United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-563 - Hope Creek 1 (Public Service Electric & Gas Company)

March 20, 1998

EAs: 97-144 & 97-563

Mr. Harold W. Keiser
Executive Vice President
Nuclear Business Unit
Public Service Electric & Gas Company
Post Office Box 236
Hancocks Bridge, New Jersey 08038

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL
PENALTY - $55,000
(NRC Inspection Reports No. 50-354/97-09; 97-80; 97-81)

Dear Mr. Keiser:

This letter refers to the three NRC inspections conducted on February 24-28, 1997, August 25-29, 1997, and October 5, 1997 - November 15, 1997, at the Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station at Hancocks Bridge, New Jersey, the findings of which were discussed with members of your staff during exit meetings on February 28, 1997, August 29, 1997, and November 21, 1997. The first two referenced inspections focused on your implementation of the maintenance rule at Hope Creek. The third inspection was a routine integrated inspection. During the inspections, apparent violations of NRC requirements were identified related to the failure to properly implement the maintenance rule, as well as the failure by operators to follow procedures governing operation of the control rod drive system. The inspection reports addressing these issues were previously forwarded to you on April 18, 1997, December 1, 1997, and December 10, 1997. On January 14, 1998, two predecisional enforcement conferences (conferences) were conducted with Mr. L. Storz and other members of the PSE&G staff, to discuss the violations, their causes, and your corrective actions.

Based on the information developed during the inspections and the information provided during the conferences, the NRC has determined that three violations of NRC requirements occurred. The violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice), and the circumstances surrounding the violations are described in detail in the subject inspection reports. The first violation, which is set forth in Section I of the enclosed Notice, involves the failure by an operating crew to follow procedures and act conservatively during a test to demonstrate core shutdown margin. During the test, certain control rods stuck while being withdrawn, and elevated hydraulic system drive water pressures were used to free the stuck rods. However, the operating crew did not return control rod drive water pressure to the normal operating range after each stuck control rod was freed, as is required by your abnormal operating procedures. The two other violations, which are related to the maintenance rule and are set forth in Section II of the enclosed Notice, involve (1) the failure to include certain systems, components and functions within the scope of the maintenance rule; and (2) the failure to adequately demonstrate that the performance or condition of a number of systems, components and functions is being effectively controlled through the performance of appropriate preventive maintenance.

The first violation occurred in November 1997 during the conduct of the shutdown margin test while the reactor was in the cold shutdown condition with the vessel head removed. During that test, which involved the full withdrawal of 20 control rods, operators had invoked a special test exception to permit conduct of this infrequently performed evolution since the test required the mode switch to be placed in the startup position in order to defeat an interlock that allowed only one rod to be withdrawn in this condition. Since operators experienced difficulty withdrawing several of the designated rods, the control rod drive (CRD) hydraulic system drive water pressure was increased, in accordance with the stuck control rod abnormal procedure, to free the stuck rods. However, after individual rods were freed, the operators did not immediately restore the drive water pressure to the normal range, as required. Rather, when subsequent rods were withdrawn, the operators inappropriately remained in the stuck rod procedure without first meeting the prerequisite for unsuccessful control rod movement. This created the potential for control rod withdrawal at speeds exceeding design limits for reactivity addition. Subsequent review revealed that several rods were, in fact, withdrawn from the core at speeds faster than normal, although not in excess of the design limits.

The NRC is particularly concerned that operators did not adhere to the abnormal operating procedures in that (1) drive water pressures were not returned to the normal operating range following successful control rod movement at elevated pressures; (2) drive pressures were not reduced to the normal range before subsequent initial control rod withdrawal attempts; and (3) operators did not follow established standards for reactivity manipulations and move control rods in a cautious manner. Although the operators completed the evolution without incident, their actions to add positive reactivity to the new reactor core at increased rates had the potential to cause an inadvertent criticality. The risk of inadvertent criticality was greater in this case because several safety barriers were either defeated or degraded at the time. Specifically, the reactor vessel head was removed; the "one-rod-out" interlock feature was defeated to perform the test; the moderator temperature was below 100F (increasing core reactivity); and the rod worth minimizer was inoperable. The NRC notes that source range nuclear instrumentation was available to mitigate an inadvertant criticality by actuating an automatic reactor scram from a single source range channel.

