United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-03-119 - BWX Technologies, Inc.

PROPRIETARY INFORMATION REMOVED

August 11, 2003

EA-03-119

BWX Technologies, Inc.
ATTN: Mr. W. D. Nash, Vice President
and General Manager
Nuclear Products Division
P.O. Box 785
Lynchburg, VA 24505-0785

SUBJECT: NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND EXERCISE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION (NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 70-27/2003-04)

Dear Mr. Nash:

This refers to the inspection conducted from April 6 through May 17, 2003, at the Nuclear Products Division facility. The purpose of the inspection was to determine whether activities authorized by the license were conducted safely and in accordance with NRC requirements. The preliminary results of the inspection were documented in the subject inspection report and forwarded to you by letter dated June 12, 2003. By letter of June 18, 2003, BWXT was informed of our intent to conduct a closed, predecisional, enforcement conference to discuss two apparent violations involving the May 11, 2003, discovery that six detectors covering three Criticality Monitoring System (CMS) detection areas were inoperable.

On July 17, 2003, a closed, predecisional, enforcement conference was conducted in the NRC's Region II office with you and members of your staff to discuss the apparent violations, their significance, their root causes, and your corrective actions. The list of conference attendees and information presented at the conference are included as enclosures to this letter.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information you provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. These violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding them are described in detail in the subject inspection report. Violation A involved BWXT's failure to maintain a CMS capable of energizing a clearly audible signal if an accidental criticality were to occur as required by Safety Condition S-1 of your NRC license. Violation B involved the failure to conduct a functional test of the CMS as required by procedures.

During the conference, your staff presented a chronology of the event, a comprehensive description of the CMS, the results of your Investigation Team's historical review and root cause analysis of the event, and a listing of corrective actions that had been taken or planned. A focal point of your presentation included the assumptions for the accident mechanism and peak fission rates that BWXT used in its analysis to determine whether CMS detector coverage satisfied regulatory requirements even though six CMS detectors had failed.

BWXT conducted a historical review of criticality accidents and the type of materials stored and processed at its facility to determine the fission rate profile of the most credible and realistic Minimum Accident of Concern (MAOC). BWXT contended that the MAOC discussed in industry codes and standards yielded a steady-state moderated-fission-rate profile, without an initial pulse, that would be extremely difficult to accomplish outside a reactor with a feedback control system (i.e., incredible) and is inconsistent with the materials stored and processed in the impaired areas (i.e., waste areas). As such, BWXT concluded that the most credible and realistic MAOC was one that involved an initial pulse followed by a moderated fission rate. BWXT asserted that this realistic and credible MAOC would have been detected by the remaining detectors and would have initiated the evacuation howlers. Based on this assumption, BWXT concluded that regulatory requirements for CMS detector coverage were satisfied.

The NRC has conducted a thorough review of the information presented by BWXT at the conference. The NRC agrees, in part, with BWXT's methodology involving the use of an initial pulse followed by a moderated fission rate as this fission rate profile represents a valid and credible criticality accident scenario. Although less likely to occur, criticality accidents such as those resembling the steady-state moderated-fission-rate profile as discussed at the conference are within the spectrum of criticality accidents for which the CMS detectors were required to energize a clearly audible signal. The NRC concluded that BWXT's CMS detectors would not have been capable of energizing a clearly audible signal in cases involving certain criticality accidents that produce steady-state moderated-fission-rate profiles and that this issue represents a violation of Safety Condition S-1 of your NRC license.

BWXT agreed with the NRC's characterization of Violation B involving the failure to conduct a functional test of the CMS as required by procedures. BWXT also provided additional details on this issue.

Although no accidental criticality occurred, the NRC considers the potential safety significance of this matter to be significant. In this case, a system designed to prevent or mitigate a serious safety event was not able to perform its intended function under certain conditions. In consideration of this circumstance and because of the interrelationship of the two violations, the NRC has concluded that these violations should be characterized together as a Severity Level III problem in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $30,000 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Because your facility has been the subject of escalated enforcement action within the last 2 years,(1) the NRC considered whether credit was warranted for Identification and Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process in Section VI.C.2 of the Enforcement Policy.

