United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC Staff Proposes $330,000 Fine Against Commonwealth Edison for Violations of NRC Requirements at Zion Nuclear Station



NRC Seal NRC NEWS

U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, REGION III

801 Warrenville Road, Lisle IL 60532

CONTACT:    Jan Strasma (630) 829-9663/e-mail: rjs2@nrc.gov
Angela Dauginas (630) 829-9662/e-mail: opa3@nrc.gov

NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT: RIII-97-79

September 3, 1997

NRC STAFF PROPOSES $330,000 FINE AGAINST COMMONWEALTH EDISON
FOR VIOLATIONS OF NRC REQUIREMENTS AT ZION NUCLEAR STATION

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $330,000 fine against Commonwealth Edison Company for violations associated with two incidents in February and March at the Zion Nuclear Power Station. The plant, which has two reactor units, is in Zion, Illinois.

The first incident occurred February 21 when a reactor operator improperly inserted control rods into the Unit 1 reactor core during a plant shutdown. Then, without conferring with plant supervisors, he began to withdraw the control rods to return the reactor to a very low power level.

A contributing factor in the control rod incident was an excessive number of persons in the control room at the time which impaired the formality of control room operations and management.

In notifying the utility of the proposed fine, NRC Regional Administrator A. Bill Beach said the violations in the February 21 incident "reflect a breakdown in management oversight and control of operational activities."

In the second incident, the plant staff determined on March 7 that gases had accumulated at the top of the Unit 2 reactor, which had been shut down since September of last year. The gas accumulation formed a bubble that lowered the level of cooling water in the reactor. The water level, however, was still well above the top of the reactor fuel.

"The actual safety consequences of these events were low," Beach said. He noted, though, that the "regulatory significance" of the two events was high because they could have been avoided if plant procedures had been followed and if effective corrective actions had been taken after earlier problems.

Both Zion units remain shut down while the utility completes an extensive program to improve the performance of plant staff and management. Maintenance and modifications on plant safety systems are also being performed.

In the February 21 incident, the utility was cited for failing to follow plant operating procedures during the shutdown and for failing to take adequate corrective actions from previous incidents involving control rod movements. A $110,000 fine was proposed for each of these two citations.

A third $110,000 fine was proposed for failing to take adequate corrective actions to preclude the buildup of gases in the Unit 2 reactor. A similar incident had occurred last September. The plant staff had developed procedures to avoid the gas accumulation, but the procedures had not been put into effect.

Commonwealth Edison has until October 3 to pay the fine or protest it. If the fine is protested and subsequently imposed by the NRC staff, the utility may request a hearing.

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