United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment


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U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, REGION I

475 Allendale Road, King of Prussia, Pa. 19406

CONTACT: Diane Screnci (610)337-5330/ e-mail: dps@nrc.gov
Neil A. Sheehan (610)337-5331/e-mail: nas@nrc.gov

I-97-20 March 6, 1997

NRC STAFF ISSUES CONFIRMATORY ACTION LETTER TO

GPU NUCLEAR CORPORATION

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has sent a letter to GPU Nuclear Corporation confirming commitments the company has made concerning the quality classification of equipment at its Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pa., and at its Oyster Creek plant in Forked River, N.J.

During inspections from January 6 through March 2, NRC inspectors questioned the classification of selected plant components at Three Mile Island (TMI). Nuclear power plants classify components as safety related or non-safety related to ensure proper parts replacement, along with appropriate verification of maintenance and testing activities. As a result of an NRC review, the licensee determined that a number of safety-related components were downgraded from safety-related to a lower tier classification without appropriate safety evaluations. Other components were downgraded without the needed supporting engineering documentation. The utility's downgrade program was initiated by the GPU Nuclear corporate organization and it applied to both TMI and Oyster Creek.

In a letter to the utility, NRC Region I Administrator, Hubert J. Miller said, "The NRC is concerned about the potential implications of the inappropriate equipment classification downgrades. Moreover, we are concerned about the poor implementation of the component classification process, as well as related weaknesses in procedure adherence and communications. We are also concerned about the ineffective oversight of the process by management, especially related to not taking prompt action to evaluate and resolve program problems identified by your own quality assurance activities."

GPU Nuclear agreed to:

Immediately take steps to preclude additional instances of inappropriate equipment classification downgrades by 1) stopping further programmatic equipment downgrades until procedure and training upgrades are completed; and 2) establishing a process for reviewing daily maintenance work involving equipment that was reclassified to ensure that parts of the correct quality classification are used.

Determine the impact of the equipment classification downgrade program at TMI and Oyster Creek. This report must be sent to the Regional Administrator on or before April 30.

Perform an assessment by July 1, involving outside contractors and at least one member of its general office review board, of the equipment classification downgrading process to determine the root causes of the weaknesses in the process and to determine why past findings in this area by the Quality Assurance group were not promptly addressed. The licensee then will determine what changes to the engineering process are necessary based on the results of this assessment.

GPU Nuclear will meet with the NRC staff on or before July 18 to discuss its assessment.

Issuance of the confirmatory action letter does not preclude issuance of an order formalizing the commitments or requiring other actions. In addition, it does not preclude the NRC from taking enforcement action for violations of NRC requirements that have prompted issuance of the letter.

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