[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 51 (Tuesday, March 16, 2004)]
[Pages 12357-12360]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 04-5849]



[Docket No. 50-346; License No. NPF-3EA-03-214]

In the Matter of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, (Davis-
Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1); Confirmatory Order Modifying 
License (Effective Immediately)


    FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC, or the Licensee) is 
the holder of Facility Operating License No. NPF-3 issued on April 22, 
1977, by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission) pursuant 
to 10 CFR Part 50. The license authorizes the operation of Davis-Besse 
Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1 (Davis-Besse), in accordance with 
conditions specified therein. The facility is located on the Licensee's 
site in Ottawa County, Ohio.


    The discovery of circumferential cracking in some of the control 
rod drive mechanism (CRDM) nozzles that penetrate the reactor pressure 
vessel (RPV) head at Oconee Nuclear Station, Unit 3, in February 2001, 
and Oconee Nuclear Station, Unit 2, in April 2001, raised concerns 
about the potential safety implications and prevalence of cracking in 
RPV head penetration nozzles in pressurized-water reactors (PWRs). In 
response to these concerns, the NRC issued NRC Bulletin 2001-01 on 
August 3, 2001. The bulletin required all PWR operators to report to 
the NRC on the structural integrity of the CRDM nozzles, including 
their plans to ensure that future inspections would verify structural 
integrity of the reactor vessel boundary. Davis-Besse was shut down on 
February 16, 2002, when it began its 13th refueling outage, which 
included an inspection of CRDM nozzles. On March 6, 2002, FENOC 
employees discovered a cavity in the RPV head. The cavity was the 
result of corrosion caused by long-term leakage of reactor coolant, 
which contains boric acid, from small cracks in one of the CRDM 
    The NRC staff subsequently determined that FENOC's failure to 
properly implement its boric acid corrosion control and corrective 
action programs was a performance deficiency that allowed reactor 
coolant system pressure boundary leakage to occur undetected for a 
prolonged time, resulting in RPV upper head degradation. The NRC 
determined that the Licensee's performance deficiency had high safety 
significance, in the Red range, as documented in a letter to the 
Licensee dated May 29, 2003 (ADAMS Accession No. ML031490778).
    The NRC took a series of actions in response to the discovery of 
the cavity in the Davis-Besse RPV head. An Augmented Inspection Team 
was sent to Davis-Besse on March 12, 2002, to collect facts regarding 
the conditions that led to the head degradation. Additionally, the NRC 
issued a Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL) to the Licensee on March 13, 
2002 (ML020730225), confirming the Licensee's agreement that NRC 
approval is required for restart of Davis-Besse. The CAL also 
documented a number of

[[Page 12358]]

