United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-341- South Texas 1 & 2 (STP Nuclear Operating Company)

EA 97-341 June 9, 1998

W.T. Cottle
President & Chief Executive Officer
STP Nuclear Operating Company
P.O. Box 289
Wadworth, Texas 77483

SUBJECT: CONFIRMATORY ORDER MODIFYING LICENSE (EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY) AND EXERCISE OF DISCRETION

Dear Mr. Cottle:

The enclosed Confirmatory Order is being issued to confirm the commitments, as set forth in Section V of the Order, and to ensure that STP's process for addressing employee protection and safety concerns will be enhanced. In view of the Confirmatory Order, and your consent as exhibited in Mr. Gutterman's letter dated May 29, 1998, the NRC staff is exercising its enforcement discretion pursuant to Section VII B.6 of the NRC Enforcement Policy and will not pursue a Notice of Violation or a civil penalty in this case.

For clarification of the requirements as set forth in Section V of the Order, the licensee is to submit to the Regional Administrator only the summary results and conclusions of the cultural assessments and mini-surveys, not the raw data leading to the summary results and conclusions. Pursuant to Section 223 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, any person who willfully violates, attempts to violate, or conspires to violate, any provision of this Order shall be subject to criminal prosecution as set forth in that section. Violationof this order may also subject the person to civil monetary penalties.

Questions concerning this Order should be addressed to Anne T. Boland, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Enforcement, who can be reached at (301) 415-2741.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter and its enclosure will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room.

Sincerely,
Ashok A. Thadani
Deputy Executive Director
for Regulatory Effectiveness

Docket Nos. 50-498/499
License Nos. NPF-76, 80

Enclosure: Confirmatory Order Modifying License (Effective Immediately)

cc w/ enclosure: Alvin H. Gutterman, Esq.


 

In the Matter of

STP Nuclear Operating Company
STP Nuclear Generating Station
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Docket Nos. 50-498/499
License Nos. NPF-76, 80
EA 97-341
CONFIRMATORY ORDER MODIFYING LICENSE
(EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY)
I

STP Nuclear Operating Company (STP or the Licensee) is an NRC Licensee and the holder of Facility Operating License Nos. NPF-76 and NPF-80, issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission) pursuant to 10 C.F.R. Part 50 on March 22, 1988 and March 28, 1989 respectfully . The licenses authorize operation of the STP Electric Generating Station (the Station or facility) in accordance with the conditions specified in the license. The facility is located on the Licensee's site in Wadsworth, Texas.

II

NRC Office of Investigations (OI) Report Nos. 4-96-035 and 4-96-059 concluded that STP had subjected four employees to a hostile work environment created by the former Electrical/Instrumentation & Controls (E/I&C) division manager in retaliation for the employees' having engaged in protected activities, and had thus violated the Employee Protection requirements, 10 C.F.R. § 50.7. The NRC staff, by letter dated January 8, 1998, invited the Licensee to a predecisional enforcement conference (PEC) to discuss the apparent violation, which was fully detailed in that letter. On February 26, 1998, a PEC was held at the NRC offices of NRC Region IV in Arlington, Texas. By letter dated March 12, 1998, the Licensee submitted additional data and information requested by the NRC staff during the PEC.

The Licensee maintains that no violation of 10 C.F.R. § 50.7 occurred, and that it took prompt and effective corrective action in response to concerns raised by its employees regarding the behavior of the E/I&C division manager, including discipline in accordance with the STP Constructive Discipline Policy, appropriate reflection in annual performance appraisals of the E/I&C division manager, the provision of peer and management counseling to the E/I&C division manager and assistance from industrial psychologists. The actions culminated in the resignation of the E/I&C division manager from STP in mid-1996. In addition, the Licensee states that it took a number of specific steps to address concerns which arose in the E/I&C Division in 1996. These included the STP President's meetings with division personnel, similar meetings conducted by the Vice President, Nuclear Engineering, and the Design Engineering Department Manager, as well as one-on-one meetings between the new division manager and all division personnel. In these meetings, and in station-wide communications, the Licensee advised employees that it had settled the claims filed by four facility employees with the United States Department of Labor (DOL), which claim alleged violations of the Employee Protection requirements of Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act, and the fact that the NRC was considering escalated enforcement action. The Licensee states that it intends to keep station personnel apprised of the results of the NRC's consideration of this matter.

