United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-99-010 - Nine Mile Point 1 (Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation)


June 29, 1999

EA 99-010

Mr. John H. Mueller
Chief Nuclear Officer
Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation
Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station
Operations Building, 2nd Floor
Post Office Box 63
Lycoming, New York 13093

SUBJECT:   NOTICE OF VIOLATION (NRC Office of Investigation Report No. 1-98-33)

Dear Mr. Mueller:

This letter refers to the NRC investigation conducted by the NRC Office of Investigations (OI) after you had identified and reported to the NRC that an unqualified Senior Reactor Operator (SRO) assumed the position of Assistant Station Shift Supervisor (ASSS) at Unit 1 on June 16, 1998. The SRO who assumed the watch was not considered qualified in that he had not completed remedial training after failing an evaluated requalification scenario the previous day. In a letter dated April 13, 1999, we informed you that the OI investigation found that the SRO had deliberately violated license conditions and caused Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (NMPC) to be in violation of Technical Specification (TS) requirements. In that letter, we offered you the opportunity to either request a predecisional enforcement conference (conference) to discuss the apparent violation or to respond to the apparent violation in writing. You declined the offer for a conference and responded to the apparent violation in a letter dated May 10, 1999.

Based on the information developed during the investigation conducted by OI and the information provided in your response, one violation of NRC requirements is being cited as described in the enclosed Notice. The violation involved a failure to adhere to the requirements of your Technical Specifications in that the licensed SRO stood watch as the ASSS without first being remediated following his examination failure. The violation existed for approximately four hours while Unit 1 was at 100% power. The specific requirements that were violated required that a minimum of two senior reactor operators (SROs) be on duty for each operating shift, and that at least one licensed SRO be in the control room during power operations. Because the specific SRO in question had not been remediated, the shift had only one qualified SRO on shift for that four hour period. Furthermore, he was the only SRO in the control room for approximately 45 minutes during that period. As a result, the minimum shift staffing requirements of TS 6.2.2.a and TS 6.2.2.e were not met.

In your May 10, 1999, response, you admitted that the violation occurred; however, you contended that the violation was not willful or deliberate. After further review of the available information, the NRC determined that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the violation was deliberate on the part of any of your employees. Nonetheless, the NRC is concerned that officials in your organization were aware of the requirement, and had knowledge of the examination failure, yet failed to prevent the violation of the Technical Specification staffing requirements. Specifically, both the SRO and the General Supervisor of Operations (GSO) were aware that a licensed operator could not stand watch following a requalification failure without being remediated. Although the SRO knew that he had failed the requalification evaluation, he contended that he did not think about the requirement prior to standing watch. In addition, the GSO was told on June 15, 1998, when he was entering the training center to be an evaluator in the afternoon, that a crew had failed the requalification evaluation that morning. However, he neither recognized, nor took action to determine, whether the SRO was a member of the crew that had failed when he asked the SRO to stand watch. Further, the training supervisor was also aware of the requirement and aware that the SRO had failed the evaluation, yet he granted permission for the SRO to miss training on June 16, 1999, so that he could work in the plant without questioning whether the SRO would be standing watch. Therefore, given the importance of having qualified control room operators, this violation is of significant regulatory concern and is classified 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. Because your facility has been the subject of escalated enforcement action 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 is warranted for identification because you identified, investigated, and promptly reported the violation. Credit is also warranted for corrective action because your corrective actions were considered prompt and comprehensive. These actions, which were described in a Licensee Event Report (LER) submitted to the NRC on July 17, 1998, and in your response dated May 10, 1999, included, but were not limited to:  (1) remediation of the crew that failed the evaluation; (2) communication of lessons learned from the event via a memorandum and Night Orders: (3) revision of procedures to clarify the requirements regarding requalification evaluation failures; (4) plans for additional training to emphasize the importance of license qualification requirements; and (5) counseling of the individuals involved in the event.

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 information regarding the reason for the violation, and the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violation and prevent recurrence is already adequately addressed on the docket in your LER No 98-14, dated July 17, 1998 and in your response, dated May 10, 1999. 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, the enclosed Notice, and any response, if you chose to provide one, will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR).


Sincerely,

ORIGINAL SIGNED BY
JAMES T. WIGGINS


FOR Hubert J. Miller
Regional Administrator


Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
G. Wilson, Esquire
M. Wetterhahn, Winston and Strawn
J. Rettberg, New York State Electric and Gas Corporation
P. Eddy, Electric Division, Department of Public Service, State of New York
C. Donaldson, Esquire, Assistant Attorney General, New York Department of Law
J. Vinquist, MATS, Inc.
F. Valentino, President, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
J. Spath, Program Director, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority



ENCLOSURE

NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation
Nine Mile Point, Unit 1
Docket No. 50-220
License No. DPR-63
EA 99-010

During an investigation conducted by the NRC Office of Investigations (OI), between July 1, 1998 and December 11, 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:


      Nine Mile Point Unit 1 (NMP1) Technical Specification (TS) 6.2.2.a, Table 6.2-1, specifies, in part, that two on shift senior reactor operators (SROs) are the minimum staffing required for one operating nuclear unit. TS 6.2.2.e states, in part, that a licensed senior reactor operator shall be required in the control room during power operations.

10 CFR 55.59, requires, in part, that the licensed operator shall successfully complete a requalification program as developed by the facility licensee. NTP-TQS-102 Rev. 6, which implements the NMP requalification program, requires, in part, in Section 3.5.7.b.3, that remediation of simulator evaluation failures by operators shall be completed before the individual can resume licensed duties.

Contrary to the above, for approximately four hours on June 16, 1998, with NMP1 at full power, a senior reactor operator assumed the Assistant Shift Supervisor (ASSS) position, one of the two required SRO positions, and was the only SRO in the control room for approximately 45 minutes during that four hour period, even though he had failed a simulator examination on June 15, 1998, and had not at the time completed remediation of the simulator evaluation failure. As a result, the individual was not qualified for that position, and therefore,

  • For approximately four hours, the licensee did not meet the minimum staffing requirements of two onshift senior nuclear reactor operators for the operating unit; and
  • For approximately 45 minutes, the licensee did not meet the minimum staffing requirements of a licensed senior reactor operator being in the control room during power operations. (01013)

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

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violation, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violation and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in your Licensee Event Report No 98-14, dated July 17, 1998, and in your response, dated May 10, 1999. 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 1, 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.

If you choose to respond, your response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). Therefore, to the extent possible, the response should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be placed in the PDR without redaction.

Dated this 29th day of June 1999


1. A $55,000 civil penalty was issued on January 22, 1998 (EA 97-530) for a Severity Level III violation associated with transportation of radioactive waste.

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