United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-573 - Washington Nuclear 2 (Washington Public Power Supply System)

June 1, 1998

EA 97-573

Mr. J. V. Parrish (Mail Drop 1023)
Chief Executive Officer
Washington Public Power Supply System
P.O. Box 968
Richland, Washington 99352-0968

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND EXERCISE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION (NRC INSPECTION REPORT 50-397/97-13)

Dear Mr. Parrish:

This refers to your letters dated March 10 and 23, 1998, in response to our letter and inspection report dated February 9, 1998. The inspection was completed January 12, 1998, and it identified two apparent violations of NRC requirements related to the reactor core isolation cooling (RCIC) system at the Washington Nuclear Project-2 facility. The apparent violations involved failures to: (1) perform an adequate safety evaluation in accordance with 10 CFR 50.59 when the RCIC System was downgraded from a safety-related system to a nonsafety-related system without NRC approval (we stated that this downgrade apparently constituted an unreviewed safety question), and (2) maintain the acceptance criteria for the opening stroke-time testing of six RCIC System valves and the failure to maintain inservice testing of Valve RCIC-V-45 as required by 10 CFR 50.55a(f). Our February 9 letter indicated that the NRC was considering escalated enforcement action for these apparent violations and requested that the Washington Public Power Supply System (Supply System) respond to the apparent violations in writing, or request a predecisional enforcement conference. The Supply System opted to submit a written reply.

In its March 10 letter, the Supply System admitted the violations and emphasized that the actual impact to the RCIC System was very small, that the downgrade resulted in minimal impact on system reliability during the downgrade period, and that the risk associated with the downgrade was considered small. The Supply System acknowledged that it misapplied generic technical guidance, and that this resulted in a failure to identify an unreviewed safety question. In addition, the Supply System stated that although it had informed the NRC of its intent to downgrade RCIC, a license amendment should have been specifically sought for downgrading the system. The Supply System also agreed with the NRC's view that the inappropriate downgrading of the RCIC System resulted in the failure to maintain the acceptance criteria for the opening stroke-time testing of six RCIC System valves and the failure to maintain inservice testing of Valve RCIC-V-45.

The March 10 letter also described a number of corrective actions related to the RCIC downgrade issues and the more general concern of the inappropriate use of generic guidance related to other safety evaluations. We noted that, in its March 19, 1998, letter, the Supply System stated that it had completed on March 16, 1998, a comprehensive review of other safety evaluations and associated changes made to the facility since startup to determine if the misapplication of generic guidance resulted in other similar violations.(1)

Based on the information developed during the inspection, and the information provided in the March 10 letter, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. A detailed description of the circumstances resulting in these violations was contained in the inspection report, and are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice). These violations include failures to: (1) perform a safety evaluation in accordance with 10 CFR 50.59 prior to downgrading the RCIC system from a safety-related system to a nonsafety-related system, a change which constituted an unreviewed safety question, and (2) maintain the acceptance criteria for the opening stroke-time testing of six RCIC System valves and the failure to maintain inservice testing of Valve RCIC-V-45 as required by 10 CFR 50.55a(f).

The NRC agrees with the Supply System's position regarding the safety consequences of these violations, discussed above. Although the system was nonconforming, it was found to be operable. The significance of these violations rests in the processing failures that occurred, failures which, if applied to other modifications or changes to plant systems and procedures, could adversely affect plant safety. In addition, the NRC normally considers as significant failures to properly implement 10 CFR 50.59 in situations involving an unreviewed safety question that could have a safety impact. Therefore, these violations are classified in the aggregate at Severity Level III in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, normally a civil penalty with a base value of $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Given prior escalated enforcement action against the Supply System, and the NRC's identification of these violations, a civil penalty would have resulted had we followed the normal civil penalty assessment process described in VI.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy. However, in consideration of the circumstances of this case, and after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, I have been authorized not to assess a civil penalty, in accordance with VII.B.6 of the Enforcement Policy. Specifically, the NRC's basis for discretion include: (1) the NRC's determination that the reason for these violations (i.e., the misinterpretation of industry guidance documents) was similar to the reasons for these violations related to response-time testing procedures (EA 97-138) for which the NRC has recently issued enforcement action, (2) the corrective actions for EA 97-138 encompass the corrective actions for this issue, and (3) the fact that the Supply System continued to meet the Technical Specification surveillance requirements even after RCIC was downgraded.

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct these violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in the Supply System's letters dated March 10 and 23, 1998, and the subject inspection report. Therefore, no further response is required unless the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to provide additional information, you should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice.

