United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-424 - Cooper (Nebraska Public Power District)

December 1, 1997

EA 97-424

G. R. Horn, Senior Vice President
of Energy Supply
Nebraska Public Power District
1414 15th Street
Columbus, Nebraska 68601

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL
          PENALTY - $110,000
          (NRC Inspection Report Nos. 50-298/97-07 and 97-12)

Dear Mr. Horn:

This refers to the inspections conducted on June 29 through August 9, 1997, and July 8 through September 5, 1997, at your Cooper Nuclear Station facility. The inspections were conducted to review the circumstances surrounding several instances of failures to identify, correct, or prevent recurrence of conditions adverse to quality. These issues were discussed with you during an exit briefing conducted on September 5, 1997, and were documented in NRC Inspection Report Nos. 50-298/97-07 and 97-12 dated September 4, and October 3, 1997, respectively. A predecisional enforcement conference was held in the NRC Region IV office in Arlington, Texas, on October 17, 1997, to discuss apparent violations identified during these inspections.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information that you provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. These violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty and the circumstances surrounding them were described in detail in the subject inspection reports. These violations involve several examples of failures to meet the requirements of 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI. The first example involves a failure to recognize and correct instances whereby large volumes of water could cause both trains of the standby gas treatment system to be inoperable under certain circumstances. This problem had been identified in 1994 (reference LER 94-035 and NRC Inspection Report 96-26) when plant personnel recognized that backflow of water from Sump Z, under design basis accident conditions, could render both trains of the standby gas treatment system inoperable. However, the corrective actions taken in 1994 were ineffective and the District identified this as an issue again in July 1997 (reference LER 97-010).

The second example involves a failure to identify and correct significant blockage of Residual Heat Removal (RHR) Heat Exchanger B which reduced the heat transfer capability below design requirements. After questioning by an NRC inspector, the District opened a condition adverse to quality tracking number (CAQ 97-0742) regarding the issue of mud found in the heat exchanger. The CAQ was closed after concluding that the heat exchanger had been operable, that the condition was not reportable, and (of concern to the NRC) that no condition adverse to nuclear safety or unexpected condition existed. After significant involvement from the NRC expressing concerns about the District's conclusion that the condition was not adverse to nuclear safety, several months later, the CAQ 97-0742 and related CAQs were reopened to more thoroughly review the issues.

The remaining seven violations also involve situations in which the District inadequately identified or corrected conditions adverse to quality. These violations occurred during similar timeframes and had similar causes.

During the conference, your staff discussed several initiatives that the District has implemented to improve its safety focus, especially in the area of problem identification and resolution. The District noted that an alert radwaste operator identified the issue involving the standby gas treatment system (the first example in the Notice). The NRC recognizes that the District identified this issue, but notes that this condition could have resulted in a common mode failure for a safety system, and was not corrected for over 2 years. There also were prior missed opportunities to identify this problem. The situation involving RHR Heat Exchanger B (the second example in the Notice) is significant because your staff did not recognize a significant condition adverse to quality on a safety system, even after significant NRC involvement. The circumstances surrounding these two violations, as well as the other seven, indicate contemporary weaknesses in your staff's ability to recognize and correct problems. Therefore, these violations 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 base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 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. Given the circumstances surrounding the identification of the violation involving RHR Heat Exchanger B, and the fact that NRC identified most of the violations, the NRC has determined that the District is not deserving of Identification credit. In evaluating whether credit is warranted for the Corrective Action factor, the NRC considered whether the District's corrective actions will prevent recurrence of the specific violations, and are sufficiently comprehensive, given the significance and complexity of the violations, to prevent recurrence of violations with similar root causes. The District has been undertaking actions to improve personnel performance in problem identification and resolution. Examples of the District's actions include evaluating self-identification rates, focusing on engineering teamwork, better focusing on conservative decision-making, emphasizing fundamentals such as procedure use and adherence, reducing challenges in the control room, enhancing training, conducting self-assessments, and improving the tracking and trending of programs such as CAQ/SCAQ. Many of these actions were ongoing at the time of the violations, and little information was provided at the conference relative to additional actions, timetables, etc., that would result in improved performance. Given the District's past performance as well as the circumstances surrounding the violations, the NRC was unable to justify giving the District credit for the Corrective Action factor.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of prompt identification and comprehensive correction of violations, and in recognition of your previous escalated enforcement actions, 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 (Notice) in the amount of $110,000 for the Severity Level III problem.

It should be noted that, on the basis of information provided to the NRC during the conference, the apparent violation related to the Automatic Depressurization System relief valve accumulator low pressure alarm was not a violation. As such, this issue was not cited in the enclosed Notice.