actions that the Licensee must implement before restart. By letter 
dated April 29, 2002 (ML021190661), the NRC informed FENOC that its 
corrective actions at Davis-Besse would receive enhanced NRC oversight, 
as described in NRC Inspection Manual Chapter 0350, ``Oversight of 
Operating Reactor Facilities in a Shutdown Condition With Performance 
Problems.'' That enhanced monitoring began on May 3, 2002, and included 
the creation of a panel to provide the required oversight during the 
plant shutdown and during and after any future restart until a 
determination is made that the plant is ready for return to the NRC's 
normal reactor oversight process.
    By letter dated April 18, 2002 (ML021130029), ``Confirmatory Action 
Letter Response--Root Cause Analysis Report,'' the Licensee submitted 
to the NRC its technical root cause analysis report for the RPV head 
degradation, as revised by letter dated September 23, 2002 
(ML022750125), ``Revision 1 to Root Cause Analysis Report Regarding 
Reactor Pressure Vessel Head Degradation.'' The Licensee concluded that 
the probable cause of the degradation was primary water stress 
corrosion cracking of the nozzle. The physical factors that caused 
corrosion of the RPV head were the CRDM nozzle leakage associated with 
through-wall cracking, followed by boric acid corrosion of the RPV low-
alloy steel. The Licensee further concluded that the large-scale 
corrosion occurred as a result of a failure to detect and arrest the 
leakage until advanced symptoms had appeared.
    The Licensee submitted to the NRC its nontechnical root cause 
analysis by letter dated August 21, 2002 (ML022750405), ``Management 
and Human Performance Root Cause Analysis Report on Failure to Identify 
Reactor Pressure Vessel Head Degradation.'' In this analysis, the 
Licensee concluded that ``there was a lack of sensitivity to nuclear 
safety and the focus was to justify existing conditions. The overall 
conclusion is that Management ineffectively implemented processes and 
thus failed to detect and address plant problems as opportunities 
arose.'' The Licensee identified a number of root causes for the 
failure to identify boric acid corrosion of the RPV head, including:
    1. Less-than-adequate nuclear safety focus--A production focus 
established by management, combined with minimum action to meet 
regulatory requirements, resulted in acceptance of degraded conditions 
on the RPV head and other components affected by boric acid.
    2. Less-than-adequate implementation of the corrective action 
program, as indicated by the following:
    a. Addressing symptoms rather than causes
    b. Low categorization of conditions
    c. Less-than-adequate cause determinations
    d. Less-than-adequate corrective actions
    e. Less-than-adequate trending
    3. Less-than-adequate analyses of safety implications--Failure to 
integrate and apply key industry information and site knowledge/
experience, effectively use vendor expertise, and compare new 
information to baseline knowledge led to less-than-adequate analyses 
and decisionmaking with respect to the nuclear safety implications of 
boric acid on the reactor vessel head and in the containment.
    4. Less-than-adequate compliance with the boric acid corrosion 
control and inservice test programs--Contrary to these programs, boric 
acid was not completely removed from the RPV head. The affected areas 
were not inspected for corrosion and leakage from nozzles and the 
sources of the leakage were not determined.
    As documented in NRC Inspection Report No. 50-346/02-15 
(ML030380037), dated February 6, 2003, the NRC concluded that the 
Licensee's management and human performance initial root cause analyses 
were not sufficiently broad to identify potential contributors in the 
engineering and corporate support areas and were not developed in an 
integrated manner to identify potentially systemic issues. Additional 
analyses were performed by the Licensee, including assessments in the 
areas of operations, engineering, oversight, and corporate support, and 
were evaluated by the NRC, as documented in NRC Inspection Report No. 
50-346/02-18 (ML032050528), dated July 24, 2003. Following review of 
the additional FENOC analyses, the NRC concluded that the Licensee's 
overall nontechnical root cause assessment was of appropriate depth and 
breadth to develop actions to correct and prevent recurrence of the 
management and human performance deficiencies associated with the RPV 
head degradation.
    Corrective actions taken by the Licensee included the development 
of a Return-to-Service Plan, which described FENOC's actions for Davis-
Besse's safe and reliable return to service. The Return-to-Service Plan 
was initially submitted to the NRC on May 21, 2002 (ML021430429), and 
has been revised several times, most recently on April 6, 2003 
    The NRC Davis-Besse Oversight Panel established a Restart 
Checklist, which lists the essential issues requiring disposition prior 
to restart. The Restart Checklist was originally issued on August 16, 
2002 (ML022310034), and has been revised as necessary by the Oversight 
Panel based on the results of NRC inspections and the Licensee's 
assessments. The Restart Checklist addresses those issues necessary to 
resolve the causes of the RPV head degradation so that the Licensee can 
safely restart and operate the plant. For example, issues requiring 
resolution before the Oversight Panel can consider a recommendation for 
restart include (1) the adequacy of safety-significant structures, 
systems, and components inside containment, (2) the adequacy of safety-
significant programs, such as the corrective action program, self-
assessment programs, and the boric acid corrosion management program, 
and (3) the adequacy of organizational effectiveness and human 
performance, including the effectiveness of corrective actions.
    While the Restart Checklist establishes those essential actions 
necessary for safe restart and operation, a key element in preventing 
recurrence of a safety-significant event such as the RPV head 
degradation is effective Licensee self-assessment. Given the magnitude, 
scope, and duration of problems found at Davis-Besse, and that the 
Licensee's own self-assessments were not effective in preventing risk-
significant performance deficiencies, additional assurance that the 
Licensee's self-assessment programs remain effective is essential.


    To address the issues identified above and ensure sustained safe 
performance in plant operation, the Licensee developed the Davis-Besse 
Nuclear Power Station Operational Improvement Plan--Operating Cycle 14, 
which was submitted to the NRC by letter dated November 23, 2003, 
``Integrated Report to Support Restart of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power 
Station and Request for Restart Approval'' (ML033360251) and most 
recently revised on January 27, 2004 (ML040280597). The Operational 
Improvement Plan provides for a managed transition from the Return-to-
Service Plan to normal plant operations and refueling outages. The 
purpose of the Operational Improvement Plan is to ensure that 
improvements realized during the extended outage remain in place and 
are further built upon to improve performance in the future.
    On November 12, December 3, and December 10, 2003, the Licensee met

