United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 93-22: Tripping of Klockner-Moeller Molded-Case Circuit Breakers due to Support Lever Failure

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

                                March 26, 1993


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 93-22:  TRIPPING OF KLOCKNER-MOELLER MOLDED-CASE 
                               CIRCUIT BREAKERS DUE TO SUPPORT LEVER FAILURE


Addressees

All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power
reactors.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to the potential for spurious tripping of certain 
Klockner-Moeller (K-M) molded-case circuit breakers (MCCBs) under no-load or
normal load conditions.  The trips resulted from failure of switch latch
support levers (support levers).  It is expected that recipients will review
the information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as
appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  However, suggestions contained in
this information notice are not NRC requirements; therefore, no specific
action or written response is required.

Description of Circumstances

On July 1, 1992, Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO), licensee for
North Anna Power Station (North Anna), Units 1 and 2, reported to the NRC
pursuant to Part 21 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
(10 CFR Part 21) that over a three-month period in 1992, three K-M model 
NZM6-63, 480-Vac MCCBs had tripped without appreciable load or fault condition
or other electrical or mechanical transient.  The three failed MCCBs were
located in the cable vault and tunnel area of North Anna-2 and supplied power
to motor operated valves in the charging and safety injection systems.  The
switch handles were found in the trip-free position and the breakers could not
be relatched and reclosed.

Discussion

Examination of the internals of one of the three failed breakers revealed that
its support lever (also described by VEPCO as a "spring arm"), located in the
rear compartment of the case, had fractured.  This caused the breaker to trip
and to become incapable of being reclosed.  These MCCBs were part of a group
of similar breakers manufactured in Germany by Klockner-Moeller in 1972 and
supplied to VEPCO in K-M Series 170 motor control centers.





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The NRC has determined that the support levers only in K-M model NZM6, NZM6b,
and NZMH6 MCCBs, rated for 100 amperes and below and manufactured from 1972
on, have been made of the same type of plastic used in the support levers of
the MCCBs that failed at North Anna-2.

According to a VEPCO Material Engineering Laboratory report, the failed
support levers are made of a polycarbonate-glass fiber composite material. 
The VEPCO laboratory performed infrared spectroscopy, scanning electron
microscopic examination and associated energy-dispersive-X-ray spectroscopic
(EDS) analysis on the support lever from the MCCB examined at North Anna.  It
also conducted tests of and comparison with the same part from two other MCCBs
that had been in service, but had not failed.  On the basis of this testing,
the VEPCO laboratory concluded that the fracture in the failed support lever
it examined was related to the number of stress cycles experienced and that
cracks initiated at the inside of a shaft hole in the support lever.  Although
the breakers have a design life of 20,000 cycles (opening and closing), the
three failed MCCBs had been cycled only a few times a year and have been in
service since about 1977.  The VEPCO laboratory results suggested that similar
MCCBs exposed to similar service conditions as these might fail in a similar
manner. 

Klockner-Moeller submitted to VEPCO and to the NRC the report from its German
factory laboratory (with English translation) of the examination and analysis
of two of the three failed MCCBs.  The report concluded that the fractures in
the support levers resulted from stress cracking caused by mechanical loads
inside the circuit breaker and possibly environmental influences, e.g.,
chlorinated hydrocarbons.  Although the VEPCO laboratory did not find evidence
of contaminants of this type, the K-M lab report suggested that a source of
contaminants could be off-gassing associated with arc extinguishing.

During a recent inspection at the Klockner-Moeller U.S. corporate offices, the
NRC reviewed a Wyle Laboratories aging report on certain K-M equipment
including model NZMH6 MCCBs (rated for 100 amperes and less).  The report
indicated that the support lever in one of these MCCBs (made of the same
material as those that failed at North Anna) failed in a similar manner after
excessive accelerated thermal aging.  The model NZMH6 in which the support
lever failed had been aged for a total of 2280 hours at 125 C [257 F],
indicating that a support lever of the same material could fail after an
equivalent amount of thermal aging degradation.  However, other model NZMH6
MCCBs, rated at 100 amperes or less, did not fail after aging at 125 C [257 F]
for 1104 hours.  These latter aging parameters were intended to simulate 18
years at an average ambient service temperature of 59 C [138 F].  This ambient
service temperature assumed a 40 C [104 F] ambient temperature with a heat
rise of 19 C [34 F].

Using the accellerated thermal aging parameters and postulated service
temperature and life of the MCCBs that did not fail, an activation energy can
be determined and used to calculate an approximate expected service life (with
an equivalent amount of thermal aging degradation) at any given ambient
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service temperature.  Similarly, using the same activation energy derived in
the first calculation, and using the thermal aging parameters of the failed
MCCB at a given ambient temperature, an approximate service life can be
determined for which acceptable breaker performance is less certain.

VEPCO has reported that the failed MCCBs at North Anna had been subjected to
room ambient temperature averaging between about 38 C [100 F] and 49 C 
[120 F] in the summer for about 13 years.  When air conditioning was installed
in 1990, the average ambient temperature in this area was reduced to about
27 C [80 F].  The heat rise at these MCCBs was not reported, but the MCCBs
were not normally under more load than that of valve position indicating
lights.  The Klockner-Moeller failure analysis assumed a lifetime ambient
temperature of only 27 C [80 F].  However, because the amount of thermal
degradation alone that would be expected in the support levers that failed at
North Anna under these conditions is less than that experienced by the Wyle
specimens that did not fail, and because the breakers in both instances had
been cycled much less than the design limit, the presence of some other
factor(s) in the North Anna case is suspected.

VEPCO has made inquiries regarding these MCCBs on the Nuclear Network and
other industry forums.  Five utilities that had similar MCCBs, for nonsafety
related applications and safety-related applications, responded that they did
not have records of similar failures.  The manufacturer records indicated that
similar K-M model MCCBs were sold to six nuclear utilities for safety-related
applications.  Others have been sold as commercial grade through distributors. 
However, K-M stated that they had not received reports of similar failures.  

The proximate cause of the failures at North Anna is generally agreed upon by
the parties involved to be cyclic stress fatigue.  However, the lack of other
failures in the industry also suggests that other contributing factors such as
temperature or chemical exposure may need to be present to cause failure with
so few cycles.  More rapid than expected thermal aging or chemical exposure,
or a combination of the two (possibly with synergistic effects), may cause
weakening or embrittlement of the material in the support lever of 100-amp or
less-rated NZM6, NZM6b, and NZMH6 K-M model MCCBs such that the support lever
can fail prematurely, i.e., with significantly fewer cycles than the design
value..

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This information notice requires no specific action or written response.  If
you have any question about the information in this notice, please contact the
technical contact listed below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear Reactor
Regulation (NRR) project manager.


                              ORIGINAL SIGNED BY


                              Brian K. Grimes, Director
                              Division of Operating Reactor Support
                              Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical contact:  Stephen Alexander, NRR
                    (301) 504-2995

Attachment:  
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