Regarding the factor of Identification, the NRC concluded that this issue was identified as a result of an event precipitated by severe weather and was not the result of a self-initiated monitoring effort or routine surveillance activity. Furthermore, BWXT had prior opportunities to identify and resolve problems with the CMS that were highlighted, in part, by previous weather- related issues. As such, the NRC concluded that credit was not warranted for the factor of Identification. BWXT's corrective actions were discussed extensively at the conference, and in summary included interim procedural changes to require source checks after lightning storms and after any unplanned indication of a high or alert alarm, retraining of all technicians on the importance of performing source checks and on interim procedural changes, an extent of condition review of other systems that could have similar electronics, a complete revision of routine and response procedures, and the conduct of periodic reviews of maintenance records to identify recurring problems or issues which need to be factored into the maintenance program. BWXT also implemented additional management controls and oversight to ensure early management involvement when system trouble arises. Additionally, BWXT advised that the conduct of multiple system reviews by BWXT engineers and management, and by an outside consultant and vendors, along with wiring inspections have resulted in system hardware changes, upgrades, and consideration of a reduction in the number of detectors while still maintaining adequate detector coverage. Other corrective actions were discussed at the conference as well. Based on the above, the NRC concluded that BWXT's corrective actions were prompt and comprehensive, and credit was warranted for the factor of Corrective Action.

Based on the significance of the violations and in consideration of the factors of Identification and Corrective Action, normal application of the Enforcement Policy would result in the assessment of a base civil penalty in this case. However, application of the Enforcement Policy requires the exercise of judgement in determining the appropriate enforcement sanction. In this case, the civil penalty assessment process as described in the Enforcement Policy and discussed above would have the NRC consider the factor of Identification because of the NRC's issuance of a Severity Level III violation to BWXT on August 13, 2002. That enforcement action was issued in response to the actions of a maintenance worker who deliberately failed to follow a plant procedure requiring the use of respiratory protection while performing a maintenance activity. As a result, the worker received an unnecessary radiation dose (less than the annual limit on intake for internal whole body radiation exposure). The NRC holds licensees responsible for the acts of their employees, and in this case, the deliberate aspect of the violation coupled with the unnecessary exposure was viewed as significant and commensurate with a Severity Level III violation. However, the NRC recognized at the time that BWXT's procedural controls and management expectations prior to the maintenance worker's deliberate actions were appropriate and reasonable, the maintenance worker's actions did not occur as a result of any management involvement or lack of oversight, and BWXT's corrective actions in response to this issue were substantial and appropriate.

Given the circumstances of the previous enforcement action as described above, the NRC considers it appropriate to exercise enforcement discretion in accordance with Section VII.B.6 of the Enforcement Policy and forego consideration of the factor of Identification in its civil penalty assessment process. On the basis of this determination, the safety significance of the violations that are the subject of this Notice, and the prompt and comprehensive corrective actions taken by BWXT, a civil penalty in this case is not warranted. We also consider it appropriate to commend the initiative displayed by the instrument technician whose actions led to your identification of the monitor failures in this case and your formulation of the comprehensive corrective actions discussed at the conference.

Therefore, in consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, and in recognition of your prompt and comprehensive correction of violations, I have been authorized to propose that no civil penalty be assessed in this case. However, significant violations in the future could result in further escalated enforcement action. Issuance of this Notice constitutes escalated enforcement action that may subject you to increased inspection effort.

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is adequately addressed on the docket in NRC Inspection Report No. 70-27/2003-04, in the information presented at the conference by BWXT, and in this letter. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter unless the description herein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to provide additional information, you should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter and Enclosures 1, 2, and 3 will be available electronically for public inspection in the NRC Public Document Room or from the Publicly Available Records (PARS) component of NRC's document system (ADAMS). ADAMS is accessible from the NRC Web site at the Public NRC Library. The NRC also includes Issued Significant Enforcement Actions on its Web site. Enclosure 4 contains sensitive information associated with the BWXT material control and accounting program and physical protection program and, therefore, in accordance with 10 CFR 2.790(d), will not be made publicly available.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Douglas M. Collins, Director, Division of Nuclear Materials Safety, at 404-562-4700.

