United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-132 - River Bend 1 (Entergy Operations, Inc.)

January 5, 1999

EA 98-132

Randall K. Edington, 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 INVESTIGATION REPORT 4-97-059)

Dear Mr. Edington:

This is in reference to the June 26, 1998, predecisional enforcement conference in the NRC's Region IV office in Arlington, Texas, regarding an apparent violation of 10 CFR 50.9. This conference was the culmination of a series of interactions and correspondence with Entergy Operations, Inc. (EOI), regarding whether the Superintendent of Radiation Control at Entergy's River Bend Station (RBS) nuclear power plant willfully provided the NRC with incomplete or inaccurate information to avoid a Notice of Violation. The NRC conducted a predecisional enforcement conference with the Superintendent on February 27, 1998, and described the apparent violation of 10 CFR 50.9 in a letter to Entergy dated May 7, 1998. Entergy provided its perspective on, and additional information relating to, the apparent violation in letters dated June 25, July 1, and July 8, 1998.

Based on our review of the information developed during the investigation, and all the information provided before, during, and after the conferences, the NRC has determined that a violation of NRC requirements occurred. This violation is cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty and it involves the deliberate failure to provide the NRC with information that was complete and accurate in all material respects, in violation of 10 CFR 50.9. Specifically, the violation involves deliberate misconduct by a licensee manager, the RBS Superintendent of Radiation Control, when he provided an NRC senior resident inspector with information he knew was not accurate and not complete during a meeting on October 15, 1997.

The circumstances of the case are briefly described as follows. On October 10, 1997, an NRC inspector observed a contract radiation protection (RP) technician reach across a contaminated area boundary (to perform a smear survey) in the fuel storage building while wearing only cotton liners on his hands, in violation of radiation work permit (RWP) requirements (refer to NRC Inspection Report 50-458/97-20, dated February 5, 1998). The inspector was informed by the technician's supervisor that the applicable RWP was 97-0002, which required "booties and gloves" as minimum protective clothing. The inspector who observed the violation left the site on October 14, 1997, after providing information regarding the potential violation to the NRC's on-site senior resident inspector. On October 15, the RBS Superintendent of Radiation Control scheduled a meeting with the NRC senior resident inspector to discuss the potential RWP violation. Specifically, the potential violation was a failure to adhere to RWP 97-0002 in that the RWP listed minimum anti-contamination clothing requirements as "booties and gloves," when the technician, on October 10, 1997, only wore cotton glove liners.

During the October 15, 1997, meeting, the RBS Superintendent of Radiation Control showed the senior resident inspector the access logs and the four RWPs that the technician signed onto during the period October 10-15, 1997. The access logs indicated that on October 10, the technician had signed onto RWP 97-9002, which applied to drywell activities, and not to the technician's activities which were observed in the fuel storage building. The log also indicated that the technician had signed onto RWP 97-0002 on October 14. During the October 15 meeting, the RBS Superintendent of Radiation Control explained that RBS' program allows a radiation protection technician to work under an RWP (i.e., 97-0002) without actually signing onto it under certain circumstances (e.g., if the technician is signed on an RWP in which the technician would likely receive the majority of his or her exposure and if he or she understands and follows the requirements of the appropriate RWP, and if the dose received is transferred to the appropriate RWP). The Superintendent stated that none of the RWPs, including RWP 97-0002, were violated because none of the RWPs required "minimum booties and gloves;" instead the RWPs allowed a technician to determine the protective clothing requirements. However, during that meeting the Superintendent did not present the version of RWP 97-0002 that had been in effect on October 10, 1997. The Superintendent instead presented a subsequent revision to the RWP that changed the minimum protective clothing requirements to state that the protective clothing requirements could be established by the RP technician.

