NRC Staff Proposes $55,000 Fine Against U.S. Enrichment Corporation for Security Violations at Paducah Plant
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NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT: RIII-97-107
December 9, 1997
NRC STAFF PROPOSES $55,000 FINE AGAINST U.S. ENRICHMENT CORPORATION FOR SECURITY VIOLATIONS AT PADUCAH PLANT
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $55,000 fine against the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, Bethesda, Maryland, for failing to maintain adequate security for certain classified information at its uranium enrichment plant located near Paducah, Kentucky.
The corporation operates the Paducah plant under a lease from the Department of Energy, the owner and previous operator. Effective March of this year, regulatory authority over plant operations was transferred from the Department of Energy to the NRC. The facility uses a gaseous diffusion process to enrich uranium hexafluoride gas in the uranium-235 isotope, so that the material can be used as nuclear fuel in civilian nuclear power plants.
During an NRC inspection from July through September, inspectors reviewed five instances where classified material was found by plant staff either outside the restricted area or accessible to individuals who did not have security clearance.
In August, NRC inspectors were informed that a restricted drawing kept in the engineering department was accessible to anyone who visited the department. Also, classified drawings and a videotape were found by plant staff in a trailer outside the security area of the plant. These restricted materials may have been in the trailer for a number of years.
Two weeks later, plant staff initiated an effort to identify and restrict classified material within the security portion of the facility. However, the corporation did not take any actions to retrieve restricted material from outside of the plant's secured area.
Subsequently, in September classified drawings and an operational procedure outside of the security area were found being used by individuals who did not have proper security clearance.
In a letter to the corporation, NRC's Regional Administrator, A. Bill Beach said:
"The NRC is concerned about [your] deficiencies regarding control of classified matter and its failure to grasp and define the breadth of the issue in a timely manner. While the actual security consequences appear to be minimal in this case, the violation represents a significant regulatory concern because of the potential for compromise of classified matter considered to be significant (i.e., the classified matter was accessible to uncleared personnel)."
The U.S. Enrichment Corporation has until January 9 to pay the fine or to protest it. If the fine is protested and subsequently imposed by the NRC staff, the corporation may request a hearing.
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