United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-497 - River Bend 1 (Entergy Operations, Inc.)

December 23, 1997

EA 97-497

John R. McGaha, Vice President - Operations
River Bend Station
Entergy Operations, Inc.
P.O. Box 220
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775


SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY - $55,000
(NRC Inspection Report No. 50-458/97-15)

Dear Mr. McGaha:

This refers to the predecisional enforcement conference conducted in the NRC's Region IV office in Arlington, Texas on December 2, 1997. The conference was held to discuss the results of an NRC inspection conducted September 22 through October 17, 1997, at the River Bend Station (RBS). The inspection reviewed the circumstances surrounding two instances where shutdown cooling was not appropriately maintained. The first event, described in Licensee Event Report (LER) 97-006, occurred on September 13, 1997, and resulted in an unplanned mode change. The second event occurred on October 4, 1997, and involved the inadvertent closing of a shutdown cooling suction isolation valve. Our inspection identified two apparent violations, and these were discussed with you and your staff during an exit briefing on October 17, 1997.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information that you provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that two 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 report. The first violation involves a failure to meet technical specification requirements that prohibit mode changes except when associated limiting conditions for operation are met. Specifically, RBS inadvertently transitioned from Mode 4 to Mode 3 when the average reactor coolant temperature increased to greater than 200F. This violation occurred on September 13 when RBS was performing post-modification testing on a new system, the alternate decay heat removal (ADHR) system. In developing the test plan and procedures, RBS personnel failed to determine how long shutdown cooling systems could remain offline (a situation with no forced cooling in the core) before boiling would occur. As a result, after two hours, unexpected boiling occurred. When RBS personnel unbolted the reactor core isolation cooling flange connection to the reactor head, steam was released on the refuel floor. This steaming set off alarms and caused an evacuation of the refuel floor until airborne activity could be determined.

A review of the circumstances surrounding this event indicated that RBS staff and management relied on a requirement in the test procedure to terminate the test and to restore shutdown cooling if indicated reactor coolant temperature reached 160F. This was intended to give RBS personnel sufficient time to restore shutdown cooling before the temperature reached 200F. However, with shutdown cooling secured and no forced circulation, the temperature indication was not representative of average reactor coolant temperature because of temperature stratification (coolant temperature near the core was much higher than coolant temperature at RWCU inlet). As a consequence, the unit changed Technical Specification operating modes in an uncontrolled manner.

The second violation involves three examples of inadequate procedures for operation of shutdown cooling. The first two examples were identified after reviewing the circumstances of the September 13 event. The third example was identified after reviewing the circumstances of the inadvertent isolation of shutdown cooling on October 4. The October 4 event occurred when operators closed an electrical breaker and unintentionally shut the shutdown cooling suction valve. The plant was without shutdown cooling for approximately 17 minutes while operators worked to restore the appropriate systems. During this time, average coolant temperature increased from 97 to 100F.

These issues are of regulatory significance. In the first event, RBS staff did not recognize a fundamental issue (time-to-boil) during its review process. Although average coolant temperature exceeded 200F for about 30 minutes, with a maximum average coolant temperature calculated at about 205 F, the lack of sensitivity to time-to-boil considerations created the potential for safety consequences, especially in light of the fact that both primary and secondary containment were open, establishing an unfiltered release path to the environment. In the second event, shutdown cooling was not effectively protected from other plant activities. Therefore, based on the importance of plant staff being sensitive to the need to maintain and protect shutdown cooling, 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 civil penalty with a base value 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. The NRC has determined that no credit is warranted for Identification , because the violations were revealed by events and because there was industry experience and other information available to RBS staff (specifically time-to-boil curves in the RBS Shutdown Operations Protection Plan) that should reasonably have caused actions that would have prevented the violation. This information was not considered by the engineers developing the test procedure nor by the operations department reviewing the procedure, and of concern to the NRC, was not questioned by the Facility Review Committee (FRC). However, the NRC has determined that Entergy is deserving of credit for Corrective Action based on its prompt and comprehensive corrective actions. These actions included taking immediate actions to restore shutdown cooling after each event, immediately forming a Significant Event Response Team, chartering a Quality Action Team to improve the modification process, enhancing management oversight of complex processes, stressing leadership of the Operations department, performing additional training on fundamental knowledge and outage risk awareness, raising the standards and expectations of the FRC, developing a "bus coordinator" assignment for entire cycle, and formalizing shutdown cooling procedure to greater degrees of detail.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of protecting shutdown cooling from other plant activities and in recognition of your previous escalated enforcement action, I have been authorized to issue the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice) in the base amount of $55,000 for the Severity Level III problem.