This event also was of significant regulatory concern because this demonstration was an infrequently performed evolution, and no additional management oversight or control was afforded to the activity. Although NRC inspectors informed personnel in the control room of the departure from the stuck rod procedure, including three licensed operators, a formerly licensed quality assurance inspector, and the reactor engineering supervisor, no action was taken to address the control rod manipulation violation until the inspector discussed the issue with senior plant management.

The event is of further concern because prior occurrences at Hope Creek and other facilities involving control rod manipulations, provided opportunities to insure appropriate control of reactivity management activities. For example, although your licensed operators had received training regarding an occurrence at the Zion Nuclear Station in 1997 involving a loss of reactivity control, this training was not effective in increasing operators' awareness of the importance of operations standards prior to and during control rod movements. In addition, on October 23, 1996, the NRC issued to you a $150,000 civil penalty, for, in part, a violation at Hope Creek related to control rod withdrawal. Notwithstanding those prior opportunities, it is clear that your staff lacked an appropriate appreciation of the safety significance of reactivity changes based on control rod movement. Therefore, given the regulatory significance of this violation, the violation has been categorized in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, at Severity Level III.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. 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. Credit was not warranted for identification because the violation was identified by NRC inspectors. In addition, your recognition of the concerns raised by the inspectors was not prompt. Credit was warranted for corrective actions because your root cause assessment and subsequent actions were considered prompt and comprehensive. Those actions, as described in the inspection report and at the conference, included: (1) initiation of a condition report necessitating completion of a detailed root cause analysis; (2) revision and reinforcement of operating standards and expectations regarding reactivity manipulations; (3) revisions to infrequently performed test procedure controls to enhance management oversight; and (4) personnel changes.

Therefore, to emphasize the importance of your operating staff understanding and adhering to established reactivity management standards, 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 base amount of $55,000 for the Severity Level III violation.

With respect to the violations of the maintenance rule as set forth in Section II of the Notice, these violations collectively represent a programmatic breakdown in the development and implementation of the Rule. The NRC recognizes that considerable progress was made in the months prior to the initial inspection. Nonetheless, these findings demonstrate that management had not applied sufficient resources to assure adequate implementation of the program. Therefore, the violations have been categorized in the aggregate as a Severity Level III problem in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600.

The Commission determined that a maintenance rule was necessary to assure licensees monitor the effectiveness of maintenance to minimize the likelihood of failure of safety-significant equipment that could initiate or adversely affect a transient or accident. Even though the final rule was issued in July 1991, it did not become effective until July 1996. During the five year interim period before the rule became effective, the staff and the industry worked in concert to assure licensees had developed useful guidance and clearly understood the manner in which NRC would inspect implementation. This was accomplished through public workshops and a pilot inspection program, the results of which were documented and shared with the industry.

Notwithstanding the time allotted to implement this program, as well as the guidance provided for establishing a program to meet the Maintenance Rule, your program at Hope Creek was determined to be weak in a number of key aspects. At the conference, you acknowledged the program deficiencies and noted that implementation of the rule program did not meet your expectations. The NRC believes that inadequate management oversight, ineffective integration of industry insights, and insufficient self assessments represent some of the overall causes of the program weaknesses.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Since Hope Creek has been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the last 2 years, as already stated herein, 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 for the Severity Level III problem. Credit is warranted for Identification because the NRC recognizes that your staff identified, prior to the inspection, similar deficiencies with implementation of the maintenance rule and recognized the need to take appropriate corrective action. Credit is also warranted for Corrective Actions, because your corrective actions, which were inspected in August 1997, were considered prompt and comprehensive. these actions were described in NRC Inspection Report No. 97-81.

Therefore, to encourage prompt identification and comprehensive correction of violations, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, not to propose a civil penalty in this case. However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty.

