Information Notice No. 97-54: NRC Licensed Operators at Six Non-Power Reactor Facilities Allow their Operator Licenses to Expire

                                UNITED STATES
                           WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                                July 18, 1997



All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for test and
research reactors and all licensed operators at test and research reactor


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information
notice to alert addressees to the importance of ensuring that all persons who
operate non-power reactors have a valid, active Reactor Operator (RO) or
Senior Reactor Operator (SRO) license.   It is expected that recipients will
review this information for applicability to their facilities and consider
actions, as appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  However, suggestions
contained in this information notice are not NRC requirements; therefore, no
specific action or written response is required.


Part 50 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 50)
requires a RO or a SRO licensed pursuant to 10 CFR Part 55 of the regulations
to be present at the controls of a reactor facility at all times during
operation of the facility.  In addition, the Technical Specifications (TS) for
some facilities require individuals in specified staff positions to have an
active RO or SRO license.  The NRC issues licenses for 6 years based on the
requirements of 10 CFR Part 55.

Description of Circumstances

In January 1997, The Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) reactor
facility in Omaha, Nebraska, requested the NRC to terminate the license of the
Reactor Manager who had passed away on January 1, 1997.  While checking
operator licensing files, the NRC staff discovered that the new Reactor
Manager's SRO license had expired on July 2, 1996, and no application for
renewal was on file.  This meant that no one was licensed to operate the VAMC

In February 1997, the Reactor Supervisor at the University of New Mexico (U of
NM) called the NRC to say that he had forgotten to renew both his and
another's SRO licenses.

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On the basis of these incidents, the NRC requested all research and test
reactor licensees to check their records to ensure that all personnel
operating their reactors were licensed.  On the basis of the ensuing phone
calls, an additional five operators were found to have allowed their licenses
to expire, one each from the University of Illinois (U of I), the Georgia
Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and the Worcester Polytechnic
Institute (WPI), and two from General Atomics.

In the cases of VAMC,  U of NM, U of I, and General Atomics, the operators had
continued to operate the reactor after their individual licenses had expired. 
The operators at Georgia Tech and WPI did not operate the reactor after
license expiration.  However, the operator at Georgia Tech held a position
requiring a SRO license according to the Technical Specifications.


In all cases, the operators affected were unaware that their licenses had
expired.  Their facility management had certified all to be current in their
respective NRC-appems with their requalification programs.

In recent years, the NRC twice changed license renewal requirements.  The
first change increased the life of the license from 2 to 6 years.  The second
change removed the requirement for the operator to pass an NRC-administered
examination as a condition for license renewal.  Neither of these changes
affected the requirement to submit an application for license renewal.  

The licensees of these facilities supplied two major reasons for the lapses. 
Two of the licensees reported that when license renewal took place every two
years, the process for submitting license renewals was tied to the biennial
requalification process.  When the life of the license was increased to 6
years, the licensee did not adequately implement a new system to cover the

Three other licensees cited confusion about the second 10 CFR Part 55 rule
change.  These facilities believed that when the NRC dropped the requirement
to pass an NRC-administered examination, it also dropped the requirement to
submit an application for license renewal.  In addition, one of these
facilities had been shut down for a year thus exacerbating the problem.

All ROs and SROs must comply with the requirements of 10 CFR 55.57 for
operator license renewal.  All licensees must ensure that all personnel
operating reactors have valid active RO or SRO licenses and all administrative
and TS requirements for licensed personnel are satisfied.
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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 contacts listed
below or the appropriate Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) project manager.

                                           signed by S.H. Weiss for

                                        Marylee M. Slosson, Acting Director
                                        Division of Reactor Program Management
                                        Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical contacts:  Paul Doyle, NRR           

                     Thomas Koshy

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