After careful consideration the NRC has concluded that during the October 15, 1997 meeting with the NRC's senior resident inspector, the RBS Superintendent of Radiation Control provided the NRC senior resident inspector with information that the Superintendent knew was inaccurate and incomplete. Information that the RBS Superintendent of Radiation Control provided during his OI interview and the predecisional enforcement conferences did not convince us otherwise. A summary of Entergy's position on this matter and the bases for the NRC's conclusions are summarized in Enclosure 2.

The NRC must be able to rely on licensee managers providing complete and accurate information on matters involving compliance with requirements. A willful violation of 10 CFR 50.9 involving a licensee manager can result in a Severity Level I violation in accordance with the General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions, NUREG-1600 (Enforcement Policy). In consideration of the relatively low safety significance of the underlying issue, i.e., the use of cotton glove liners in lieu of rubber gloves in an area where the technician was familiar with the contamination levels, and in consideration of the individual's position within the company, the violation has been classified 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 the violation involved willfulness, 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. Since the violation was identified by the NRC, licensee credit for Identification was not warranted. However, the NRC has determined that Entergy is deserving of Corrective Action credit based on its actions. While disagreeing that there was any willfulness on the part of the Superintendent, Entergy's corrective actions included: emphasizing management expectations on communicating with the NRC; conducting "Regulatory Sensitivity" training sessions for certain personnel and supervisors; providing additional guidance for communicating with NRC while maintaining open communications; taking disciplinary action against the Superintendent; and implementing additional oversight over the Superintendent and his department.

To emphasize the importance of providing complete and accurate information to the NRC, and communicating with candor, 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 described above.

In addition to the enforcement action against Entergy, we are simultaneously issuing a Notice of Violation to the individual as a result of his misconduct. A copy of that action will be sent to you by separate correspondence.

In taking this action, the NRC is particularly sensitive to the concern that this action may have a chilling effect on communications with the NRC. The NRC's Enforcement Policy recognizes that oral information may in some situations be inherently less reliable than written submittals. The Commission must be able to rely on oral communications from licensee officials but recognizes that information exchanged in initial discussions on issues frequently changes as further facts are developed. In this case, however, the NRC does not view the discussions that took place on October 15 as the initial discussions between an inspector and a licensee manager. There had been two discussions between the inspector who observed the RWP violation and the Superintendent, and the Superintendent had multiple discussions with members of his staff in order to address the issue. Moreover, willfulness was involved in this case. After careful consideration, the NRC concluded that enforcement action was warranted in this case.

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. Your response may reference or include previous docketed correspondence, if the correspondence adequately addresses the required response. The NRC will use your response, in part, to determine whether further enforcement action is necessary to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

This matter has been discussed between the NRC, Entergy, and the Superintendent in several letters. Entergy and the Superintendent have requested that their letters be withheld from public disclosure in accordance with Section 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," Part 2, Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, and exemptions 6 and 7 of the Freedom of Information Act. Those letters have not yet been placed into the PDR. Also, the NRC's letters to the Superintendent, as well as the enclosure to our May 7, 1998 letter to Entergy, have not been placed in the PDR. However, we note that, in accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 records or documents compiled for enforcement purposes are placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). In light of the NRC's conclusion that the Superintendent engaged in deliberate misconduct, correspondence related to this issue will be placed in the PDR after appropriate redaction for personal privacy information such as home address. Subsequent responses may also be placed in the PDR.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Mr. Art Howell at 817-860-8100.

 

Sincerely,

Org signed by

Ellis W. Merschoff
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-458
License No. NPF-47

Enclosures: As stated

cc w/Enclosures:
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
Department of Justice
State of Louisiana
P.O. Box 94005
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9005

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

Ronald L. Wascom, Administrator
Louisiana Radiation Protection Division
P.O. Box 82135
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70884-2135


ENCLOSURE 1

NOTICE OF VIOLATION
AND
PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY


Entergy Operations, Inc.
River Bend Station
Docket No. 50-458
License No. NPF-47
EA 98-132

