United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-179 - Millstone 3 (Northeast Nuclear Energy Company)

May 6, 1998

EA 98-179

Mr. M. L. Bowling, Recovery Officer - Technical Services
c/o Ms. Patricia Loftus, Director - Regulatory
      Affairs for Millstone Station
NORTHEAST NUCLEAR ENERGY COMPANY
PO Box 128
Waterford, CT 06385

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION, EXERCISE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION, AND NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 50-423/98-01

Dear Mr. Bowling:

This letter refers to the inspection conducted on February 23-26, 1998, at the Millstone Unit 3 facility, the findings of which were discussed with your staff during an exit meeting on February 26, 1998. During the inspection, apparent violations were identified related to the failure to maintain the post accident sampling system (PASS) operational within technical specification (TS) requirements. The inspection report addressing the findings of that inspection, with the exception of the findings related to the PASS, was previously forwarded to you on April 1, 1998. On April 3, 1998, we sent you a letter providing the preliminary results of the PASS inspection. In a telephone conversation between you and Mr. J. Durr of the NRC on April 6, 1998, Mr. Durr informed you that the NRC was considering escalated enforcement action relative to the PASS. You also elected to waive a predecisional enforcement conference to which Mr. Durr agreed.

Based on the information developed during the inspection, the NRC has determined that a violation of NRC requirements occurred. The violation involved failure to maintain an adequate PASS program that ensured the capability to obtain and analyze samples under post accident conditions. The violation is cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding it are described in detail in the subject inspection report.

In November 1997, you identified during an internal audit that the PASS may not have been capable of obtaining and analyzing reactor coolant system (RCS), containment atmosphere and containment recirculation sump samples during a design basis accident as required by TS. You reported this condition in a Licensee Event Report (LER) on January 8, 1998. During the February, 1998 inspection, the NRC confirmed that the PASS had not been fully operational since 1988. Specifically: (1) PASS maintenance was ineffective resulting in continual system problems; (2) procedures lacked sufficient detail and were missing steps; (3) technicians were unfamiliar with the sampling procedure and; (4) PASS drills were ineffective in that the routine surveillance procedure was used instead of the emergency procedure and post accident sampling was only simulated during emergency exercises. Based on these findings, the inspector concluded that your staff would not have been able to obtain and analyze samples under post accident conditions within 3 hours as specified in the Updated Final Safety Report (UFSAR). Additionally, the containment sump portion of the liquid sample module was not tested periodically to ensure system availability as specified in the UFSAR and the procedure steps to take a sump sample were deleted from the chemistry surveillance test procedure.

The failure to adequately maintain the PASS and the failure to provide adequate procedures and training for operation of the PASS under post accident conditions could have resulted in the inability to collect and effectively analyze samples following an accident. The information obtained from the PASS is necessary to accurately reflect plant radiological conditions in order to make the appropriate mitigation and protective action recommendations following an accident. It appears that the failure to maintain an adequate PASS program was caused by ineffective management oversight. Prior to 1995, engineering staff turnover and lack of expertise and training contributed to the deficiencies in the PASS program. Although, a dedicated system engineer was assigned to the PASS program in 1995, the problems with the program were not resolved. The failure to maintain an effective PASS program represents a significant lack of attention toward licensed responsibilities; therefore, this violation has been categorized 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, a base civil penalty in the amount of $55,000 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. Since escalated enforcement action has been issued to Northeast Nuclear Energy Company 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. Although you began to identify problems with the PASS program in 1995, you did not take comprehensive action to prevent recurring failure of the system. You performed an audit in November 1997, which identified some of the deficiencies in the PASS program and concluded that the PASS may not have been capable of obtaining and analyzing the required samples during an accident in accordance with TS. The NRC identified additional deficiencies in the PASS program, including the inadequate drills and the inability to report sample results within three hours. In your January 8, 1998 LER, you indicated that you had incorporated the PASS into the Maintenance Rule program as a system that requires a higher level of attention and established a corrective action plan. You also indicated that you had revised the PASS preventive maintenance (PM) schedule and committed to perform the PM procedures prior to entry into Mode 3. You also committed to provide training for all personnel performing PASS sampling and analysis activities prior to entry into Mode 3. However, as stated in our letter dated April 3, 1998, the corrective actions documented in your LER did not fully address the weaknesses the NRC and your staff identified with the PASS. In particular, you did not include emergency preparedness corrective actions to address the training and procedural weaknesses associated with operation of the PASS under emergency conditions.