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

Sincerely,
original signed by James E. Dyer
Ellis W. Merschoff
Regional Administrator

Docket No.: 50-397
License No.: NPF-21

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/Enclosure:
Chairman
Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
P.O. Box 43172
Olympia, Washington 98504-3172

Mr. Rodney L. Webring (Mail Drop PE08)
Mr. Albert E. Mouncer (Mail Drop 396)
Chief Counsel
Washington Public Power Supply System
P.O. Box 968
Richland, Washington 99352-0968

Mr. Paul Inserra (Mail Drop PE20)
Manager, Licensing
Washington Public Power Supply System
P.O. Box 968
Richland, Washington 99352-0968

Perry D. Robinson, Esq.
Winston & Strawn
1400 L Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005-3502


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
Washington Public Power Supply System
Washington Nuclear Project-2
Docket No. 50-397
License No. NPF-21
EA 97-573

During an NRC inspection completed January 12, 1998, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, these violations are listed below:

A. 10 CFR 50.59 (a)(1) requires that the holder of a license authorizing operation of a production or utilization facility may make changes in the facility as described in the safety analysis report without prior Commission approval unless the proposed change involves an unreviewed safety question.
10 CFR 50.59(a)(2) requires that a proposed change shall be deemed to involve an unreviewed safety question if the probability of occurrence of an accident or malfunction of equipment important to safety previously evaluated in the safety analysis report may be increased.
FSAR Table 3.2-1 specifies the reactor core isolation cooling system as a Safety Class 1 or 2 system. FSAR Section 3.2.3.2 defines Safety Class 2 systems as those systems that are necessary to accomplish the function of providing emergency core cooling and removing residual heat from the reactor. FSAR Section 5.4.6.2.3 specifies that the reactor core isolation cooling system is designed as Seismic Category I equipment and Section 5.4.6.2.4 specifies that the system is designed to meet Safety Class 1 requirements. FSAR Table 7.1-1, "Design and Supply Responsibility of Safety-Related Systems," lists the reactor core isolation cooling system as a safety-related system required for safe shutdown.
Contrary to the above, in 1985, without prior Commission approval, a change was made to the facility as described in the safety analysis report involving an unreviewed safety question. The reactor core isolation cooling system, a system required for safe shutdown, was downgraded from safety-related to nonsafety-related which also redesignated the system such that it was no longer Seismic Category I. This change constituted an unreviewed safety question in that it increased the probability of occurrence of an accident or malfunction of equipment important to safety previously evaluated in the safety analysis report. (01013)
B. 10 CFR 50.55a(f) requires inservice tests to verify the operational readiness of pumps and valves, whose function is required for safety, to comply with the requirements set forth in Section XI of the appropriate edition and addenda of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code.
Article IWV-1100 of the ASME Code provides the rules and requirements for inservice testing to assess operational readiness of certain ASME Code Class 1, 2, and 3, valves which are required to perform a specific function in shutting down a reactor to the cold shutdown condition or in mitigating the consequences of an accident.
Contrary to the above, as of December 1994, the inservice testing for certain reactor core isolation cooling valves, whose function was required for safety, was not implemented as required by Section XI of the appropriate edition and addenda of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. Specifically, as the result of downgrading the reactor core isolation cooling system from safety-related to nonsafety-related, Valves RCIC-V-13, the head spray isolation valve; RCIC-V-19, the minimum-flow to suppression pool isolation valve; RCIC-V-28, the auxiliary cooling to suppression pool isolation valve; RCIC-V-31, the suppression pool to RCIC suction valve; RCIC-V-40, the turbine exhaust to suppression pool isolation valve; and RCIC-V-66, the head spray isolation valve were not timed during stroke testing in the open direction to assure that they met specified acceptance criteria. In addition, Valve RCIC-V-45, the turbine steam supply isolation valve, was no longer tested for either opening or closing stroke times. (01023)

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

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct these violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in the Supply System's letters dated March 10 and 23, 1998, and NRC Inspection Report No. 50-397/97-13. However, you are required to submit a written statement or explanation pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201 if the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to respond, clearly mark your response as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation," and send it to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN:  Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region IV , and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the facility that is the subject of this Notice, within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice).

If you contest this enforcement action, you should also provide a copy of your response to the Director, Office of Enforcement,United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Under the authority of Section 182 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2232, any response you choose to submit shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

Because your response, if you choose to submit one, 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 June 1998


1. The NRC notes similarities in the reasons for the occurrences between this issue and another recent issue. On February 20, 1998, the NRC issued a Notice of Violation and Exercise of Enforcement Discretion involving the Supply System's inappropriate use of generic industry guidance regarding changes made to response-time testing procedures (EA 97-138). The Supply System's corrective actions involving its comprehensive review of other safety evaluations was actually begun as a result of this previous enforcement action, but had not been started at the time this RCIC downgrade issue had been identified.

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