During an NRC investigation which concluded on December 31, 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 50.9 requires that information provided to the Commission by a licensee shall be complete and accurate in all material respects.
Contrary to the above, on October 15, 1997, the Superintendent of Radiation Control, a licensee official, provided information to an NRC senior resident inspector that was not complete and accurate in all material respects. Specifically, in discussing a potential violation of RWP 97-0002 that was observed on October 10, 1997, the superintendent provided the NRC inspector with a revised version of RWP 97-0002, which no longer reflected the protective clothing requirements that had been in place, and did not inform the NRC senior resident inspector that the copy of the RWP he presented had been revised and was not in effect on October 10, 1997. Based on this inaccurate and incomplete information, the Superintendent asserted that the NRC's preliminary regulatory position regarding a violation was erroneous. (01013)
This is a Severity Level III violation (Supplement VII).
Civil Penalty - $55,000.

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, Entergy Operations, Inc. (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 this 5 th day of January 1999.



ENCLOSURE 2

SUMMARY OF LICENSEE POSITION

Entergy's conclusion was that the Superintendent did not remember or associate the RWP revisions he had requested with the information he provided the NRC senior resident inspector until he was shown both revisions of RWP 97-0002 by the NRC OI investigator on October 29, 1997. Further, Entergy believes that the individual had no motivation to willfully provide inaccurate or incomplete information. The following is a summary of additional information provided by Entergy at the June 26, 1998 predecisional enforcement conference.

1.   The Superintendent did not know a violation existed before being informed by a representative of Entergy's regulatory affairs organization on October 15, 1997, the day of the meeting with the senior resident inspector. Although the Superintendent directed that RWPs be revised (on about October 11), at the time he met with the NRC senior resident inspector (on October 15), he did not know which RWPs had been revised and did not know which RWP was involved with the potential violation. Entergy noted that the Superintendent was new to his position, he was very busy during the outage, and the issue was not a high priority. Further, he was not aware of the specific wording of RWP clothing requirements, and Entergy does not expect a manager at his level to be that knowledgeable with the details of the program.

2.   Entergy stated that during the October 15 meeting with the senior resident inspector, there was confusion over which RWP was applicable, and the Superintendent did not adequately prepare for the October 15 meeting. Entergy's position was that the information was complete and accurate because the RWPs discussed with the senior resident inspector were the correct revisions for the respective days the technician signed in on them; that RWP 97-9002 was the "operative" RWP on October 10, 1997.

3.   Entergy noted that at the conclusion of the meeting with the NRC senior resident inspector, the senior resident inspector informed the Superintendent that the issue would be discussed with the NRC inspector who observed the potential violation and, as a result, the Superintendent expected further (NRC) discussions would occur.

SUMMARY OF NRC POSITION

1.   In response to the observation on October 10, 1997, on October 11-12, 1997 the Superintendent discussed with his staff the specific wording of RWP protective clothing requirements, including the requirement for minimum booties and gloves, and held discussions with the technician involved with the incident. The essence of the discussions with his staff during this time were to revise the wording of the RWP minimum protective clothing requirements so they are not so restrictive that they require "minimum booties and gloves." The Superintendent decided the RWPs should be revised to allow flexibility for the radiation protection technicians to set the dress requirements. On about October 12, the Superintendent agreed to the wording, "dress requirements to be set by RP," and instructed that all active RWPs be revised to include this wording.

During the October 15, 1997, meeting with the NRC senior resident inspector, the Superintendent discussed the issue of which RWP was applicable and mentioned RBS' practice of allowing radiation protection technicians to work under other RWPs without signing on to them on a given day. The Superintendent showed documents which indicated that on October 10, the technician was signed in on RWP 97-9002, which applied to Drywell activities and it was noted that the technician was observed in the fuel building, where, the Superintendent stated, RWP 97-0002 "could" apply. Although the Superintendent claimed he did not know which RWP had been revised by the time the Superintendent met with the senior resident inspector, the Superintendent had recently directed that the wording for minimum protective clothing requirements be changed for all active RWPs. In fact, the revision of RWP 97-0002 that the Superintendent showed the senior resident inspector had the new wording which the Superintendent had recently reviewed. This wording was being adopted for the first time at RBS and the Superintendent signed on to RWP 97-0002 the day before and the day after the RWP was revised, on October 12, 1997.

