United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-562 - Millstone 3 (Northeast Nuclear Energy Company)

March 9, 1998

EA 97-562

Mr. Bruce D. Kenyon
President and Chief Executive Officer
Northeast Nuclear Energy Company
P.O. Box 128
Waterford, CT 06385

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY - $55,000 and EXERCISE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION
(NRC Inspection Report No. 50-423/97-206)

Dear Mr. Kenyon:

This letter refers to the NRC inspection conducted between August 18-29 and September 8-19, 1997, at Millstone Unit 3, the findings of which were discussed with your staff during an exit meeting on September 24, 1997. The inspection included a safety system functional inspection (SSFI) of the emergency core cooling and seal injection functions of the chemical volume and control system to review the capability of the system to perform the safety functions required by its design basis. The inspection also assessed whether the system adhered to its design and licensing bases, whether the as-built configuration was consistent with the Final Safety Analysis Report, and whether system operations were in accordance with the plant technical specifications. The inspection report was sent to you on December 5, 1997.

You have been conducting assessments, principally through the Millstone Unit 3 Configuration Management Plan (CMP), to provide assurance that Unit 3 is in conformance with its design and licensing bases. On August 14, 1996, the NRC issued a Confirmatory Order to Northeast Nuclear Energy Company requiring that an independent organization conduct a multi-disciplinary review of Millstone Units 1, 2, and 3. The review is to provide independent verification that the CMP has identified and resolved existing problems and put into place effective programs and processes for effective configuration management. Sargent and Lundy has been conducting this independent review for Unit 3. The inspection resulting in the findings described below was conducted as part of the NRC review of the Millstone Unit 3 restart review process, as described in SECY-97-003 dated January 3, 1997. The inspection was one of several planned to verify the effectiveness of your CMP efforts.

During the inspection, several violations of NRC's requirements were identified and forwarded to you with the Notice of Violation that was included with the NRC's December 5, 1997, letter transmitting the inspection report. In addition, enforcement action for two apparent violations of NRC requirements was held in abeyance pending the conduct of an open Predecisional Enforcement Conference with you and members of your staff on January 13, 1998, to discuss the apparent violations, their causes, and your corrective actions.

Based on the information developed during the inspections, and the information provided during the conference, the NRC has concluded that both of the apparent violations set forth in the inspection report constitute violations of NRC requirements. Both violations involve your failure to take adequate action to correct conditions adverse to quality at your facility. However, as described further in this letter, only one of the two violations is being cited and is described in the enclosed Notice of Violation. With respect to the violation being cited, the NRC determined that you failed to identify, despite prior opportunities, the potential for air in certain portions of the recirculation spray system (RSS) to be swept into the suction of the charging and safety injection pumps during the recirculation phase of a loss-of-coolant accident. This required an evaluation to determine whether reduced pump performance or even air binding of the pumps could have resulted. With respect to the second violation, the NRC determined that you did not identify, until June 1997, an inadequacy in your Technical Specification-required program to minimize leakage outside the containment. Specifically, your program did not account for potential valve leakage from systems which could carry highly radioactive water to the refueling water storage tank following a postulated accident.

With respect to the first violation, you contended at the enforcement conference that the actual safety significance of the violation was low, noting your determination that the pumps would have performed satisfactorily. This determination was based on your recent assessment which indicated that the total volume of air was small; the predicted void fractions were also small and would occur over a short duration; and the air entrainment would be well below void fraction acceptance criteria. Your assessment included a detailed analytical evaluation, and one-quarter scale model testing. Based on our assessment of your analysis and testing, the NRC staff has determined that this issue does not impact the functionality of the system, but does involve a nonconformance with the Unit 3 licensing bases.

This violation is of regulatory concern because, as you acknowledged at the conference, you missed prior opportunities, both in the past as well as more recently, to identify this condition. On August 22, 1985, you initiated Design Deficiency Report (DDR) No. 641. That DDR discussed the potential for air in the recirculation spray system to be injected into the suction of the charging and safety injection pumps. However, due to the limited scope of the DDR, it did not result in the identification of the piping of concern.

NRC Information Notice (IN) 88-23, "Potential for Gas Binding of High Pressure Safety Injection Pumps," and its supplements thoroughly discussed the potential for, and the adverse effect of, gas/air being trapped in safety systems and subsequently entrained, including the suction piping of emergency core cooling pumps. However, your evaluation of IN 88-23, including Supplements 1 through 4, did not identify that there was air in the RSS pump discharge and suction piping of the charging and high-pressure safety injection pumps. Although the IN and its supplements did not specifically address the Unit 3 configuration, a thorough review of the system based on the IN should have identified this issue.

