United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-297 & EA-97-298 - Oconee 1, 2, & 3 (Duke Power Company)

August 27, 1997

EA 97-297 & EA 97-298

Duke Power Company
ATTN: Mr. W. R. McCollum, Vice President
Oconee Nuclear Station
P. O. Box 1439
Seneca, SC 29679

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL
          PENALTIES -$330,000 
          (NRC Inspection Report Nos. 50-269, 270, and 287/97-07, and
          50-269, 270, and
          287/97-08) 

Dear Mr. McCollum:

On June 6, 1997, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed two special inspections at your Oconee Nuclear Station (ONS). During the inspections, the NRC examined the facts and circumstances surrounding an April 21, 1997, unisolable, reactor coolant leak on Unit 2 and a May 3, 1997, event which resulted in degradation of the high pressure injection (HPI) system during Unit 3 cooldown. The results of the inspections were discussed with members of your staff on June 6, 1997, and were formally transmitted to Duke Power Company (DPC) by separate letters, both dated June 27, 1997. An open predecisional enforcement conference was conducted in the Region II office on July 23, 1997, to discuss the apparent violations, the root causes, and your corrective actions to preclude recurrence of the violations. A summary of the conference was sent to DPC by letter dated July 29, 1997.

Based on the information developed during the inspections and the information that you provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. The violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalties (Notice), and the circumstances surrounding them are described in detail in the subject inspection reports.

Violation A in Part I of the Notice involves the failure to meet Technical Specification (TS) operability requirements for the Unit 3 HPI system. Specifically, between at least May 1 and May 2, 1997, and potentially since March 6, 1997, when Oconee Unit 3 reactor coolant was above 350 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the HPI system would not have been able to perform its intended safety function in that there was inadequate level in the letdown storage tank (LDST) to provide the necessary net positive suction head required for HPI pump operability. On May 3, 1997, during a Unit 3 controlled shutdown, two of the three HPI pumps were damaged due to the loss of net positive suction head.

A contributor to the decreased inventory in the LDST was due to an erroneously high LDST level indication. The cause of the erroneous indication was the loss of water from the common reference leg on the LDST level instrumentation. The last instance of assured operability of the HPI system was on February 22, 1997, when the LDST level instrumentation was last calibrated. At the conference, DPC admitted the violation and stated that the root causes of Violation A in Part I of the Notice were design deficiencies related to a common reference leg for the LDST level instrumentation and a leaking instrument fitting caused by inadequate maintenance practices.

Violation A in Part I of the Notice is of very significant regulatory concern because of the potential safety consequences associated with extended inoperability of the HPI system. For example, two HPI pumps are needed to meet the success criteria for HPI in the Oconee accident analysis. Due to the design of the HPI system at Oconee, there was a potential for a common mode failure of two or more HPI pumps whenever there was a problem with the HPI pump suction source. As discussed previously, such pump failures occurred while the system was performing its normal makeup function during Unit 3 cooldown on May 3, 1997. Also, contributing to the May 3, 1997, HPI event was the performance of control room operators. Operators were less than attentive to plant parameters and failed to recognize that, while used as a suction source for the HPI pumps, the indicated LDST level was not decreasing as would be expected. In addition, DPC failed to adequately assess operating experience both within DPC and the industry in order to recognize and correct the design vulnerability associated with the HPI system. As an example, several modifications to the HPI system were contemplated and/or proposed in the past which may have provided opportunities to identify and address the single failure vulnerabilities of the system earlier. Based on all of the above, the NRC concluded that the HPI system would not have been able to perform its intended safety function to mitigate a serious safety event. Therefore, this violation has been categorized in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, at Severity Level II.