2.   Although the Superintendent stated that the potential violation was not a high priority, the Superintendent asked for the meeting with the senior resident inspector and had sufficient time to prepare for the meeting. Further, the Superintendent could have postponed the meeting if he needed to gather more information.

3.   If (as the Superintendent asserts) he explained that not only RWP 97-0002 but other RWPs might be applicable, the Superintendent did not initiate a condition report or take any actions to find out which RWP would be applicable following the meeting. The Superintendent made no attempt, either prior to or after the October 15 meeting, to confirm which RWP was applicable to the inspector's October 10 observation. In fact, the meeting concluded with the Superintendent asserting that no violation existed based on the version of RWP 97-0002 and the other three RWPs the Superintendent presented to the senior resident inspector. Each participant present during the discussion, including two NRC inspectors and a representative of RBS' regulatory affairs organization, understood the Superintendent to assert that no violation existed. This was also reflected in the "NRC Issues Sheet" (a RBS internal document) where it is stated that the RP department does not believe a violation exists.

4.   The Superintendent did not inform the senior resident inspector that the Superintendent had recently directed wording changes to all RWPs and that the RWPs the Superintendent presented to the senior resident inspector (on October 15, 1997) were not or may not have been the RWPs in effect on October 10, 1997. As a result, the Superintendent contributed to the confusion over which RWP was applicable by not providing complete information.

5.   Both the Superintendent and Entergy asserted that RWP 97-9002 was "operative" or applied to the technician's survey activities at the time of the observation. The NRC disagrees with this contention. RWP 97-9002, which applied to activities in the drywell, did not cover the technician's survey activities in the fuel building where the violation was observed. We note that on October 10, 1997, the inspector who observed the RWP violation asked the technician's supervisor for a copy of the RWP that was applicable, and was provided with a copy of RWP 97-0002. After the June 26 conference, Entergy stated that RWP 97-0002 or RWP 97-0011-09 were the RWPs that were applicable to the specific survey activity in question. Even if the NRC were to agree with the acceptability of Entergy's program that allows a radiation protection technician to work under an RWP without actually signing on to it (which has not yet been evaluated by the NRC), RWP 97-9002 was not the "operative" RWP for the issue in question.

6.   Both the Superintendent and Entergy asserted that the Superintendent presented RWPs on October 15 that were in effect on the days the access log indicated the technician signed in on them, and therefore no violation of 10 CFR 50.9 occurred. However, the NRC had identified a potential failure to follow the minimum protective clothing requirements of RWP 97-0002 on October 10, 1997. During the October 15 meeting, the Superintendent presented the senior resident inspector with the version of RWP 97-0002 that had been revised on October 12, 1997. Therefore, the version of RWP 97-0002 provided to the senior resident inspector was not accurate because it did not reflect the requirements that were in place on the date the RWP violation occurred.

7.   The Superintendent held numerous discussions regarding this issue prior to the October 15 meeting with the NRC. This included two separate discussions with the inspector who observed the violation, as well as discussions with his staff and the technician involved in the RWP violation to address the very issue that was the subject of the potential violation. If, as Entergy contended, the Superintendent believed the discussions at the October 15 meeting were initial discussions and/or thought that further discussions with the NRC would occur, the Superintendent did not initiate a condition report, or verify the circumstances of the potential violation, or verify the information provided. The record indicates that the Superintendent conducted no further review because he asserted no violation occurred, based on the incomplete and inaccurate information he provided.

In sum, it is NRC's view, after balancing the evidence, that the Superintendent knew that the version of RWP 97-0002 presented to the NRC senior resident inspector at the October 15, 1997 meeting was not the version in effect at the time of the observed RWP violation on October 10, 1997.

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