Information Notice No. 89-72: Failure of Licensed Senior Operators to Classify Emergency Events Properly

                                UNITED STATES
                           WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                              October 24, 1989

                                   CLASSIFY EMERGENCY EVENTS PROPERLY 


All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power 
reactors and all licensed operators of nuclear power reactors. 


The purpose of this notice is to alert addressees to potential problems 
related to failures of licensed control room senior operators to classify 
events properly using the site-specific emergency plan implementing 
procedures.  It is expected that recipients will review the information for 
applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to 
avoid similar problems.  Suggestions contained in this information notice do 
not constitute NRC requirements; therefore, no specific action or written 
response is required. 

Description of Circumstances: 

The NRC has identified inaccurate emergency action level classifications 
during operator examinations and during emergency exercises.  NRC 
requalification examinations, conducted earlier this year with typical 
operating shift crews, identified at several plants the failure of licensed 
senior operators to properly classify events on the basis of plant 
conditions presented on the control room simulator.  Also, several events 
were improperly classified, based on simulated plant conditions, during the 
course of NRC requalification examinations or evaluations of emergency 
exercises.  Recently, one nuclear power station was issued a civil penalty 
because shift supervisors did not know how to classify emergency events 

Such classification problems have also occurred during actual events.  At 
one facility, in January 1989, an Alert was not declared (as it should have 
been) during a reactor coolant system leakage situation that occurred while 
the reactor was in a cold shutdown condition. 


It is essential that operators be able to recognize degraded plant 
conditions, classify the emergency on the basis of those conditions, and 
activate emergency response capabilities of the utility and offsite 
organizations at the appropriate emergency action level.  Demonstrating 
knowledge of the emergency plan, 


                                                            IN 89-72 
                                                            October 24, 1989
                                                            Page 2 of 2 

including the responsibility to decide whether the plan should be executed, 
is required by 10 CFR 55.45, "Operating Tests."  Requalification 
examinations and emergency exercises have been administered by the NRC under 
the shift team format at numerous facilities at which licensed senior 
operators were required to demonstrate this competence. 

At several facilities there has been lack of emphasis, during operator 
requalification training, on the bases of and strategies for the 
implementation of the emergency plan.  This weakness has led to the problems 
noted above.  The NRC has noted a direct correlation between inadequate 
training and incorrect performance by licensed operators.  At facilities 
where licensed senior operators satisfactorily passed the requalification 
examination, the training program included intensive simulator training on 
event classification as opposed to relying solely on classroom exercises and 

The root causes for classification errors are attributable to implementing 
procedures that are not "user friendly" and to ineffective training methods.  
Implementing procedures are sometimes difficult to interpret and, in some 
cases, it was apparent that licensed operators had not received sufficient 
training in event classification to understand and implement the guidance 
provided.  It is important that licensees ensure the usability of event 
classification procedures and the effectiveness of training in those 

This information notice requires no specific action or written response.  If
you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact 
the technical contact listed below or the appropriate NRR project manager. 

                              Charles E. Rossi, Director 
                              Division of Operational Events Assessment 
                              Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation 

Technical Contact:  C. Casto, Region II
                    (404) 331-5594

Attachment:  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices


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