In accordance with Section VI of the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $88,000 is considered for a Severity Level II violation. In this case, the NRC has decided to exercise enforcement discretion, in accordance with Section VII.A of the Enforcement Policy, and propose a civil penalty of $220,000, twice the maximum, statutory daily penalty of $110,000, to appropriately reflect the safety and regulatory significance of the violation. This determination is based on: (1) the high risk significance of HPI inoperability; (2) the fact that DPC had a similar event in the past and numerous opportunities were available to identify and correct the design vulnerabilities through industry experience; and (3) the significant length of time that the violation may have existed. Although the specific duration of the violation was not conclusively determined by the licensee nor the NRC, it could have existed since the time of the last instrument calibration, nearly two months. For the purposes of this enforcement action, the NRC asserts that the condition existed at least two days prior to the May 3, 1997, event. The NRC acknowledges that your corrective actions described at the predecisional enforcement conference, both taken and planned, address the causes of the problems.

Violations B(1) and B(2) in Part I of the Notice involve two instances of the failure to establish adequate measures to identify and correct conditions adverse to quality. The first violation involves DPC's failure to implement an adequate augmented inservice inspection program for the detection of HPI cracks. This program, which was the subject of NRC Information Notice 82-09 and Generic Letter 85-20, had been established following the identification of cracks and other damage in HPI piping at Oconee and other Babcock & Wilcox plants. By letter to the NRC dated February 15, 1983, DPC formally committed to the NRC to conduct the inspection program; however, DPC failed to properly perform these inspections. As a result of the failure to implement effective corrective action via the augmented inservice inspection program, cracks in the Unit 2 and Unit 3 HPI piping remained undetected until a Unit 2 crack penetrated the wall of the piping and resulted in an unisolable reactor coolant leak on April 21, 1997. Inadequacies in the inspection program implementation included the lack of acceptance criteria for radiographic testing and the failure to conduct ultrasonic testing on certain susceptible piping areas. The second violation involves the failure to take actions to assure that indications of thermal stratification, a mechanism known in the industry as a potential cause of pipe cracking, were evaluated and factored into the augmented inspection program. Specifically, in 1990, temperature measurements revealed that thermal stratification in the HPI lines was more severe than previously assumed. At the conference, DPC admitted these violations and stated that the root causes were inadequate commitment tracking and management of change.

The actual safety significance of Violations B(1) and B(2) in Part I of the Notice was limited by the immediate shutdown of Unit 2; however, the violations had the potential for a significant impact on safety. Evidence of thermal sleeve loosening was present on the film from 1996 radiographic tests, but DPC failed to identify and fully investigate the indications. The deficiencies in the licensee's augmented inspections resulted in a delay in identification of HPI cracks and ultimately led to the unisolable reactor coolant leak on April 21, 1997. The NRC is concerned that the April 21, 1997, event involved a known failure mode and that the program designed to detect precursors to such leaks was ineffective. The violation affected all three units, even though Unit 1 was less susceptible to cracking due to a different design. Not only did DPC fail to track and implement regulatory commitments effectively, it is also evident that DPC's examiners exhibited a poor questioning attitude with regard to the absence of acceptance criteria for the radiographic testing. Furthermore, the failure to pursue indications of thermal stratification in the HPI lines is an additional indicator of programmatic deficiencies. Based on the above, Violations B(1) and B(2) in Part I of the Notice have been categorized in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, as a Severity Level III problem.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. However, the NRC considers these violations to be of high regulatory significance and to involve particularly poor licensee performance. Specifically, the violations (1) affected all three units; (2) involved a known failure mode; (3) involved a significant failure to implement an inspection program intended to identify the failure mode; and (4) resulted in an unisolable reactor coolant leak which was clearly preventable. For these reasons, the NRC is exercising discretion in accordance with Section VII.A of the Enforcement Policy and is proposing a civil penalty of $110,000, twice the base, for this Severity Level III problem. The NRC acknowledges that the corrective actions as described at the predecisional enforcement conference are appropriate to the circumstances.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of ensuring the operability of equipment required for accident mitigation and the need for comprehensive and lasting correction of significant conditions adverse to quality, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, and the Deputy Executive Director for Regulatory Effectiveness, to issue the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalties in the amount of $330,000 for the Severity Level II violation and the Severity Level III problem.

In addition, Part II of the enclosed Notice addresses four violations which have been categorized at Severity Level IV. These violations, associated with the LDST, include (1) the failure to follow operations procedures for monitoring plant conditions; (2) the failure to assign a dedicated Low Temperature Overpressure Protection operator on May 2-3, 1997; (3) the failure to have adequate maintenance procedures for compression fittings; and, (4) the failure to maintain configuration control for certain LDST instrument line valves.

