United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-141- Limerick 1 & 2 (PECO Nuclear)

July 7, 1998



EA No. 98-141

Mr. G. Rainey, President
PECO Nuclear
Nuclear Group Headquarters
Post Office Box 195
Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087-0195

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY - $55,000 (NRC Inspection Report Nos. 50-353/97-09; 50-352/98-02 and 50-353/98-02)

Dear Mr. Rainey:

This letter refers to the two NRC inspections conducted between October 20, 1997, and March 16, 1998, for which exit meetings were held on January 16, 1998, and March 25, 1998. During the inspections, the reports of which were sent to you on March 11, 1998, and May 11, 1998, apparent violations of NRC requirements were identified. On June 10, 1998, a Predecisional Enforcement Conference was conducted with you and members of your 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 enforcement conference, three violations of NRC requirements are being cited and are described in the enclosed Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty (Notice). The three violations involve failures to identify and correct conditions adverse to quality at the facility; this includes instances where inoperability of safety-related equipment were not recognized.

The two most significant violations are described in Section I of the enclosed Notice. The first violation involves the failure to identify and correct a condition adverse to quality that caused the high pressure coolant injection (HPCI) turbine exhaust valve to be inoperable. Specifically, on January 8, 1998, the valve, which is a primary containment isolation valve (PCIV), failed to close on the first attempt during surveillance testing, thereby not meeting the technical specifications which require that the valve close within 120 seconds. Nonetheless, the valve was returned to an operable status, based on the fact that it closed on a subsequent attempt, even though data existed that indicated that the valve had internal binding. On January 28, 1998, the valve again failed to close during surveillance testing. The failure to promptly resolve the degraded valve performance led to an inoperable primary containment isolation function of the HPCI exhaust valve for extended periods of time, as failures of the HPCI turbine exhaust valve actually occurred on five occasions between March 1994 and January 1998.

Although the valve does not have an automatic isolation function, it is necessary to isolate the HPCI system in the event of HPCI system leakage and is considered an extension of the containment boundary. In each of the first 4 occurrences, root cause analyses were not adequate to detect the root cause of the problem. Of particular concern is the fact that after the fifth failure on January 8, 1998, the valve was not declared inoperable even though subsequent data revealed internal binding of the valve. Rather, the frequency of the valve tests was increased to weekly. The valve was not declared inoperable until it again would not close during an initial attempt when tested on January 28, 1998.

The NRC is concerned with the inadequacies of the associated engineering assessment and safety evaluation which found it acceptable to postpone further valve troubleshooting and repairs based on an operability determination that was flawed. The engineering assessment, in considering operability, discounted the need for the valve to close the first time to meet the closure time required by technical specifications. Also, the plant operations review committee (PORC) approved the safety evaluation without evaluating and challenging the short term corrective actions to ensure near term reliability of the valve, including its ability to meet the required closure time.

The second violation involved the failure to correct a condition adverse to quality that caused several modes of residual heat removal (RHR) to be inoperable. Specifically, the 1B RHR minimum flow valve, which is required to open when an RHR pump is in operation with system flow less than 1500 gallons per minute (gpm), was not declared inoperable even though it was found closed four times in a five month period between September 1997 and January 1998 while flow was less than 1500 gpm. Although the valve, which provides minimum flow protection for the RHR pump, should have been declared inoperable, the operators simply reopened the valve without identifying the root cause of the problem until after the fourth occurrence. Afterwards, your staff determined that the valve had a faulty flow control circuit which caused the system to be inoperable, contrary to the technical specifications.

The NRC considers this violation significant since pump damage could occur under no flow conditions in as little as three minutes. The NRC is particularly concerned that similar to the issue concerning the HPCI turbine exhaust valve, this problem revealed a lack of comprehensive troubleshooting by the engineering staff, as well as improper acceptance by the operators that the pump was operable even though the cause of the problem was not identified.

These two violations indicate a significant lack of attention to licensed responsibilities. Therefore, the violations are classified in the aggregate as a Severity Level III problem in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600 (Enforcement Policy).

A base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 is considered for this Severity Level III problem. Because Limerick 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 for identification is not warranted in either case. Although your staff identified all of the examples of the failure to the HPCI exhaust valve to close, as well as the RHR minimum flow valve being in the wrong position, the NRC identified the conditions adverse to quality that these findings represented, namely the inoperability of the valves contrary to the technical specifications, as well as the failure to promptly address the root cause of these failures. Credit for your corrective actions is warranted because at the time of the enforcement conference, your actions were considered prompt and comprehensive. These actions included, but were not limited to, (1) a programmatic evaluation of the operability process; (2) implementation of improved procedural guidance for operability determinations; (3) enhancement of the troubleshooting process; and (4) training of staff on the enhanced guidance. The NRC plans to continue to follow your actions closely to determine the effectiveness of your actions in precluding future problems.

To emphasize the importance of appropriate evaluations of problems at your facility, as well as prompt determination of operability of equipment, as well as prompt development of appropriate corrective action, 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 in the amount of $55,000 for these violations.

The third violation involves the failure to promptly identify and correct a condition adverse to quality regarding the improper installation of a connecting rod bearing for one of the eight Emergency Diesel Generators (EDG). This violation has been classified at Severity Level IV and is described in Section II of the enclosed Notice.

