United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-443 - BWX Technologies

November 28, 1997

EA 97-443

BWX Technologies
ATTN: Mr. J. A. Conner Vice
President & General Manager
Naval Nuclear Fuel Division
P. O. Box 785
Lynchburg, VA 24505-0785

               (NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 70-27/97-08)

Dear Mr. Conner:

This letter refers to an inspection conducted by this office on July 6 through September 15, 1997, at the Naval Nuclear Fuel Division (NNFD) facility in Lynchburg, Virginia. The inspection included a review of the facts and circumstances surrounding an event in which Uranium-235 (U-235) mass limits were exceeded on an accountability transfer cart. The event was reported to the NRC on July 28, 1997, in accordance with NRC Bulletin 91-01. On August 1, 1997, a Confirmatory Action Letter was issued confirming NNFD's decision to suspend the repackaging and transfer of metallurgical mounts and complete a root cause investigation. The results of the inspection were transmitted to NNFD by letter dated October 9, 1997. This letter also provided NNFD the option of providing a written response or attending a predecisional enforcement conference to address the apparent violations, their cause, and corrective actions to preclude recurrence. At NNFD's request, on November 20, 1997, a predecisional enforcement conference was held at the Region II office. A listing a conference attendees and copies of NNFD and NRC presentation materials are enclosed.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information provided during the conference, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. The violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding them are described in detail in the subject inspection report. They involve three instances where NNFD failed to conduct activities involving licensed material in accordance with written and approved instructions as required by Section 2.7 of the license application. Specifically, the violations were associated with: (1) the failure to comply with criticality safety limits specified for an accountability transfer cart in three of four storage locations; (2) the use of unapproved instructions for handling metallurgical mounts containing U-235; and (3) the failure to follow procedures and discontinue operations when personnel determined that processing activities for the metallurgical mounts were not addressed by procedure. At the conference, NNFD admitted the violations and stated that the root causes of the July 26-28, 1997 event were inadequate supervisory oversight of activities, use of multi-tier criticality safety limits without sufficient operator guidance, and the use of unauthorized instructions.

Based on NNFD's subsequent criticality safety analysis of the as-discovered storage conditions on the transfer cart, the actual and potential safety consequences of exceeding the criticality safety limits for the material configuration in this event were low. The NRC concurs with this conclusion. However, collectively, the violations are of significant regulatory concern in that they represent a breakdown in the criticality safety process and a lack of management control over the metallurgical mount activities conducted on July 26-28, 1997. Although the sorting and repackaging of metallurgical mounts was an infrequently performed activity, appropriate supervisory and procedural guidance were not instituted to properly control the activities. As discussed at the conference, the operators involved in the event attempted to conduct activities properly by asking questions regarding their activities; however, due to miscommunications and the lack of proper procedures, those efforts failed. In addition, the failure of the operators to discontinue operations when the Jaw Crushing Procedure did not adequately address the activities they were performing indicated a lack of emphasis on the importance of procedural compliance. The multiple weaknesses revealed by the July event are of paramount concern because they resulted in the violation of nuclear criticality safety limits that were established to prevent criticality events. Therefore, in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, the violations described in the enclosed Notice have been categorized in the aggregate as a Severity Level III problem.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $13,750 is considered for a Severity Level III problem. Because NNFD has not been the subject of escalated enforcement action in the last two years, the NRC considered whether credit was warranted for Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process described in Section VII.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy. As described in detail in the subject inspection report and the information provided by NNFD at the conference, corrective actions included, in part: (1) prompt removal of the excess material from the transfer cart under the supervision of a nuclear safety engineer; (2) suspension of activities involving the transfer and repackaging of metallurgical mounts and conduct of a prompt and thorough root cause investigation; (3) revision of jaw crushing procedures to clearly delineate requirements; (4) issuance of a lessons learned report to plant personnel who handle special nuclear material (SNM) and a management directive stressing the use of the formal procedure system; (5) addition of a Recovery Supervisor to the third shift; (6) review of all multicontainer limited systems in the plant and reduction of the criticality limits on 17 systems to a single container; (7) increased use of engineered controls; (8) simplification of criticality safety limit postings; (9) implementation of a computerized inventory system for vault storage; and (10) planned implementation of a new transfer cart design. In view of these actions, the NRC concluded that credit is warranted for Corrective Action.

Therefore, to encourage prompt and comprehensive corrective actions and in recognition of the absence of previous escalated enforcement action, I have been authorized, after consultation with the Director, Office of Enforcement, not to issue a civil penalty in this case. However, significant violations in the future could result in a civil penalty.

At the conference, members of the NNFD staff discussed three additional issues relating to the accuracy of the subject inspection report. These issues are discussed in Enclosure 2. This letter and Enclosure 2 clarify the record with respect to these statements.