At the conference, several other apparent violations described in the subject inspection reports were discussed and are dispositioned as follows. The apparent violation associated with the failure of operators to implement procedures promptly at the initiation of the May 3, 1997 event, is being withdrawn. This conclusion is based on the additional information that DPC provided at the conference indicating a supplemental reactor operator entered several Alarm Response Guides and an Abnormal Procedure within minutes of receiving the HPIP DISCHARGE HEADER PRESSURE LOW alarm on May 3, 1997. The apparent violations associated with the failure to implement corrective actions for design vulnerabilities and operational concerns identified subsequent to the November 1979 event are also being withdrawn. Specifically, DPC stated that the design deficiencies which were the subject of several cancelled modifications would not have prevented the May 3, 1997, event. However, DPC did acknowledge that the failure to evaluate properly and to take actions on industry operating experience was a significant contributor to its failure to correct the design deficiency associated with the LDST common reference leg. This causal factor is addressed in the discussion of Violation A in Part I of the Notice. The apparent violation regarding the failure to provide adequate design control measures for LDST level and pressure instrumentation is also being withdrawn. Specifically, DPC provided adequate justification, that, in accordance with the Oconee licensing basis, the instrumentation was not required to be classified as Quality Assurance (QA) Category 1. However, at the conference, DPC informed the NRC staff of its decision to voluntarily reclassify the instrumentation as QA Category 1.

Lastly, at the conference DPC denied the apparent violation of 10 CFR 50.72 regarding the failure to report, within four hours, the fact that the HPI system would not have been able to perform its safety function from "February 22 until May 3, 1997." NRC has reevaluated this issue and has concluded that a violation of 10 CFR 50.72 (b)(2)(i) and/or (c) did occur. Enclosure 2 provides the NRC staff's analysis of why a violation of reporting requirements did occur. However, enforcement discretion is being exercised in accordance with Section VII.B.6 of the Enforcement Policy, and the violation will not be cited. The bases for the exercise of discretion are: (1) DPC was in a declared emergency at the time the past operability determination was made; (2) DPC was in periodic communication with the NRC during the event; and, (3) the lack of the operability information did not result in a delayed or inappropriate response by the NRC as an Augmented Inspection Team had already been dispatched to the site.

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 enclosures, and your response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR).

                             Sincerely, 

                             Original Signed by
                             L. A. Reyes

                             Luis A. Reyes
                             Regional Administrator 

Docket Nos.: 50-269, 50-270, 50-287
License Nos.: DPR-38, DPR-47, DPR-55

Enclosures:
1. Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalties
2. Staff Analysis of Reportability Violation

cc w/encls:
Mr. J. E. Burchfield
Compliance
Duke Power Company
P. O. Box 1439
Seneca, SC 29679

Mr. Paul R. Newton
Legal Department (PB05E)
Duke Power Company
422 South Church Street
Charlotte, NC 28242-0001

Executive Director
Public Staff - NCUC
P. O. Box 29520
Raleigh, NC 27626-0520

Mr. Robert B. Borsum
Framatome Technologies
1700 Rockville Pike, Suite 525
Rockville, MD 20852

Mr. J. Michael McGarry, III, Esq.
Winston and Strawn
1400 L Street, NW
Washington, D. C. 20005

Director
Division of Radiation Protection
N. C. Department of Environmental
Health & Natural Resources
P. O. Box 27687
Raleigh, NC 27611-7687

Chief
Bureau of Radiological Health
South Carolina Department of Health
and Environmental Control
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201

County Supervisor of
Oconee County Walhalla, SC 29621

Manager, LIS
NUS Corporation
2650 McCormick Drive
Clearwater, FL 34619-1035

Mr. G. A. Copp
Licensing - EC05O
Duke Power Company
P. O. Box 1006
Charlotte, NC 28201-1006

Assistant Attorney General
N. C. Department of Justice
P. O. Box 629
Raleigh, NC 27602