The Licensee maintains that employees have not been deterred from reporting safety concerns as a result of events in the E/I&C division. Specifically, the Licensee states that a 1994 Climate Assessment of employee attitudes in the E/I&C division does not suggest that employees were subject to harassment or are reluctant to use the routine systems for reporting concerns. The Licensee also maintains that annual surveys conducted between 1993 and 1997, both facility-wide and by department, by Behavioral Consultant Services, Inc., do not suggest the existence of a hostile work environment in the E/I&C division. In addition, the Licensee states that implementation of its new Corrective Action Program was reviewed by a team of NRC inspectors in early 1996. Specifically, the NRC team reviewed a sample of Condition Reports and interviewed various engineers regarding their roles and responsibilities to determine whether significant issues were being identified and corrected in a timely fashion and how those problems were documented. The NRC team found that all the interviewed engineers were aware of when and how to document identified problems. See NRC Inspection Report 50-498/96-11; 50-499/96-11 (April 12, 1996).

III

The Licensee has planned additional actions to assess the station environment and to enhance safety-consciousness, as described in Attachment D to the March 12, 1998, submission. Specifically, the Licensee plans: (1) "Comprehensive Cultural Assessments" to be performed by an independent consultant at 18 to 24 month intervals, and intermediate "mini" surveys in selected areas; (2) annual ratings of supervisors and managers by employees via the Licensee's "Leadership Assessment Tool"; and (3) a mandatory continuing training program for all supervisors and managers. The training program will have the objectives of reinforcing the importance of maintaining a safety-conscious work environment and of assisting managers and supervisors in dealing with conflicts in the work place in the context of a safety-conscious work environment. The training program will also include a specific course entitled "Safety Speaking." During a telephone conversation with the NRC staff on May 29, 1998, the Licensee agreed to include in its mandatory training for all supervisors and managers training on the requirements of 10 C.F.R. § 50.7, including, but not limited to, what constitutes protected activity and what constitutes discrimination, and appropriate responses to the raising of safety concerns by employees.

IV

Since the Licensee settled the four employee protection complaints prior to an evidentiary hearing before, and prior to a finding that discrimination had occurred by, the United States Department of Labor; since the Licensee took corrective actions as outlined above; and since the Licensee has planned actions to monitor the safety environment and to promote an atmosphere conducive to the raising of safety concerns by employees without fear of retaliation, the NRC staff is satisfied that its concerns regarding employee protection at South Texas Project Electric Generating Station can be resolved by confirming the Licensee's plans for further corrective action by this Order. Accordingly, the staff is exercising its enforcement discretion pursuant to Section VII B.6 of the NRC Enforcement Policy and will not pursue a Notice of Violation or a civil penalty in this case.

By letter dated May 29, 1998, the Licensee consented to issuance of this Order with the commitments described in Section V, below, and to waive its right to a hearing on this Order. The Licensee further consented to the immediate effectiveness of this Order.

I find that the Licensee's commitments, as set forth in Section V, below, are acceptable and necessary and conclude that with these commitments, the Licensee's process for addressing employee protection and safety concerns will be enhanced. In view of the foregoing, I have determined that public health and safety require that the Licensee's commitments be confirmed by this Order. Based on the above and the Licensee's consent, this Order is immediately effective upon issuance.