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,
original signed by Hubert J. Miller
Hubert J. Miller
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-352; 50-353
License No. NPF-39; NPF-85

Enclosure: Notice of Violation Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalties


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

AND

PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTIES

PECO Nuclear
Limerick Nuclear Generating Stations Units 1 and 2
Docket Nos.: 50-352; 50-353
License Nos: NPF-39; NPF-85
EA No. 98-141

During NRC inspections conducted between October 20, 1997, and March 16, 1998, for which exit meetings were held on January 16, 1998 and March 25, 1998, 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:

I. VIOLATIONS ASSESSED A CIVIL PENALTY

10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI, "Corrective Action", requires, in part, that measures be established to assure that conditions adverse to quality, such as failures, malfunctions, and deficiencies are promptly identified and corrected. In the case of significant conditions adverse to quality, the measures shall assure that the cause of the condition is determined and corrective action taken to preclude repetition.

a. Contrary to the above, between January 8, 1998 and January 28, 1998, a condition adverse to quality existed, namely potential inoperability of HPCI exhaust valve due to internal binding, and although indications of this inoperability were provided when the valve failed to close on its first attempt on January 8, 1998, and subsequent data provided indications of such internal binding, measures were not established to assure that this significant condition adverse to quality was promptly corrected until the valve again failed on its first attempt when tested on January 28, 1998. As a result, between January 8, 1998, and January 28, 1998, the HPCI turbine exhaust valve, a primary containment isolation valve (outboard) was not maintained operable with a closing time less than or equal to 120 seconds. This is contrary to Unit 1 Technical Specification 3.6.3, "Primary Containment Isolation Valves", which requires, in part, that the primary containment isolation valves shown in Table 3.6.3-1 shall be operable with isolation times less than or equal to those shown in Table 3.6.3-1. The HPCI turbine exhaust valve is listed as an outboard isolation barrier, with a maximum isolation time of 120 seconds. (01013)

b. Contrary to the above, between September 1, 1997, and January 21, 1998, a condition adverse to quality existed involving the inoperability of the 1B residual heat removal (RHR) minimum flow valve (HV-051-FOO7B) after it was found closed on four occasions, and during that period, adequate corrective actions were not taken to correct this condition adverse to quality in that although an equipment trouble tag was initiated in each case to address the anomalous valve operation, the system was considered operable with no basis for doing so. As a result, between September 1, 1997, and January 21, 1998, the malfunctioning minimum flow valve caused the RHR pump to be inoperable and resulted in technical specifications being violated, namely:

        1. during this period, the suppression pool cooling mode of the "B" RHR system was not operable; this was contrary to Technical Specification 3.6.2.3 which requires, in part, that the suppression pool cooling mode of the RHR system shall be operable with two independent loops, each loop consisting of one operable RHR pump, and with one suppression pool cooling loop inoperable, the inoperable loop must be restored to operable status within 72 hours.

2. the suppression pool spray mode of the "B" RHR system was not operable; this was contrary to Technical Specification 3.6.2.2. which requires, in part, that the suppression pool spray mode of the RHR system shall be operable with two independent loops, each loop consisting of one operable RHR pump, and with one suppression pool spray loop inoperable, the inoperable loop must be restored to operable status within seven days.

3. the low pressure coolant injection (LPCI) mode of the "B" RHR system removal system was not operable; this was contrary to Technical Specification 3.5.1.b which requires, in part, that the LPCI system of the RHR system be operable consisting of four subsystems with each subsystem comprised of one operable LPCI pump, and with one LPCI subsystem inoperable, the inoperable LPCI pump must be restored to an operable status within 30 days. (01023)

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

II. VIOLATION NOT ASSESSED A CIVIL PENALTY

10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, Criterion XVI, "Corrective Action", requires, in part, that measures be established to assure that conditions adverse to quality, such as failures, malfunctions, and deficiencies are promptly identified and corrected. In the case of significant conditions adverse to quality, the measures shall assure that the cause of the condition is determined and corrective action taken to preclude repetition.

Contrary to the above, between August 1994 and October 7, 1997, a condition adverse to quality existed, namely a reversed bearing on the D21 emergency diesel generator, and this condition adverse to quality was not promptly identified and corrected despite an opportunity to do so because of a previous reversed bearing on the D22 EDG at Limerick between December 1995 and May 1996. (03013)

This is a Severity Level IV violation (Supplement I)

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, PECO Nuclear (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 receipt of this Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalties (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 penalties 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 penalties proposed above, or may protest imposition of the civil penalties, 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 penalties will be issued. Should the Licensee elect to file an answer in accordance with 10 CFR 2.205 protesting the civil penalties, in whole or in part, such answer should be clearly marked as an "Answer to a Notice of Violation" and may: (1) deny the violations 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 penalties should not be imposed. In addition to protesting the civil penalties in whole or in part, such answer may request remission or mitigation of the penalties.

In requesting mitigation of the proposed penalties, 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 that 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 I, and a copy to the NRC Senior 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 7th day of July 1998


1. e.g., a Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty was issued on August 5, 1997 for a Severity Level II violation related to the failure to maintain complete and accurate records at the facility. (Reference: EA 97-050; 97-115).

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