valve lineup; and 2) the crosstie isolation valves needed to be included in the monthly emergency core cooling system (ECCS) flowpath verification required by Technical Specifications (TS), which is required for any valve in the ECCS flowpath that is not locked closed.

Even though you recognized that installation of the crosstie piping changed the mechanical separation criteria of the LPCI subsystems, and you properly evaluated the potential for internal flooding events, you did not rigorously review the potential loss of more than one LPCI flow path resulting from an erroneous valve alignment, which is a malfunction of a different type than had been previously evaluated in the UFSAR. If a change introduces a malfunction of a different type than any evaluated previously in the UFSAR, it constitutes a USQ, and Commission approval is required prior to implementation. In this case, the modification was installed without prior Commission approval. At the conference, you acknowledged that the original design of the crosstie piping was inadequate in that the design specified one of the two isolation valves to be normally open while the reactor was at power. In such a configuration, valve misalignment such that the loops would be crosstied, should have been considered as a credible failure and, therefore, should have been identified as a USQ. However, you also provided your view that the USQ associated with the RHR crosstie modification was eliminated in March 1995, when you recognized the need to shut both crosstie isolation valves when the reactor is at power. You determined that the probability of unintentionally mispositioning the two manual crosstie isolation valves was several orders of magnitude lower than the probability of other similar conditions evaluated in the UFSAR. Therefore, misalignment of both crosstie valves did not have to be considered as creating the possibility of a malfunction of a different type because it was not a credible event. You indicated that this determination was based on guidance in Nuclear Safety Analysis Center (NSAC)-125, "Guidelines for 10 CFR 50.59 Safety Evaluations." Nevertheless, this arrangement created the possibility for a malfunction of a different type.

This violation is significant because between April 1994, when the crosstie piping was installed, and March 1995, when changes were made to require both isolation valves to be closed whenever the reactor was at power, a single valve alignment error could have resulted in the loss of independence of the LPCI subsystems. Fortuitously, both valves were always closed while the reactor was at power due to an error in the system drawings, but there were no administrative controls in place to ensure that the valves were in the correct position and remained in that position. The violation is also of regulatory concern because the NRC relies upon licensees correctly assessing proposed modifications to ensure that USQs do not exist. Therefore, this violation has been categorized at Severity Level III 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 or violation that occured prior to November 12, 1996. Hope Creek has been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last 2 years1. Therefore, 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 is warranted for Identification because, even though you did not identify the inadequacies in your safety evaluations until prompted by the NRC, you did recognize the need to shut both crosstie isolation valves during a safety system functional review in March 1995, and identified the need for administrative controls to ensure that the valves are shut when the reactor is at power during review of the safety evaluation for the B and D loop crosstie in December 1995. Subsequent to the conference, you submitted a TS amendment request for the RHR crosstie modification. Credit is also warranted for Corrective Action since your corrective actions to address the inadequate safety evaluations were considered both prompt and comprehensive after the violation was identified. These actions included, but were not limited to: (1) reassessment of the safety evaluations for the RHR crosstie modifications; (2) evaluation of 50.59 and engineering performance issues; (3) enhanced training for engineering staff and Station Operations Review Committee (SORC) members; (4) implementation of an independent peer review process; and (5) modification of your safety evaluation process to be consistent with NRC guidance.

Therefore, to encourage prompt identification and comprehensive correction of violations, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, not to propose a civil penalty in this case. However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty.

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 (PDR).

                            Sincerely,

                            ORIGINAL SIGNED BY
                            WILLIAM L. AXELSON FOR 

                            Hubert J. Miller
                            Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-354
License No. NPF-57

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
L. Storz, Senior Vice President - Nuclear Operations
E. Simpson, Senior Vice President - Nuclear Engineering
E. Salowitz, Director - Nuclear Business Support
A. Kirby, III, External Operations - Nuclear, Delmarva Power & Light Co.
J. Isabella, Manager, Joint Generation Atlantic Electric
M. Bezilla, General Manager - Hope Creek Operations
J. McMahon, Director - Quality Assurance & Nuclear Safety Review
D. Powell, Manager - Licensing and Regulation
R. Kankus, Joint Owner Affairs
A. Tapert, Program Administrator
J. Keenan, Esquire
Consumer Advocate, Office of Consumer Advocate
W. Conklin, Public Safety Consultant, Lower Alloways Creek Township
State of New Jersey
State of Delaware


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Public Service Electric and Gas Company         Docket No.50-354

Hope Creek                                      License No. NPF-57
                                                EA 97-160

During an NRC inspection conducted between February 2 and March 17, 1997, for which exit meetings were held on March 27, 1997 and June 26, 1997, 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 set forth below:

10 CFR 50.59(a)(1) states, in part, that the holder of a license may make changes in the facility as described in the safety analysis report, without prior Commission approval, unless the proposed changes involve changes in the Technical Specifications (TS) incorporated in the license, or an unreviewed safety question (USQ). 10 CFR 50.59(a)(2) states, in part, that an unreviewed safety question shall be deemed to exist if a possibility for an accident or malfunction of a different type than any evaluated previously in the safety analysis report may be created. 10 CFR 50.59(b)(1) requires, in part, that the records of changes to the facility must include a written safety evaluation.

Contrary to the above, in April 1994, the licensee made changes to the facility as described in sections 5.4.7.1 and 6.3 of the Updated Final Safety Analysis Report (UFSAR) that involved a USQ without prior Commission approval. Specifically, a crosstie line and associated valving were installed between residual heat removal (RHR) subsystems A and C. The written safety evaluations for this change, described in Design Change Package (DCP) 4EC-3411, were inadequate in that:

1. The safety evaluations did not identify that installation of the crosstie involved a USQ. The change involved a USQ because the loss of independence of the low pressure coolant injection (LPCI) subsystems during a loss of coolant accident, which could result from a valve alignment error in which the crosstie isolation valves were left open, created the possibility of a malfunction of a different type than any previously evaluated in the UFSAR. As a result, the licensee made a change to the facility as described in the UFSAR that involved a USQ, without prior Commission approval; and
2. The safety evaluations for the design change failed to identify the need to include the crosstie isolation valves in the monthly emergency core cooling system (ECCS) flowpath verification required by TS. As a result, from April 7, 1994, until December 22, 1995, the crosstie isolation valves, which were not locked closed, were not verified to be in the correct position at least once per 31 days as required by TS 4.5.1.a.1.b. (01013)

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

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Public Service Electric and Gas Company is hereby required to submit a written statement or explanation 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). 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.

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 King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
this 20th day of October 1997


1. A Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalties in the amount of $150,000 was issued to PSE&G on October 23, 1996, for several violations, including a similar failure to obtain NRC approval prior to implementing a change to the Hope Creek service water system which involved a USQ. (EAs 96-125 and 96-281)

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