United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Dispositioning of Technical Specifications That Are Insufficient to Assure Plant Safety

UNITED STATES
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555-001

December 29, 1998

NRC ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER 98-10: DISPOSITIONING OF TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS THAT ARE INSUFFICIENT TO ASSURE PLANT SAFETY

ADDRESSEES

All holders of operating licenses for nuclear power reactors.

PURPOSE

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this administrative letter to reiterate to addressees the NRC staff's expectations regarding correction of facility Technical Specifications (TS) when they are found to contain nonconservative values or specify incorrect actions.

Background

Occasionally, as a result of licensee design-basis reconstitution efforts or NRC inspection efforts, licensees determine that specific values or required actions in TS may not assure safety. When this occurs, licensees typically conduct an evaluation and, if necessary, institute administrative controls that instruct the operators to maintain a more restrictive value for a particular parameter or to take a more conservative required action.

Following the implementation of the administrative controls, most licensees that found problems have properly considered reporting under 10 CFR 50.72 and 10 CFR 50.73 and have promptly submitted a license amendment request to correct the TS. However, some licensees fail to comply with NRC reporting requirements and either significantly delay submitting license amendment requests or conclude that with administrative controls in place, license amendment requests are unnecessary.

For example, one licensee determined after reviewing their service water system design that the ultimate heat sink level described in the plant TS may not be adequate to assure that all emergency equipment would receive adequate cooling water flow under all accident conditions. As a result, the licensee put in place an administrative control requiring plant operators to maintain a higher level in the ultimate heat sink. The licensee drafted a license amendment request to change the TS value for the ultimate heat sink level but subsequently reasoned that with the administrative control in place, the amendment request could be delayed while they prepared for an upcoming outage. Because the licensee never reported this issue, the NRC first learned of it after the administrative control had been in place for approximately one year.

In another instance, a licensee became aware that, because of a change in fuel design and previous changes in the operation of the rod block monitor, the Minimum Critical Power Ratio limits specified in the plant TS may not provide adequate assurance that fuel damage would not result if an inadvertent rod withdrawal occurred. In response to this finding, the licensee put administrative controls in place (including a clarification in the TS and other relevant documents) and took no further action on the matter until the NRC raised questions about a continuing reliance on these administrative controls.

Discussion

Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 50.36, "Technical Specifications" requires that each TS limiting condition for operation (LCO) specify, at a minimum, the lowest functional capability or performance level of equipment required for the safe operation of the facility.

Generic Letter (GL) 91-18, Revision 1, "Information to Licensees Regarding NRC Inspection Manual Section on Resolution of Degraded and Nonconforming Conditions", provides guidance to licensees on the type and time frame of any required corrective action. As stated in the GL, whenever degraded or nonconforming conditions are discovered, 10 CFR Part 50, Appendix B, requires prompt corrective action to correct or resolve the condition. In the case of a deficient TS, this includes the evaluation of compensatory measures, such as administrative controls, in accordance with 10 CFR 50.59 and prompt actions to correct the TS. If the licensee does not resolve the degraded or nonconforming condition, the staff would conclude that corrective action has been inadequate and would consider taking enforcement action.

In summary, the discovery of an improper or inadequate TS value or required action is considered a degraded or nonconforming condition as defined in GL 91-18. Imposing administrative controls in response to an improper or inadequate TS is considered an acceptable short-term corrective action. The staff expects that, following the imposition of administrative controls, an amendment to the TS, with appropriate justification and schedule, will be submitted in a timely fashion. Once any amendment correcting the TS is approved, the licensee must update the final safety analysis report, as necessary, to comply with 10 CFR 50.71(e).

This administrative letter requires no specific action or written response. If you have any questions about the information in this administrative letter, please contact the technical contact listed below or the appropriate NRR project manager.

/s/'d by

Jack W. Roe, Acting Director
Division of Reactor Program Management
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical Contact: James Luehman, NRR
301- 415-3150
E-mail: James.Luehman@nrc.gov

Attachment: List of Recently Issued NRC Administrative Letters


(NUDOCS Accession Number 9812280273)

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