A civil penalty could be proposed for your failure to take corrective action to prevent recurring failure of the PASS and your failure to fully identify and correct the weaknesses in the PASS program during your internal audit. However, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, and the Director, Special Projects Office, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, to exercise enforcement discretion pursuant to Section VII.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy and not propose a civil penalty in this case. The decision to exercise discretion was made because your facility has been in an extended shutdown, the NRC has taken significant enforcement action for the performance issues that led to the shutdown and considering that the violation was: (1) based on NNECo practices prior to the shutdown; (2) not classified higher than Severity Level II; and (3) not willful. Although some of the weaknesses in the PASS program were identified by the NRC, the NRC has in place a formal restart plan that will confirm that you are taking corrective action for these issues before restart is authorized. Therefore, further enforcement action is not necessary to achieve remedial action.

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 place d in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR).

Sincerely,
ORIGINAL SIGNED BY:
James T. Wiggins, Director
Division of Reactor Safety

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

Enclosure: Notice of Violation and Inspection Report No. 50-423/98-01


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Northeast Nuclear Energy Company
Millstone Unit 3
Docket No. 50-423
License No. NPF-49
EA No. 98-179

During an NRC inspection conducted from February 23 - 26, 1998, for which an exit meeting was conducted on February 26, 1998, a violation of NRC requirements was identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violation is listed below:

Millstone Unit 3 Technical Specification 6.4.8.d, "Administrative Procedures and Programs," "Post Accident Sampling System (PASS)," requires that there be a program in place to ensure the capability to obtain and analyze reactor coolant, radioactive iodine and particulates in plant gaseous effluents, and containment atmosphere samples under accident conditions. The program shall include: training, procedures for sampling and analysis, and provisions for maintenance of sampling and analysis equipment.
Contrary to the above, between 1988 and February 26, 1998, the licensee failed to maintain an adequate PASS program that ensured the capability to obtain and analyze samples under post accident conditions. Specifically:
        -   From 1988 to 1995, maintenance was ineffective in that continual system problems were found during semi-annual surveillance tests, such as instrument tubing and fitting leaks, valve position indication failures, and solenoid valve failures. Further, although a dedicated system engineer was assigned in 1995 to maintain the system, problems continued to occur as evidenced by the fact that 31 condition reports were generated between 1995 and January, 1998.
    -   As of February 26, 1998, valves at the sample panel were improperly marked and system identification tags could not be distinguished from some of the valve identification tags.
    -   As of February 26, 1998, PASS procedures and maintenance were inadequate in that the containment sump portion of the reactor coolant liquid sample module was not operationally tested at least semi-annually to ensure system availability, as described in section 9.3.2.6.4 of the Updated Final Safety Analysis Report (UFSAR).
    -   As of February 26, 1998, PASS procedures were inadequate in that surveillance procedures lacked sufficient detail to provide the technicians with the information needed to successfully acquire a sample and the prerequisite steps in that procedure omitted the type of sample containers needed.
    -   Training of technicians expected to obtain the samples under post accident conditions was inadequate in that the technicians performing the surveillance on February 26, 1998, were not familiar with the procedure and needed guidance from chemistry personnel
    -   Training was inadequate in that PASS drills, that are to be conducted annually per the licensee's Emergency Plan, did not ensure the capability to obtain and analyze samples under post accident conditions because routine surveillance procedures were used to obtain samples during the drills rather than the emergency PASS procedure. The PASS procedure specifies requirements for sample acquisition, radiological protection, analyses and timeliness under emergency conditions. During emergency exercises, post accident sampling was only simulated. Without use of the emergency procedure during PASS drills or during emergency exercises, there was no assurance that a sample could be obtained and analyzed under accident conditions within 3 hours as described in section 9.3.6.2 of the UFSAR. (01013)

This is a Severity Level III Violation (Supplement I).

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 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN.: Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region I, 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). This reply should be clearly marked as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation" and should include for each violation: (1) the reason for the violation, or, if contested, the basis for disputing the violation or severity level, (2) the corrective steps that have been taken and the results achieved, (3) the corrective steps that will be taken to avoid further violations, and (4) the date when full compliance will be achieved. Your response may reference or include previous docketed correspondence, if the correspondence adequately addresses the required response. 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. Where good cause is shown, consideration will be given to extending the response time.

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, this response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

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 6th day of May, 1998


1. A Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty - $2,100,000 was issued on December 10, 1997, for multiple Severity Level II and Severity Level III problems and violations involving design issues and Technical Specification violations.

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