United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC Staff Proposes $110,000 Fine for Fitness-for-Duty Violations at Zion Nuclear Power 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 Greenman (630) 829-9662/e-mail: opa3@nrc.gov

NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT: RIII-98-07

January 16, 1998

NRC STAFF PROPOSES $110,000 FINE FOR FITNESS-FOR-DUTY VIOLATIONS AT ZION NUCLEAR POWER STATION

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $110,000 fine against Commonwealth Edison Company for violations of the utility's fitness-for-duty program at the Zion Nuclear Power Station located in Zion, Illinois.

The utility was cited for several instances when the Zion staff did not follow the fitness-for-duty procedures when an employee consumed alcohol prior to reporting for work.

The fitness-for-duty program provides procedures and guidance to assure that Zion plant workers are not impaired by drug or alcohol use or other problems.

In February of last year, a supervisor failed to ask an employee, as required, if the employee had consumed alcohol within the last five hours prior to directing them to report to the plant. The employee likewise failed to inform the supervisor, as required, that alcohol had been consumed within the preceding five hours. While at the plant, the smell of alcohol was noted on the employee but plant supervisors failed to require testing. The employee was escorted to the plant exit area within a half hour of arrival.

Between September of 1996 and June of last year there were several instances when employees failed to notify supervisors as required when the odor of alcohol was detected on co-workers.

Commonwealth Edison identified and investigated the February incident as a result of an allegation. During an NRC inspection in June and September of last year, NRC inspectors identified that the weaknesses in Zion's implementation of the fitness-for-duty program were programmatic in nature.

"Fortuitously, the safety and risk significance of these specific violations was low because the individuals had not or were not performing safety related activities at the time the smell of alcohol was detected," said A. Bill Beach, NRC Regional Administrator, in notifying the utility of the fine.

"However, the regulatory and potential safety significance was high because failure to implement [fitness-for-duty] procedures allowed individuals who may have been unfit for duty to enter and remain in the protected area without an adequate evaluation and without mandatory for-cause testing being accomplished," he added.

Mr. Beach also noted that the utility's corrective actions were inadequate to address the fitness-for-duty programmatic breakdown. The utility's corrective actions only addressed the individual employee failures and did not encompass the findings of the Zion station's investigation.

As a result of the inadequate corrective actions NRC staff escalated the base civil penalty by 100%, for a total of $110,000.

Commonwealth Edison has until February 14 to pay the fine or to protest it. If the fine is protested and subsequently imposed by the NRC staff, the utility may request a hearing.

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