United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 95-23: Control Room Staffing Below Minimum Regulatory Requirements

                                 UNITED STATES
                        NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION 
                     OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
                          WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555-0001

                                April 24, 1995


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 95-23:  CONTROL ROOM STAFFING BELOW MINIMUM
                               REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS


Addressees

All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power
reactors and all licensed operators and senior operators at those reactors.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to several instances in which control room staffing
fell below regulatory requirements.  It is expected that recipients will
review the information for applicability to their facilities and consider
actions, as appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  This information notice
establishes no new NRC requirements; therefore, no specific action or written
response is required.

Description of Circumstances

From 1992 through 1994, a number of events occurred where facilities failed to
maintain the required number of licensed reactor operators (ROs) or senior
reactor operators (SROs) in the control room or at the controls of the
facility as required by 10 CFR 50.54(k), 10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii), and facility
Technical Specifications and procedures.

On June 3, 1992, the senior nuclear shift supervisor (a licensed SRO) at Hope
Creek turned over responsibility for the control room to the nuclear shift
supervisor (also a licensed SRO) in order to attend a staff meeting.  Sometime
later, the nuclear shift supervisor, believing that he had turned over command
of the control room to another licensed SRO, in this case the shift technical
advisor, left the control room to check an equipment problem in the plant. 
The shift technical advisor, believing that the turnover of responsibility was
yet to occur, returned to the work control office outside the control room. 
The nuclear shift supervisor and the shift technical advisor left the control
room via different exits, thinking that the other would remain in the control
room.  The ROs noted their absence and paged the shift technical advisor, who
returned within 3 minutes.  

On October 9, 1992, the only SRO in the Nine Mile Point 1 control room (the
shift supervisor) violated 10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii) when he left the control
room for 5 minutes with the plant at full power.

On February 14, 1993, the only SRO in the South Texas Project Unit 2 control
room (the unit supervisor) violated 10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii) when he left the 

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control room to observe an RO perform a portion of a surveillance procedure.  
The unit supervisor was gone for about 40 seconds while the plant was in hot
shutdown; he immediately realized his error and returned to the control room.

On October 14, 1993, the control room staffing at the Byron Station went below
the minimum requirements in 10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii) for approximately  
22 minutes while one unit was shutdown and the other unit was at full power. 
The senior control room engineer (a licensed SRO) in charge of the dual-unit
control room was relieved by the Unit 2 shift foreman (a licensed SRO not
usually stationed in the control room) for a routine facility tour.  The  
Unit 2 shift foreman, then the only SRO in the control room, subsequently left
to investigate an equipment problem.  The ROs did not realize that an SRO was
not present until an equipment operator contacted the control room to speak to
the senior control room engineer.  The Unit 2 shift foreman subsequently
returned to the control room.

On April 22, 1994, the licensed operators at H. B. Robinson violated 
10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii) when they all vacated the "at the controls" area for a
period of 5 to 10 seconds while the plant was at full power.  The on-duty
shift technical advisor, who was not a licensed RO or SRO, noted that the last
operator had departed and informed that operator that he was required to stay
in the "at the controls" area.  The operator returned immediately.  

On September 28, 1994, the nuclear shift supervisor at the Hope Creek Station,
who had responsibility for the control room, inadvertently walked out of the
control room to the adjacent work control office for approximately 18 seconds,
thereby leaving the control room with no SRO with an active license.

On November 28, 1994, the control room staffing at Shearon Harris fell below
the minimum requirements in 10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii) for approximately  
4 minutes while the plant was at power.  The 2 ROs on shift vacated the
control room, leaving the SRO and 3 nonlicensed operators to watch the plant. 
The nonlicensed operators were assigned to the primary and balance-of-plant 
controls and to the SRO desk.  Each was in training under the direct
supervision of a licensed RO, but they were not performing any licensed duties
at the time.  When the trainee at the balance-of-plant position realized that
he was without the direct supervision of a licensed operator, the SRO paged an
RO to return to the control room.


Discussion

10 CFR 50.54(k) and 10 CFR 50.54(m)(2)(iii) require that an SRO be in the
control room at all times when a nuclear power unit is in an operational mode
other than cold shutdown or refueling.  In addition to that SRO, the
regulations further require that an RO or another SRO be present at the
controls at all times.  Furthermore, 10 CFR 55.53(d) states that all licensed
operators are subject to, and must observe, all applicable rules, regulations,
and orders of the NRC.   The NRC has taken enforcement action against both
facility licensees and individual licensed operators for failing to meet these
requirements in certain of the above instances.  

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Several facilities have identified root causes of failing to meet manning
requirements; those causes span human error, inadequate communications, lack
of understanding of proficiency watch requirements, false perceptions of
adequate shift staffing, and failure to understand supervisory
responsibilities.  Among the corrective actions and preventive measures
licensees have adopted to address this problem are counseling and discipline,
specific training on regulatory requirements, and physical adaptations to
security cards such as clips or bands that serve as reminders to operators not
to leave the control room.  

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

                                    /s/'d by CIGrimes/for


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

Technical contacts:  Stuart A. Richards, NRR
                     (301) 415-1031

                     Neal K. Hunemuller, NRR
                     (301) 415-1152 
                  
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