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

Sincerely,
Hubert J. Miller
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-354
License No. NPF-54

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty

cc w/encl:
L. Storz, Senior Vice President - Nuclear Operations
E. Simpson, Senior Vice President - Nuclear Engineering
E. Salowitz, Director - Nuclear Business Support
A. Kirby, III, External Operations - Nuclear, Delmarva Power & Light Co.
J. Isabella, Manager, Joint Generation Atlantic Electric
M. Bezilla, General Manager - Hope Creek Operations
J. McMahon, Director - Quality Assurance & Nuclear Safety Review
D. Powell, Manager - Licensing and Regulation
R. Kankus, Joint Owner Affairs
A. Tapert, Program Administrator
J. Keenan, Esquire
Consumer Advocate, Office of Consumer Advocate
W. Conklin, Public Safety Consultant, Lower Alloways Creek Township
State of New Jersey
State of Delaware


ENCLOSURE

NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Public Service Electric and Gas Company Docket No. 50-354
Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station License No. NPF-57
EAs 97-144; 97-563

During an NRC inspection conducted on February 24-28, 1997, August 25-29, 1997, and October 5, 1997 - November 15, 1997, for which exit meetings were held on February 28, 1997, August 29, 1997, and November 21, 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 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:

I. VIOLATION RELATED TO CONTROL ROD MANIPULATIONS

Hope Creek Technical Specification 6.8.1.a, requires that written procedures shall be established and implemented for applicable activities specified in Appendix A of Regulatory Guide (RG) 1.33, Revision 2. Appendix A of RG 1.33 requires operating procedures governing the control rod drive system and administrative procedures for safe plant operation.

Hope Creek operations department abnormal operating procedure HC.OP-AB.ZZ-104(Q) Revision 6, "Stuck Control Rod," requires, in part, that (1) the procedure be implemented when control rod position does not change when a withdraw signal is applied, and (2) drive water pressure be immediately returned to the normal operating range upon successful control rod movement.

PSE&G nuclear department administrative procedure NC.NA-AP.ZZ-0005(Q), Revision 7, "Station Operating Practices," requires, in part, that (1) operators act conservatively when faced with adverse conditions that could affect safe reactor operation and place the plant in a safe condition when faced with uncertain conditions, (2) reactivity manipulation procedures be followed "alertly and cautiously," and control rods always be moved in a deliberate, carefully controlled manner, and (3) additional oversight and controls, such as designation of a special Test Engineer, be established during activities which are infrequently performed, place the plant in an unusual configuration, or lead to a significant reduction in the level of plant safety.

Contrary to the above, on November 12, 1997, while the reactor was in cold shutdown (operational condition 5) with the reactor vessel head removed, operators, while withdrawing control rods as part of a shutdown margin test, did not:

1. verify that control rod position did not change during a withdrawal attempt at normal operating drive water before entering the stuck control rod procedure,

2. immediately restore control rod drive water pressure to the normal operating range following successful control rod movements at elevated pressures,

3. act conservatively during reactivity manipulations in that drive water pressures were not returned to the normal operating range before initial control rod withdrawal attempts,

4. follow reactivity manipulation procedures alertly or cautiously in that drive water pressures were not returned to the normal operating range following successful control rod movement at elevated pressures, and

5. establish additional oversight and controls for the first-time implementation of the shutdown margin demonstration activity. (01013)

This is a Severity Level III violation (Supplement 1).

Civil Penalty - $55,000.

II. VIOLATIONS OF THE MAINTENANCE RULE

A. 10 CFR 50.65(b)(1) & (2) require that the scope of the monitoring program specified in paragraph (a)(1) include safety-related and non-safety related structures, systems, and components (SSCs). Specifically, the scope of the program shall include safety-related SSCs that are relied upon to remain functional during and following design basis events to ensure the integrity of the reactor pressure boundary, the capability to shut down the reactor and maintain it in a safe shutdown condition, and the capability to prevent or mitigate the consequences of accidents that could result in potential offsite exposure comparable to the 10 CFR Part 100 guidelines. It shall also include non-safety-related SSCs (i) that are relied upon to mitigate accidents or transients or are used in plant emergency operating procedures (EOPs); (ii) whose failure could prevent safety related SSCs from fulfilling their safety related function; or (iii) whose failure could cause a reactor scram.