Additionally, your CMP, which was specifically designed to identify such issues, did not do so in this case. At the conference, you recognized the significance of this regulatory concern and indicated that you did not adequately consider, as part of your efforts, the interaction of standby safety systems on normally operating systems. The failure to identify and correct conditions adverse to quality was, in part, the basis for the $2,100,000 civil penalty issued by the NRC to Northeast Nuclear Energy Company on December 10, 1997. Given the regulatory significance of your failure to identify this condition, the violation is classified at Severity Level III in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Action, (NUREG-1600) (Enforcement Policy). This violation could have been classified at Severity Level II if it were determined that the pumps would not perform satisfactorily.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, the base civil penalty amount for this Severity Level III violation is $55,000. Your facility has been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last two years, as already noted herein; 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 not warranted for identification since the violation was identified by the NRC, and you had opportunities to identify the violation sooner. With respect to your corrective actions, a number of actions have been taken, including (1) performance of an integrated system functional review and revision to appropriate procedures; (2) a review of the system to determine any further possibility of air/filling and venting problems; (3) a detailed engineering analysis of the impact of air entrapment on system operation; and (4) a horizontal review to check that air binding would not adversely affect the operability of other safety systems. In addition, you supplemented the information presented at the conference in your letter dated February 2, 1998, regarding actions to more completely address consideration of industry experience, including NRC INs. Our understanding of the commitment made in that letter is that the screening of INs and actual review of those found noteworthy will be completed before Unit 3 enters mode 2. The above corrective actions, which included reviews to determine if other safety systems could be impacted, have been determined to be effective by the NRC staff. Thus, the promptness and comprehensiveness of these actions preceding entry into mode 2 are appropriate to warrant corrective action credit. Additionally, based on the effective corrective actions taken in response to this NRC finding, the staff has decided not to expand the scope of our ongoing review of Unit 3 licensing and design bases conformance. This determination is consistent with the process being used by the NRC staff as described in my letter to you dated January 30, 1998. Our ongoing reviews of Unit 3 licensing and design bases conformance will include continued assessments to determine if any expansion in the scope of our reviews is warranted.

Therefore, to emphasize the significance that the NRC attaches to this issue, as well as the importance of ensuring prompt and comprehensive identification and correction of conditions adverse to quality when they exist, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, to issue a civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 for the violation in the enclosed Notice. The NRC did consider whether to exercise discretion and not issue a penalty in this case in view of the NRC issuance of the $2,100,000 civil penalty on December 10, 1997, and the fact that you are in a shutdown condition and will not be authorized to restart until the NRC is satisfied with your CMP efforts. Nonetheless, given the regulatory significance of your failure to identify the aforementioned condition through your recent CMP reviews, I have decided that such discretion should not be exercised.

With respect to the second violation, since the violation was identified by your staff prior to the NRC inspection, and it involves an old design issue that precedes the shutdown, I have decided, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, to exercise discretion in accordance with Section VII.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy and not issue a Notice of Violation or a civil penalty for that violation. However, the NRC is concerned that although the NRC also identified this concern in September 1997, it took until December for you to recognize that your staff had previously identified this problem in June 1997, and had already placed it in the corrective action process to be completed before restart.

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

Sincerely,



William D. Travers, Director
Special Projects Office
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Docket No. 50-423
License No. NPF-49

Enclosure:
Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/encl:
P. Loftus, Director - Regulatory Affairs
M. Brothers, Vice President - Operations
J. McElwain, Acting Vice President - Millstone Unit 3
J. Streeter, Vice President, Nuclear Oversight
G. Hicks, Unit Director - Millstone Unit 3
M. Ross, Manager - Nuclear Training Assessment Group
D. Amerine, Vice President for Engineering and Support Services
F. Rothen, Vice President, Work Services
J. Stankiewicz, Training Recovery Manager
R. Johannes, Director - Nuclear Training
S. Sherman, Audits and Evaluation
L. Cuoco, Esquire
J. Egan, Esquire
V. Juliano, Waterford Library
J. Buckingham, Department of Public Utility Control
S. B. Comley, We The People
State of Connecticut SLO Designee
D. Katz, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN)
R. Bassilakis, CAN
J. Block, Attorney, CAN
S. Luxton, Citizens Regulatory Commission (CRC)
Representative T. Concannon
E. Woollacott, Co-Chairman, NEAC


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Northeast Nuclear Energy Company
Millstone, Unit 3
Docket No. 50-245
License No. DPR-21
EA 97-562

During an NRC inspection conducted on August 18-29 and September 8-19, 1997, for which an exit meeting was held on September 24, 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 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 violation and associated civil penalty are set forth below:

10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI, states in part 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.
Contrary to the above, as of September 1997, a condition adverse to quality existed at the facility which had not been promptly identified and corrected. Specifically, a possibility existed of injecting air into the suction of the safety injection and charging pumps upon initiation of recirculation following a small break loss of coolant accident. No test or analysis had been performed to verify that (1) such air injection would not degrade pump or system performance, and (2) the effects of a potential water hammer, as water is injected into the dry piping, would not degrade system performance.

This violation is classified at Severity Level III (Supplement I).
Civil Penalty - $55,000

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Northeast Nuclear Energy 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 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 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 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 234(c) 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: Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Director, Special Projects Office, NRR, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 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 Rockville, MD
this 9th day of March 1998

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