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. 50-458
License No. NPF-47

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc (w/encl):
Executive Vice President and
Chief Operating Officer
Entergy Operations, Inc.
P.O. Box 31995
Jackson, Mississippi 39286-1995

Vice President
Operations Support
Entergy Operations, Inc.
P.O. Box 31995
Jackson, Mississippi 39286-1995

General Manager
Plant Operations
River Bend Station
Entergy Operations, Inc.
P.O. Box 220
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775

Director - Nuclear Safety
River Bend Station
Entergy Operations, Inc.
P.O. Box 220
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775

Wise, Carter, Child & Caraway
P.O. Box 651
Jackson, Mississippi 39205

Mark J. Wetterhahn, Esq.
Winston & Strawn
1401 L Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005-3502

Manager - Licensing
River Bend Station
Entergy Operations, Inc.
P.O. Box 220
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775

The Honorable Richard P. Ieyoub
Attorney General
P.O. Box 94095
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9095

H. Anne Plettinger
3456 Villa Rose Drive
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70806

President of West Feliciana
Police Jury
P.O. Box 1921
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775

Joint Ownership Manager
Cajun Electric Power Coop. Inc.
P.O. Box 15540
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70895

William H. Spell, Administrator
Louisiana Radiation Protection Division
P.O. Box 82135
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70884-2135


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Entergy Operations, Inc.
River Bend Station
Docket No. 50-458
License No. NPF-47
EA 97-497

During an NRC inspection conducted on September 22 through October 17, 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. The particular violations and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

A. Technical Specification 3.0.4 states, in part, that when a limiting condition for operation is not met, entry into a MODE shall not be made except when the associated actions to be entered permit continued operation in the MODE for an unlimited period of time.
Contrary to the above, on September 13, 1997, without meeting limiting conditions for operation associated with primary containment, secondary containment, drywell, emergency diesel generators I and III, and containment unit cooler A, the reactor transitioned from MODE 4 (Cold Shutdown) to MODE 3 (Hot Shutdown), and the associated actions to be entered did not permit continued operation in the MODE or other specified condition in the applicability for an unlimited time. (01013)
B. Technical Specification 5.4.1.a states, in part, that written procedures shall be maintained covering the applicable procedures recommended in Appendix A of Regulatory Guide 1.33, "Quality Assurance Program Requirements (Operation)," Revision 2, February 1978.
Appendix A of Regulatory Guide 1.33, Revision 2, Section 4, recommends procedures for operation of the nuclear steam supply system and shutdown cooling.
1. Contrary to the above, on September 13, 1997, adequate procedures covering operation of shutdown cooling were not maintained. Specifically, Post-Modification Test Procedure MR-95-0010-PMT-04, "Alternate Decay Heat Removal System Initial Operation," Revision 01, was inadequate, in that the procedure neither listed precautions related to performance of the test shortly after reactor shutdown when decay heat rates were high, nor did it contain the time to boil data available to the operators. (02013)
2. Contrary to the above, on September 13, 1997, adequate procedures covering operation of shutdown cooling were not maintained. Specifically, Operation Section Procedure OSP-0037, "Shutdown Operations Protection Plan," Revision 5, shutdown cooling guidelines and contingency actions were shown to be inadequate to ensure there was sufficient time between securing or inadvertently losing normal shutdown cooling, and establishing suitable alternate shutdown cooling to prevent lost of reactor coolant temperature control, or inadvertently, entering a mode change when the applicable LCOs were not met. (02023)
3. Contrary to the above, on October 4, 1997, adequate procedures covering operation of shutdown cooling were not maintained. Specifically, Operation Section Procedure OSP-0019, ''Electrical Bus Outages,'' Revision 5, was inadequate, in that the procedure failed to recommend verifying that isolation signals were reset during restoration of Breaker 4A which controls an inboard suction valve for normal shutdown cooling. Additionally, the enclosure contained incomplete breaker designations. (02033)

These violations represent a Severity Level III problem. (Supplement I).
Civil Penalty - $55,000.

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Entergy Operations, Inc. 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(s) 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 23rd day of December 1997


1. On November 7, 1996, a Severity Level III Notice of Violation (EA 96-329) was issued for many licensee-identified examples of a failure to meet the surveillance test program.

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