United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-98-464 - Clinton (Illinois Power Company)

September 30, 1999

EA 98-464

Mr. John P. McElwain
Chief Nuclear Officer
Clinton Power Station
Illinois Power Company
Mail Code V-275
P. O. Box 678
Clinton, IL 61727

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION (NRC OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS REPORT NO. 3-1997-040)

Dear Mr. McElwain:

This letter refers to the investigation conducted from October 28, 1997, to September 21, 1998, by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Investigations (OI) at the Illinois Power Company's (IPC) Clinton Power Station. The investigation was conducted after IPC notified the NRC on May 6, 1997, that a violation of 10 CFR 50.7, "Employee Protection," may have occurred. IPC conducted a separate investigation into this matter. The synopsis of the OI report was sent to IPC by letter dated November 13, 1998. Representatives of IPC subsequently declined the opportunity for a predecisional enforcement conference for this matter and provided a written response to the NRC on December 10, 1998.

After a review of the information developed during the OI investigation, as well as the information obtained during the IPC investigation, and in IPC's December 10, 1998 response, the NRC has determined that a violation of NRC requirements occurred. The investigations determined that during January 1997, a supervisor in the Clinton Power Station's Quality Verification (QV) Department discriminated against a QV inspector in retaliation for the inspector's previous contacts with the NRC about safety-related issues involving the QV department. Specifically, the QV supervisor did not recommend the inspector for a promotion due, in part, to the inspector's earlier discussions with the NRC.

This violation is a significant concern to the NRC because it represents retaliation by a first line QV supervisor against an employee for discussing nuclear safety issues with the NRC. Therefore, 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. As allowed by Section V of the Enforcement Policy, the QV inspector, who was subject to discrimination, was permitted to comment on IPC's December 10, 1998, letter. The inspector's comments were considered during the NRC's assessment of this matter.

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 Clinton Power Station has been the subject of escalated enforcement actions within the two years preceding the violation,(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 given for both Identification and Corrective Action because IPC identified the violation and the violation was promptly corrected by IPC. Corrective action included: promoting the QV inspector retroactively, taking disciplinary action against involved individuals, retraining site supervisors about their responsibilities under 10 CFR 50.7, discussing the violation with all quality assurance personnel, and sending a memorandum to all site personnel about the incident.

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.

The NRC has concluded that in your December 10, 1998 letter, you adequately addressed the reasons for the violation and described the corrective actions taken or planned to correct the violation and prevent recurrence. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter 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 enclosures, and your response (if you choose to provide one) will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). To the extent possible, your response should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be placed in the PDR without redaction.

Sincerely,

Original Signed By J. E. Dyer
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 50-461
License No. NPF-62

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
M. Coyle, Assistant Vice President
P. Hinnenkamp, Plant Manager
R. Phares, Manager, Nuclear Safety and Performance Improvement
M. Aguilar, Assistant Attorney General
G. Stramback, Regulatory Licensing Services Project Manager, General Electric Company
Chairman, DeWitt County Board
State Liaison Officer
Chairman, Illinois Commerce Commission


NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Illinois Power Company
Clinton Power Station
Docket No. 50-461
License No. NPF-62
EA 98-464

During an investigation conducted by the NRC Office of Investigations from October 28, 1997, to September 21, 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:

10 CFR 50.7 prohibits, in part, discrimination by a Commission licensee against an employee for engaging in certain protected activities. Discrimination includes discharge and other actions that relate to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. The protected activities are established in Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, as amended, and in general are related to the administration or enforcement of a requirement imposed under the Atomic Energy Act or the Energy Reorganization Act. Protected activities include providing the Commission with information about potential violations pertaining to nuclear safety.

Contrary to the above, during January 1997, the Illinois Power Company, a Commission licensee, through the actions of a supervisor in the Quality Verification Department, discriminated against a QV inspector, an employee of the licensee, for having engaged in protected activities. Specifically, the QV inspector engaged in protected activities on October 30, 1994, when she provided information regarding potential violations relating to nuclear safety to the NRC. As a result of the protected activity, the QV supervisor did not recommend the QV inspector for promotion to the position of lead QV inspector. (01013)

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

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reasons for the violation, and the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violation and prevent recurrence is already adequately addressed in a letter from the Illinois Power Company dated December 10, 1998. However, you are required to respond to the provisions of 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 - EA 98-464," and send it to the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, DC 20555, with a copy to the Regional Administrator, NRC Region III, 801 Warrenville Road, Lisle, IL 60532-4351, and the NRC Resident Inspector at the Clinton Power Station within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation.

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

If you choose to respond your response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). Therefore, 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. Under the authority of Section 182 of Act 42 U.S.C. 2232, any response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

In accordance with 10 CFR 19.11, you may be required to post this Notice within two working days.

Dated this 30th day of September 1999


1. On June 9, 1997, a cumulative civil penalty of $450,000 was issued for a Severity Level II problem and three Severity Level III problems for inspection findings during the period July 30, 1996 through January 23, 1997, concerning procedure adherence, design control, inadequate safety evaluations, and inadequate corrective actions (EA 96-412, EA 97-001, EA 97-002, and EA 97-060).

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