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTIES

Duke Power Company                          Docket Nos. 50-269, 270, and 287  
Oconee Nuclear Station                      License Nos. DPR-38, 47, and 55 
Units 1, 2, and 3                           EAs 97-297 and 97-298  
           

During Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspections conducted from April 22 to June 6, 1997, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the NRC proposes to impose civil penalties pursuant to Section 234 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (Act), as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2282, and 10 CFR 2.205. The particular violations and associated civil penalties are set forth below:

I. Violations Assessed a Civil Penalty

A. Technical Specification (TS) 3.2.1, "High Pressure Injection and Chemical Addition Systems," requires that the reactor shall not be critical unless two high pressure injection (HPI) pumps per unit are operable except as specified in TS 3.3.

TS 3.3.1.a(1), "High Pressure Injection System," requires that when the reactor coolant system (RCS), with fuel in the core, is in a condition with temperature above 350 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and reactor power less than 60 percent full power, two independent trains, each comprised of an HPI pump and a flow path capable of taking suction from the borated water storage tank and discharging into the RCS automatically upon Engineered Safeguards Protective System actuation, shall be operable. TS 3.3.1.c(1) further requires that when reactor power is greater than 60 percent full power that the remaining HPI pump shall be operable.

Contrary to the above, between at least May 1 and May 2, 1997, with fuel in the Oconee Unit 3 core and RCS temperature greater than 350F, the licensee failed to maintain the HPI system operable, as required by TSs. Specifically, the licensee operated with the HPI system outside of the letdown storage tank (LDST) level versus pressure analyzed limitation curve which resulted in all of the HPI pumps being inoperable and unable to perform their safety-related function if called upon to operate, due to inadequate net positive suction head. (01012)

This is a Severity Level II violation. (Supplement I)
Civil Penalty - $220,000

B. 10 CFR 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI, "Corrective Action," requires, in part, that measures be established to assure that conditions adverse to quality, such as failures, malfunctions, deficiencies, deviations, defective material and equipment, and nonconformances, are promptly identified and corrected.
(1) Contrary to the above, as of April 21, 1997, the licensee failed to establish measures to assure that cracks in High Pressure Injection (HPI) safe end nozzles, adjacent HPI piping, and nozzle thermal sleeves, which are significant conditions adverse to quality, were promptly identified and corrected. Consequently, the licensee did not promptly identify and correct a crack in the safe end weld of HPI makeup nozzle 2A1 of Oconee Unit 2 that resulted in an unisolable, reactor coolant leak on April 21, 1997. (02013)
(2) Contrary to the above, as of April 21, 1997, the licensee failed to take corrective action for temperature differentials that the licensee measured in June 1990 in the safety-related HPI makeup piping. These temperature differentials were indicative of thermal stratification in the HPI makeup piping, which is a condition adverse to quality in that such stratification could contribute to HPI pipe cracking. (02023)

This is a Severity Level III problem. (Supplement I)
Civil Penalty - $110,000

II. Violations not Assessed a Civil Penalty

A. TS 6.1.1.1, requires, in part, lines of authority, responsibility, and communication shall be established and defined for the highest management levels through intermediate levels to and including all operating organization positions. These relationships shall be documented and updated.

TS 6.4, "Station Operating Procedures," requires, in part, that the station be operated and maintained in accordance with approved procedures. TS 6.4.1.a requires, in part, that procedures be provided for normal startup, operation, and shutdown of the complete facility and of all systems and components involving nuclear safety of the facility.

Operation Management Procedure (OMP) 2-1, "Duties and Responsibilities of On Shift Operations Personnel," Revision (Rev.) 40 implements, in part, TS 6.1.1.1 and TS 6.4.1.a.

Enclosure 4.5 of this procedure, "Responsibilities of the Reactor Operators," describes the responsibilities of the Operator at the Controls and the Balance of Plant Operator. Step 2 of the section on shared responsibilities states: "The Reactor Operators assigned to any Control Room are charged with the responsibility of operating their assigned unit. They are to operate the plant with a questioning attitude, keeping nuclear safety and 'Operations Conservatism' in mind." Step 9 of the shared responsibilities delineated in Enclosure 4.5 further states: "All Reactor Operators shall ensure that his/her normal or selected instruments monitoring their associated parameters are responding as expected for the existing condition."