You are required to respond to this letter and should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice when preparing your response. In your response, you should document the specific actions taken and any additional actions you plan to prevent recurrence. After reviewing your response to this Notice, including your proposed corrective actions and the results of future inspections, the NRC will determine whether further NRC enforcement action is necessary to ensure compliance with NRC regulatory requirements.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter, its enclosures, and your response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR). To the extent possible, your response should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be placed in the PDR without redaction.

Should you have any questions concerning this letter, please contact us.


                              Original Signed by B.S. Mallett for

                              Luis A. Reyes
                              Regional Administrator

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

1. Notice of Violation
2. Licensee Comments on NRC Inspection Report No. 70-27/97-08
3. List of Conference Attendees
4. NNFD Presentation Materials
5. NRC Presentation Materials

cc w/encls:
A. F. Olsen
Licensing Officer
BWX Technologies
Naval Nuclear Fuel Division
P. O. Box 785
Lynchburg, VA 24505-0785

Leslie P. Foldesi, Director
Bureau of Radiological Health
Division of Health Hazards Control
Department of Health
109 Governor Street, Room 916
Richmond, BA 23219

BWX Technologies                                            Docket No.  70-27 
Lynchburg, Virginia                                         License No. SNM-42
                                                            EA 97-443 

During an NRC inspection conducted on July 6 through September 15, 1997, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions," NUREG-1600, the violations are listed below:

License Condition S-1 of Special Nuclear Material License No. 42 (SNM-42) requires that licensed materials be used in accordance with the statements, representations, and conditions contained in Chapters 1 through 8 of the application submitted by letter dated July 14, 1995, and supplements dated August 4, 9, 21, and 29, and November 9, 1995; February 1, March 15 and 20, April 15, May 1 (two letters), September 23, and December 4, 1996; and January 31, 1997.

Chapter 2.7 of the License Application requires activities involving licensed material to be conducted in accordance with written and approved procedures.

A. Nuclear Criticality Safety Procedure (NCS) - 01, Limits and Controls, Revision 2, provides, in part, that all requirements of criticality safety posting and signs and criticality safety requirements in operating documents shall be followed.

The Criticality Safety Sign for the Accountability Transfer Cart, NRCART-10, Revision 0, dated October 3, 1994, specified a limit of 350 grams of Uranium-235 (U-235) per storage location when the hydrogen to uranium ratio, H/X, is greater than 20 (no moderation restriction).

Contrary to the above, from July 26 through 28, 1997, the licensee failed to comply with requirements of NRCART-10 in that three of the four storage locations contained U-235 in quantities greater than 350 grams of U-235 with each having an H/X ratio of greater than 20. Specifically, the three storage locations contained 684.50 grams of U-235 with an H/X of 127; 907.34 grams of U-235 with an H/X of 156; and 728.39 grams of U-235 with an H/X of 191, respectively. (01013)

B. Contrary to the above, on July 26, 1997, operations involving licensed material were not conducted in accordance with written and approved procedures. Specifically, activities involving the handling of metallurgical mounts containing licensed material were performed with unapproved instructions. (01023)

C. Paragraph 4.2.8 of Procedure E61-166, Jaw Crushing Operation, Revision 5, provides, in part, that if fuel handing, processing, storing or movement is not addressed by this document or applicable nuclear safety procedures, then (1) stop operations, and (2) tell supervision.

Contrary to the above, on July 26, 1997, activities involving licensed material were not conducted in accordance with approved procedures in that operations were not stopped, as required by Procedure E61-166, when operators determined that Paragraph 5.9 of the procedure did not adequately address processing operations for filler metallurgical mounts. (01033)

The violations constitute a Severity Level III problem (Supplement VI).

Pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.201, BWX Technologies is hereby required to submit a written statement or explanation to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region II, and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the Naval Nuclear Fuel Division facility, within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice). This reply should be clearly marked as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation" and should include for each violation: (1) the reason for the violation, or, if contested, the basis for disputing the violation, (2) the corrective steps that have been taken and the results achieved, (3) the corrective steps that will be taken to avoid further violations, and (4) the date when full compliance will be achieved. Your response may reference or include previously docketed correspondence, if the correspondence adequately addresses the required response. If an adequate reply is not received within the time specified in this Notice, an order or a Demand for Information may be issued as to why the license should not be modified, suspended, or revoked, or why such other action as may be proper should not be taken. Where good cause is shown, consideration will be given to extending the response time.

Under the authority of Section 182 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 2232, this response shall be submitted under oath or affirmation.

Because your response will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR), to the extent possible, it should not include any personal privacy, proprietary, or safeguards information so that it can be placed in the PDR without redaction. 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.

Dated at Atlanta, Georgia
this 28th day of November 1997



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