10 CFR 50.65(a)(1) states that licensees shall monitor the performance or condition of SSCs against licensee established goals, in a manner sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that such SSCs, as defined in paragraph (b), are capable of fulfilling their intended functions.

Contrary to the above, as of February 24, 1997, the following SSCs or SSC functions were not included in the scope of the 10 CFR 50.65 monitoring program:

1. nuclear fuel assemblies; and

2. bypassed and inoperable status indicating system (BISIS).

3. drywell ventilation system;

4. essential lighting system;

5. communications systems.

6. reactor auxiliary cooling (RAC) system function of cooling the control rod drive (CRD) pumps;

7. standby liquid control system function of providing water to maintain reactor level during certain emergency situations; and

8. the condensate storage tank (CST) function to support safety-related systems. (02013)

B. 10 CFR 50.65(a)(1) requires, in part, that the holders of an operating license shall monitor the performance or condition of SSCs, as defined by 10 CFR 50.65(b), against licensee-established goals, in a manner sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that such structures, systems, and components are capable of fulfilling their intended functions. When the performance or condition of a structure, system, or component does not meet established goals, appropriate corrective action shall be taken.

10 CFR 50.65(a)(2) requires, in part, that monitoring as specified in 10 CFR 50.65 Section (a)(1) is not required where it has been demonstrated that the performance or condition of a structure, system, or component is being effectively controlled through the performance of appropriate preventive maintenance, such that the structure, system, or component remains capable of performing its intended function.

1. Contrary to 10 CFR 50.65(a)(2), as of July 10, 1996, (the time that the licensee elected to not monitor the performance or condition of the following SSCs against licensee-established goals pursuant to the requirements of 10 CFR 50.65 (a)(1)), the licensee failed to demonstrate that the performance or condition of certain system functions, within the scope of 10 CFR 50.65, had been effectively controlled through the performance of appropriate preventive maintenance in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR 50.65(a)(2). Specifically, the licensee failed to adequately evaluate the appropriateness of the performance of preventive maintenance as evidenced by the following examples, each of which constitutes a separate violation:

a. The licensee failed to adequately demonstrate the performance or condition of functions of the of the service compressed air system, control complex system, nuclear boiler and reactor recirculation system, auxiliary building heating ventilation and air conditioning - diesel generator area system, instrument (control) air system, control rod drive system and the reactor protection system in that availability measures were not established. (02023)

b. The licensee failed to adequately demonstrate the performance or condition of functions for the main steam non-automatic depressurization (non-ADS) system in that reliability measures were not established. (02033)

Reliability and availability measures are both necessary to demonstrate that preventive maintenance had been effective to ensure that system functions will perform as required.

2. Contrary to 10 CFR 50.65(a)(2), as of July 10, 1996, (the time that the licensee elected to not monitor the performance or condition of the following SSCs against licensee-established goals pursuant to the requirements of 10 CFR 50.65 (a)(1)), the licensee failed to adequately demonstrate that the performance or condition of functions of the main turbine control oil (two standby functions), reactor manual control system and remote shutdown systems had been effectively controlled by performing appropriate preventive maintenance in accordance with the requirements of 10 CFR 50.65(a)(2). Specifically, the licensee's basis for placing these SSC functions under the requirements of 10 CFR 50.65 (a)(2) was inadequate because plant level measures were used in assessing preventive maintenance. Failures of these functions would not necessarily result in unplanned scrams, safety system actuations, or an unplanned capability loss factor. These plant level measures were thus inadequate to determine whether there were maintenance preventable functional failures of these functions. (02043)

These violations represent a Severity Level III problem (Supplement 1).

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Public Service Electric and Gas 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 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: 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 I, 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 King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

this day of February 1998


1. For example, on October 23, 1996, a $150,000 civil penalty was issued for several Severity Level III violations, including violations involving the failure to plan appropriate surveillance testing following completion of maintenance on control rod drives, as well as control rod withdrawal speeds being in excess of the values assumed in the Updated Final Safety Analysis Report (Reference: EAs 96-125, 96-281).

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012