Contrary to the above, the licensee failed to operate the station in accordance with approved procedures prescribing operator responsibilities and authorities in that between 7:45 a.m. and 9:12 a.m., on May 3, 1997, the Reactor Operators (RO) failed to ensure that LDST indication was responding as expected for the reactor cooldown. Specifically, level indication remained constant; however, during a reactor cooldown, with the pressurizer being maintained at a constant level, the LDST level is expected to be constantly decreasing, as was demonstrated during the previous shift, when the operations crew repeatedly added water to the LDST. (03014)

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

B. TS 6.1.1.1, requires, in part, lines of authority, responsibility, and communication shall be established and defined for the highest management levels through intermediate levels to and including all operating organization positions. These relationships shall be documented and updated.

TS 6.4, "Station Operating Procedures," requires, in part, that the station be operated and maintained in accordance with approved procedures. TS 6.4.1.a requires, in part, that procedures be provided for normal startup, operation, and shutdown of the complete facility and of all systems and components involving nuclear safety of the facility.

Licensee Operation Management Procedure (OMP) 2-1, "Duties and Responsibilities of On Shift Operations Personnel," Revision (Rev.) 40 implements, in part, TS 6.1.1.1. Enclosure 4.5, Step 3 of the section on the responsibilities of the Operator at the Controls (OATC) states: "Under the direction of the Control Room SRO, the OATC shall have the responsibility for the operation of the assigned unit. Step 4 of this section further states, in part: "The OATC shall provide surveillance of operations and instrumentation monitored from the Control Room to ensure the safe operation of the Unit."

Licensee Operations Procedure OP/3/A/1104/49, "Low Temperature Overpressure Protection (LTOP)," Rev. 6, implements, in part,

TS 6.4. Step 2.8 of the procedure, requires, in part, that a dedicated LTOP operator be assigned whenever RCS temperature is less than or equal to 325F, the RCS is closed (no LTOP vent path is established), an HPI pump is operating and capable of injecting into the RCS via 3HP-120 (Reactor Coolant Volume Control), and the 3HP-120 travel stop is inoperable. Enclosure 4.3, "Dedicated LTOP Operator Guidelines," Step 1.3, states: "Prevention of low temperature overpressurization is the only responsibility and duty of the dedicated low temperature overpressure protection operator."

Contrary to the above, the licensee failed to operate the station in accordance with approved procedures in that at 11:58 p.m., on

May 2, 1997, LTOP operation was established with the OATC as the designated dedicated LTOP operator. This resulted in the dedicated LTOP operator having responsibilities for operation of the assigned unit in addition to his responsibility to prevent low temperature overpressurization. (04014)

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

C. Technical Specification 6.4, "Station Operating Procedures," requires that the station be operated and maintained in accordance with approved procedures. TS 6.4.1.e requires, in part, that procedures be provided for preventative or corrective maintenance which could affect nuclear safety.

Licensee Procedure SI/0/A/5090/001, "Tube Fitting and Tubing Installation," Rev. 0, Enclosure 4.12, "Tube Cap Installation," provides guidance for the proper installation of tube caps, but includes a note that states the procedure is for guidance only and did not have to be used as long as the technician was knowledgeable of the practices.

Contrary to the above, on October 21, 1996 and February 22, 1997, the licensee failed to use procedural guidance provided by SI/0/A/5090/001 for the installation of instrument tubing caps, which was required to be used because the technicians performing the maintenance activities were not knowledgeable of tube fitting and tube installation practices. (05014)

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

D. 10 CFR 50, Appendix B, Criterion III, Design Control, requires, in part, that measures be established to assure that applicable regulatory requirements and the design basis for systems, structures, and components which affect the safety-related functions of those systems that prevent or mitigate the consequences of postulated accidents, are correctly translated into specifications, drawings, procedures, and instructions.