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. 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, 


                              Ellis W. Merschoff
                              Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-298
License No. DPR-46

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/Enclosure:
John R. McPhail, General Counsel
Nebraska Public Power District
P.O. Box 499
Columbus, Nebraska 68602-0499

P. D. Graham, Vice President of Nuclear Energy
Nebraska Public Power District
P.O. Box 98
Brownville, Nebraska 68321

B. L. Houston, Nuclear Licensing and Safety Manager
Nebraska Public Power District
P.O. Box 98
Brownville, Nebraska 68321

Dr. William D. Leech
MidAmerican Energy
907 Walnut Street
P.O. Box 657
Des Moines, Iowa 50303-0657

Mr. Ron Stoddard
Lincoln Electric System
11th and O Streets
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508

Randolph Wood, Director
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-8922

Chairman
Nemaha County Board of Commissioners
Nemaha County Courthouse
1824 N Street
Auburn, Nebraska 68305

Cheryl Rogers, LLRW Program Manager
Environmental Protection Section
Nebraska Department of Health
301 Centennial Mall, South
P.O. Box 95007
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-5007

R. A. Kucera, Department Director
of Intergovernmental Cooperation
Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

Kansas Radiation Control Program Director


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Nebraska Public Power District               Docket No.50-298
Cooper Nuclear Power Station                 License No.DPR-46
                                             EA 97-424

During NRC inspections conducted on June 29 through August 9, and July 8 through September 5, 1997, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 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. These violations and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

A. 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI requires that measures shall 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. In the case of significant conditions adverse to quality, the measures shall assure that the cause of the conditions is determined and corrective action taken to preclude repetition. The identification of the condition, and the corrective action taken shall be documented and reported to appropriate levels of management.
1. Contrary to the above, between December 1994 and July 1997, established measures did not identify and correct water retention in the offgas system holdup line, a significant condition adverse to quality. This condition could have, under certain circumstances, rendered both trains of the standby gas treatment system inoperable. (01013)
2. Contrary to the above, as of August 1997, established measures did not identify or correct inadequacies in the heat exchanger testing program which allowed significant degradation of the "B" Residual Heat Removal System heat exchanger, a significant condition adverse to quality. Additionally, the cause of the significant condition adverse to quality was not identified and, once identified to the licensee by the NRC, corrective action to preclude repetition had not been identified or taken. (01023)
3. Contrary to the above, for the following conditions adverse to quality, each of which constitutes a separate violation, established measures did not:
a. Identify and correct degraded seats of four torus-to-drywell vacuum breaker valves, which were evident during testing in May 1997 and required modification of the testing procedure to allow completion. The valve conditions became evident again during testing in July 1997, and the licensee corrected the condition. (01033)
b. Preclude recurrence of failure to follow Procedure 4.15, "Elevated Release Point and Building Radiation Monitoring Systems," used to return to service the continuous iodine and particulate sample radiation monitor for the elevated release point flow path. As a result, on July 14, 1997, there was no sampling of the elevated release point discharge flow during a routine effluent release. (01043)
c. As of August 1, 1997, identify and correct long-standing, recurring test failures associated with emergency diesel generator breaker testing, a condition adverse to quality, in that the operability assessment did not address the possibility that previous surveillance results had been invalid, or the inadequacy of long-standing instructions to technicians to repeat the test until acceptable results were achieved. (01053)
d. Preclude recurrence of failure to follow procedures, in that corrective actions for the June 19 and 20, 1996, failure to use procedures for opening and closing of the secondary containment hatch did not implement the procedure to secure the hatch, as required. (01063)
e. Correct conditions adverse to quality in that the corrective actions for a May 1996 unauthorized modification to the No. 2 Emergency Diesel Generator that installed a J-tube on the Emergency Diesel Generator failed to identify until July 17, 1997, that five additional unauthorized modifications that had been installed at the same time as the J-tube. (01073)
f. Correct wrong acceptance criteria in Surveillance Procedure 6.EE.602, identified on June 5, 1997, with the result that the incorrect criteria for the specific gravity of the diesel fire pump batteries, a condition adverse to quality, was used again during a surveillance on June 11, 1997. (01083)
g. Correct failure of the Service Water Booster Pump breaker anti-pump mechanism, a condition adverse to quality, identified on February 28, 1997 and documented in Problem Identification Report 2-13047. (01093)

These violations represent a Severity Level III problem. (Supplement I)
Civil Penalty - $110,000.

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, the Nebraska Public Power District (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 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 violation 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 234c 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: 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 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 1st day of December 1997


1. A Notice of Violation and Exercise of Discretion (EA-97-017) was issued on June 25, 1997, involving a Severity Level III problem related to failures to update the USAR and to perform adequate safety evaluations in accordance with 10 CFR 50.59. The NRC exercised discretion and did not propose a civil penalty.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012