V

Accordingly, pursuant to sections 103, 161b, 161i, 161o, 182 and 186 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, and the Commission's regulations in 10 C.F.R. § 2.202 and 10 C.F.R. Part 50, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, THAT LICENSE NOS. NPF- 76 and NPF-80 ARE MODIFIED AS FOLLOWS:

1. Beginning in 1998, the STP Nuclear Operating Company will integrate into its overall program for enhancing the work environment and safety culture at the facility a "Comprehensive Cultural Assessment", as described in Attachment D to the Licensee's March 12, 1998, submission, to be performed by an independent contractor. The Cultural Assessment will include both a written survey of employees (including supervision and management) and baseline contractors, and confidential interviews of selected individuals. The first assessment is scheduled for the second quarter of 1998 and will be performed at least three more times at intervals of 18 to 24 months. Annual "mini" surveys will be conducted and shall include, but not be limited to, annual surveys through at least the year 2002. Before conducting each mini- survey, the Licensee will identify to the NRC Regional Administrator the departments and divisions to be surveyed. The Licensee will submit to the NRC for review all Cultural Assessment results, including all intermediate "mini" surveys. Within 60 days of receipt of the survey results, the Licensee will provide to the NRC Regional Administrator any plans necessary to address issues raised by the survey results.

2. The STP Nuclear Operating Company will conduct annual ratings of supervisors and managers by employees via the "Leadership Assessment Tool", as described in Attachment D to the Licensee's March 12, 1998, submission, through at least the year 2002.

3. The STP Nuclear Operating Company will conduct a mandatory continuing training program for all supervisors and managers. This program will include:

a. Scheduled training on building positive relationships, as outlined in Attachment D to the Licensee's March 12, 1998, submission. The training program will have the objective of reinforcing the importance of maintaining a safety-conscious work environment and assisting managers and supervisors in dealing with conflicts in the work place in the context of a safety-conscious work environment. The training program also will include a course entitled "Safely Speaking," as described in Attachment D to the Licensee's March 12, 1998, submission; and

b. Annual training on the requirements of 10 C.F.R. § 50.7, through at least the year 2002, including, but not limited to, what constitutes protected activity and what constitutes discrimination, and appropriate responses to the raising of safety concerns by employees. Such training shall stress the freedom of employees in the nuclear industry to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation by their supervisors or managers.

4. The licensee shall issue a site-wide publication to inform its employees and contractor employees of this Confirmatory Order as well as their rights to raise safety concerns to the NRC and their management without fear of retaliation.

The Regional Administrator, Region IV, may relax or rescind, in writing, any of the above conditions upon a showing by the Licensee of good cause.

VI

Any person adversely affected by this Confirmatory Order, other than the Licensee, may request a hearing within 20 days of its issuance. Where good cause is shown, consideration will be given to extending the time to request a hearing. A request for extension of time must be made in writing to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555, and include a statement of good cause for the extension. Any request for a hearing shall be submitted to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Chief, Rulemaking and Adjudications Staff, Washington, D.C. 20555. Copies of the hearing request shall also be sent to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington D.C. 20555, to the Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement at the same address, to the Regional Administrator, NRC Region IV, 611 Ryan Plaza Drive, Suite 400, Arlington, TX 76011-8064, and to the Licensee. If such a person requests a hearing, that person shall set forth with particularity the manner in which his interest is adversely affected by this Order and shall address the criteria set forth in 10 C.F.R. § 2.714(d).

If the hearing is requested by a person whose interest is adversely affected, the Commission will issue an Order designating the time and place of any hearing. If a hearing is held, the issue to be considered at such hearing shall be whether this Confirmatory Order should be sustained.

In the absence of any request for hearing, or written approval of an extension of time in which to request a hearing, the provisions specified in Section IV above shall be final 20 days from the date of this Order without further order or proceeding. If an extension of time requesting a hearing has been approved, the provisions specified in Section IV shall be final when the extension expires if a hearing request has not been received. AN ANSWER OR A REQUEST FOR HEARING SHALL NOT STAY THE IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVENESS OF THIS ORDER.

FOR THE U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
Ashok A. Thadani
Deputy Executive Director for
Regulatory Effectiveness

Dated at Rockville, Maryland
this 9th day of June 1998.

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