Contrary to the above, as of May 3, 1997, the licensee failed to assure that the design basis for the valves in the Unit 1, 2, and 3 LDST instrument lines, which were safety-related, were correctly translated into station procedures. Specifically, design configuration control was not maintained for six of twelve valves on the LDST instrumentation lines in that the valve labelling was not as shown on their respective drawings. (06014)

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

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Duke 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 Penalties (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 penalties 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 penalties proposed above, or may protest imposition of the civil penalties 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 penalties will be issued. Should the Licensee elect to file an answer in accordance with 10 CFR 2.205 protesting the civil penalties, 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 penalties should not be imposed. In addition to protesting the civil penalties in whole or in part, such answer may request remission or mitigation of the penalties.

In requesting mitigation of the proposed civil penalties, 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 civil penalties.

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 penalties, and Answer to a Notice of Violation) should be addressed to: Mr. 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 II and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the Oconee Nuclear Station.

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 Atlanta, Georgia
this 27th day of August 1997


NRC STAFF RATIONALE FOR OCCURRENCE OF 10 CFR 50.72 REPORTING VIOLATION

At the conference, the DPC staff expressed the view that events reported under 10 CFR 50.72(a) do not need to be reported again under 10 CFR 50.72(b) and that the new information determined on May 5, 1997, did not appear to meet the supplemental reporting requirements of 10 CFR 50.72(c). DPC also indicated that the criteria for followup notifications were not well understood and requested further NRC staff input on the matter. Accordingly, the following explanation of why the NRC staff considers that a violation occurred is provided.

At 3:45 p.m. (EDT) on May 3, 1997, DPC declared and reported an Unusual Event pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72(a)(i). The emergency classification was based on the identification that two of three high pressure injection (HPI) pumps were inoperable during a planned shutdown.

Following this notification, communications with the NRC Operations Center were frequent and commensurate with the significance of the event. Therefore, the NRC staff concludes there is no violation for failure to report under 10 CFR 50.72(a). According to our records, at no time during the period 3:45 p.m. on May 3, 1997, until 7:46 p.m. on May 5, 1997, when the Unusual Event was terminated, was there any communication that a determination had been made regarding the past inability of the HPI system to perform its intended safety function for an extended period of time. The notification and subsequent communications of May 3, 1997 through May 5, 1997, only conveyed to the NRC that two of three HPI pumps were inoperable at the time they were called upon to provide makeup during the May 3, 1997 planned shutdown.

Your May 6, 1997, followup report, which was only made after NRC expressed concern with your failure to report, stated that at 3:45 p.m. on May 5, 1997, your engineering staff concluded that the Oconee Unit 3 HPI system would not have been able to perform its intended safety function during power operations from February 22, 1997 until May 3, 1997. This is a substantially different communication than the initial emergency notification that conveyed two of three HPI pumps were inoperable when called upon during a planned shutdown.

To reiterate the NRC's position, 10 CFR 50.72(b)(2)(i) requires that if not reported under paragraphs (a) or (b)(i) of that section, the licensee shall notify the NRC as soon as practical and in all cases, within four hours of the occurrence of any of the following:

"(i) Any event, found while the reactor is shutdown, that, had it been found while the reactor was in operation, would have resulted in the nuclear power plant, including its principal safety barriers, being seriously degraded or being in an unanalyzed condition that significantly compromises plant safety."

The May 5, 1997, engineering evaluation, which was completed with the reactor shutdown, concluded that during power operations from February 22, 1997 through May 3, 1997, the unit, because the HPI system was inoperable, operated in a condition that significantly compromised plant safety. Therefore, the conclusions of the engineering evaluation were reportable pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72(b)(2)(i).

Further, 10 CFR 50.72(c), "Followup Notification," requires that, "With respect to the telephone notifications made under paragraphs (a) and (b) (emergency and non-emergency reports), in addition to making the initial notification, each licensee, shall during the course of the event:

(2) Immediately report (i) the results of ensuing evaluations or assessments of plant conditions,..."

Therefore, the NRC considers that the results of the engineering evaluation, which became available while the emergency classification of unusual event was still in effect, were reportable under 10 CFR 50.72(c)(2)(i).

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012