  Sincerely,
    /RA/
    Luis A. Reyes
Regional Administrator

Docket No. 70-27
License No. SNM-42

Enclosures:
1. Notice of Violation
2. List of Attendees
3. Material Presented by NRC
4. Material Presented by BWXT - 10 CFR 2.790 Information

cc w/encls:
Carl R. Yates
Manager, Licensing and Safety Analysis
BWX Technologies
P. O. Box 785
Lynchburg, VA 24505-0785

cc w/encls 1, 2, and 3 only:
Leslie P. Foldesi, Director
Bureau of Radiological Health
Division of Health Hazards Control
Department of Health
1500 East Main Street, Room 240
Richmond, VA 23219


PROPRIETARY INFORMATION REMOVED

NOTICE OF VIOLATION

BWX Technologies, Inc.
Lynchburg, VA
  Docket No. 70-27
License No. SNM-42
EA-03-119

During an NRC inspection conducted from April 6 through May 17, 2003, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violations are listed below:

A.

Safety Condition S-1 of NRC license SNM-42 authorizes the use of nuclear materials in accordance with Chapters 1-8 of the License Application submitted on July 14, 1995, and supplements thereto. Section 4.1.5 of the License Application states that BWXT shall maintain a criticality monitoring system capable of energizing a clearly audible signal if an accidental criticality occurs.

Contrary to the above, on May 10-11, 2003, the licensee failed to maintain a criticality monitoring system capable of energizing a clearly audible signal if an accidental criticality occurred. Specifically, following an electrical storm of May 10, 2003, it was determined, on May 11, 2003, that six criticality monitoring detectors were incapable of energizing a clearly audible alarm had a criticality accident occurred.

B.

Safety Condition S-1 of NRC license SNM-42 authorizes the use of nuclear materials in accordance with Chapters 1-8 of the License Application submitted on July 14, 1995, and supplements thereto. Section 2.7 of the License Application states that activities at the Nuclear Products Division site involving licensed material shall be conducted in accordance with written and approved procedures. Radiation Protection Procedure, RP 07-28, "Maintaining the Plant Criticality Monitoring System," requires that a functional check of the criticality monitoring system be performed following severe weather operation and indication of detector failure.

Contrary to the above, on May 10-11, 2003, the licensee failed to conduct a functional check of the criticality monitoring system following severe weather operation and indication of detector failure.

This is a Severity Level III Problem (Supplement VI).

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violation, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violation and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance was achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in NRC Inspection Report No. 70-27/2003-04, in the information presented at the conference by BWXT, and in this letter. However, you are required to submit a written statement or explanation pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201 if the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to respond, clearly mark your response as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation," EA-03-119, and send it to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, DC 20555-0001, with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region II within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice.

If you contest this enforcement action, you should also provide a copy of your response with the basis for your denial to the Director, Office of Enforcement, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Because any response will be made available electronically for public inspection in the NRC Public Document Room or from the Publicly Available Records (PARS) component of NRC's document system (ADAMS), to the extent possible, it should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be made available to the public without redaction. ADAMS is accessible from the NRC Web site at the Public NRC Library. If personal privacy or proprietary information is necessary to provide an acceptable response, then please provide a bracketed copy of your response that identifies the information that should be protected and a redacted copy of your response that deletes such information. If you request withholding of such material, you must specifically identify the portions of your response that you seek to have withheld and provide in detail the bases for your claim of withholding (e.g., explain why the disclosure of information will create an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy or provide the information required by 10 CFR 2.790(b) to support a request for withholding confidential commercial or financial information). If safeguards information is necessary to provide an acceptable response, please provide the level of protection described in 10 CFR 73.21.

In accordance with 10 CFR 19.11, you may be required to post this Notice within 2 working days.

Dated this 11th day of August 2003

DOCUMENT TRANSMITTED HEREWITH CONTAINS SENSITIVE UNCLASSIFIED INFORMATION WHEN SEPARATED FROM ENCLOSURE, THIS DOCUMENT IS DECONTROLLED


1. A Severity Level III violation was issued on August 13, 2002 (EA-02-145).

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