United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 97-43: License Condition Compliance

                                 UNITED STATES
                         NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                     OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
                           WASHINGTON, DC 20555-0001

                                 July 1, 1997


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 97-43:  LICENSE CONDITION COMPLIANCE


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 various potential problems found by the NRC
staff while reviewing the license conditions for various plants.  It is
expected that recipients will review the information for applicability to
their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to correct or avoid
similar problems, no specific action or written response is required.  

Description of Circumstances

One of the many actions taken by the NRC in response to the discovery that
some licensees were failing to operate their facilities as described in the
plant final safety analysis report (FSAR), was to conduct a brief review of
licensee compliance with the specific conditions listed in the plant operating
license.  The review found that some licensees are routinely updating the
plant license by deleting conditions that have been complied with and by
modifying other conditions, as necessary.  However, the review also identified
a few plant-specific issues which are discussed below.  The review also raised
a number of questions that are addressed in the "Discussion" section of this
information notice.

1.  Radiation Monitoring

A license condition for a boiling-water reactor (BWR) states that "A prompt
investigation by the company shall be required whenever radiation in the sock
tank area exceeds 50 mr/hr."

The licensee currently only monitors the radiation levels in the sock tank (a
component in the spent fuel pool cleaning process) area during fuel movement,
so the plant staff would not be aware if the tank area radiation levels were
greater than 50 mr/hr at any other times (as implied by the word "whenever" in
the license condition).  Although pre-licensing correspondence implies that
the intent of the license condition might have originally been to monitor tank
radiation levels only during fuel movement, the words of the license condition
do not reflect that intent.


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2.  Valve Positioning

The license condition at a BWR states that "Valves in the equalizer piping
between recirculation loops shall be closed at all times during reactor
operation."

At the plant in question, there are four valves in the equalizer piping, two
larger valves in series, and two smaller bypass valves that are in parallel
with the respective larger valves.  Currently, during reactor operations, the
licensee keeps the two large valves shut but keeps the bypass around the
larger valves open to prevent a pressure buildup in the piping between the
larger valves.  

The updated FSAR indicates that the reason for the license condition is to
ensure that only the larger valves are not open, thereby avoiding a potential
recirculation pump runout situation.  However, the words of the license
condition do not reflect that intent.

3.  Startup Testing

A pressurized-water reactor (PWR) has a license condition that, in part,
states that "Prior to exceeding 90 percent power,...shall perform a test
program to show that unacceptable waterhammer damage will not result from
anticipated feedwater system transients to the steam generator."

The use of the word "anticipated" would imply that this license condition was
meant as a one-time preoperational test and that the licensee completed its
obligation under the condition when the initial test was performed.  However,
the fact that this test was not included under either the license condition
titled "Special Low Power Test Program," or under another titled "Initial Test
Program," and does not contain language such as that found in yet another
license condition "complete the preoperational testing," argues for
waterhammer testing as a continuing obligation under the license.

Discussion

These examples indicate a need for some licensees to reexamine the conditions
of their licenses to ensure they are complying with the specific wording of
each license condition.  If, in the opinion of the licensee, the wording does
not adequately reflect the original intent of the condition, the licensee
should submit a license amendment to change the wording of the condition to
adequately reflect the actions intended, in the licensee's opinion, by that
license condition.

In addition to the plant-specific issues raised above, a number of other
potential issues emerged from the license condition review:
                                                                              
1.  Antitrust License Conditions

The licenses of many plants contain a condition that requires the licensee to
comply with antitrust requirements.  Occasionally, rather than specifying
requirements, such license
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conditions may only reference agreements between the potentially affected
parties on how compliance will be achieved.  As a general matter, the NRC has
not inspected compliance with such agreements and has only involved itself in
antitrust compliance when potential violations of such requirements are
raised.  Nonetheless, because such requirements are license conditions,
licensees have a continuing obligation to comply with them.  Given that for
some plants such agreements are 20 to 30 years old, if the agreements
currently referenced in the license do not accurately reflect how antitrust
compliance is being achieved, the licensee needs to place itself in compliance
with those requirements or seek to have the license condition appropriately
modified.   

2.  Environmental License Conditions

As used herein, the term "environmental" is meant to apply to those
environmental license conditions that are not radiological in nature.  An
example would be compliance with State and/or Federal water thermal discharge
requirements which do not directly relate to reactor or radiological safety. 
Again, as a general matter, the NRC does not inspect compliance with such
requirements.  Historically, the NRC has only become involved when compliance
matters in this area if compliance or noncompliance potentially affected
safety-related parameters, such as ultimate heat sink level or temperature. 
However, if compliance with such requirements is a license condition, the
licensee has a ongoing obligation to the NRC to comply with the requirements.  
Therefore, the licensee must ensure that any deviation from those
requirements, such as an exemption or an exception, found acceptable by State
or other Federal authorities having jurisdiction over such matters is
adequately reflected in the plant's NRC operating license.

3.  Technical Specification Changes

In a number of recent cases, licensees have sought changes to their Technical
Specifications (TS) but have failed to make corresponding or necessary changes
to the wording of specific license conditions.  One such area involves plant
staff hours of work.  Licensees have proposed changes to the TS to allow for
12-hour rather than 8-hour shifts, adequately justified the changes, and then
overlooked similar requirements in the license conditions that needed to be
changed to maintain consistency.     

All of the examples described above highlight the importance of understanding
what is contained in the conditions of a plant's operating license and the
need to periodically verify compliance with those conditions.  The number and
detail of the conditions on a specific license vary from license to license,
depending upon factors such as when the plant was licensed and when the issues
were raised during the licensing of the plant.  Therefore, all or none of the
potential issues raised above or others may apply to a specific plant license.
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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 contact listed below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear
Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager.


                                       signed by S.H. Weiss for

                                    Marylee M. Slosson, Acting Director
                                    Division of Reactor Program Management
                                    Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical contact:  James Luehman, NRR
                    301-415-3150
                    E-mail:  jgl@nrc.gov
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, December 03, 2013