[[Page 12359]]

with the NRC staff regarding the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station 
Operational Improvement Plan for Operating Cycle 14. Among other long-
term corrective actions, the Operational Improvement Plan focuses on 
Licensee initiatives to measure and sustain achievements in the areas 
of management and human performance at Davis-Besse. The Operational 
Improvement Plan contains a number of key improvement initiatives, 
including continuing actions in the areas of operations, engineering, 
safety culture, and corrective actions.
    As assurance that the Operational Improvement Plan initiatives are 
sufficient to ensure the continued integrity of the reactor coolant 
system and correction of the underlying management and organizational 
problems which led to the RPV head degradation, the Licensee also 
committed to the following actions. By letters dated March 31 
(ML030930451) and November 14, 2003 (ML033220323), FENOC committed to 
conduct certain inspections every refueling outage for leakage from the 
RPV upper head and from pressure-retaining components above the RPV 
head. These include the CRDM flanges. In addition, by letter dated July 
30, 2003 (ML032160384), FENOC committed to conduct similar inspections 
of the reactor vessel underside incore monitoring instrumentation 
nozzles, including during the Cycle 14 midcycle outage. As noted in the 
NRC staff assessment (ML032510339), the midcycle inspection will help 
to assure prompt identification of any significant reactor coolant 
system pressure boundary leakage should it develop. The midcycle outage 
activities will provide additional confirmation of the material status 
of the reactor coolant system.
    Notwithstanding the corrective actions completed to address the CAL 
and Restart Checklist and planned by the Licensee in the Operational 
Improvement Plan, the NRC requires additional measures with respect to 
independent assessments and midcycle inspections to provide reasonable 
assurance that the long-term corrective actions remain effective for 
those conditions that resulted in risk-significant performance 
deficiencies. During the course of the extended shutdown of Davis-Besse 
beginning in February 2002, FENOC conducted a number of thorough 
evaluations and self-assessments. Examples include the evaluation of 
system design, the assessment of the completeness and accuracy of 
docketed information, the evaluation of operational performance 
deficiencies during the normal operating pressure test, and the 
evaluation of the failure to comply with technical specification 
requirements during testing of the steam and feedwater rupture control 
system. However, Licensee assessments of operational performance prior 
to both the normal operating pressure test and the NRC's Restart 
Readiness Assessment Team Inspection in December 2003 failed to 
identify a number of deficiencies. NRC inspections also discovered 
problems that were not originally found by the Licensee, most notably 
in safety culture, in the corrective action program, and in the quality 
of engineering calculations and analyses. These issues indicated 
weaknesses in the Licensee's ability to assess, find, and correct 
conditions adverse to quality. In addition, on November 23, 2003, the 
Licensee concluded that the plant, programs, and personnel were ready 
to support safe operation, subject to completion of a few, well-defined 
work activities prior to restart, and requested the NRC schedule a 
meeting as stated in the CAL, and then provide approval for restart. A 
meeting was originally scheduled for December 18, 2003, to discuss 
restart. However, due to self-revealing equipment and operational 
problems and issues from the NRC Restart Readiness Assessment and the 
Management and Human Performance inspection teams, the meeting was 
delayed. Given the Licensee's previous conclusion that it was ready to 
support safe operation, these problems were additional evidence of 
inadequate self-assessment. Since then, the NRC recognizes that FENOC 
has implemented significant corrective actions resulting in improved 
performance and self-assessment capability. Nevertheless, considering 
the problems noted above and going forward, the NRC requires 
independent outside assessments to ensure continued effective Licensee 
self-assessments and sustained safe performance in the areas of 
operations, engineering and corrective actions at Davis-Besse.
    On February 26, 2004, the Licensee executed a consent form in which 
it committed to implement the conditions in Section IV below with 
respect to future independent assessments of operations, safety 
culture, corrective actions, and engineering at Davis-Besse, and 
inspections of the reactor coolant system pressure boundary during a 
midcycle outage. The independent assessments will provide important 
confirmation of the effectiveness of the Licensee's self-assessments 
and long-term improvement actions. The reactor coolant system pressure 
boundary inspections will assure prompt identification of any leakage 
should it develop. The Licensee further agreed that this Order would be 
effective upon issuance and waived its right to a hearing.
    I find that the Licensee's commitments, as set forth in Section IV, 
are acceptable and necessary and conclude that with these commitments, 
plant safety is reasonably assured. In view of the foregoing, I have 
determined that public health and safety require that the Licensee's 
commitments be confirmed by this Order. Based on the above, this Order 
is immediately effective upon issuance.


    Accordingly, pursuant to Sections 103, 161b, 161i, 161o, 182 and 
186 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, and the Commission's 
regulations in 10 CFR 2.202 and 10 CFR Part 50, it is hereby ordered, 
effective immediately, that License No. NPF-3 is modified as follows:
    1. FENOC shall contract with independent outside organizations to 
conduct comprehensive assessments of the Davis-Besse operations 
performance, organizational safety culture, including safety conscious 
work environment, the corrective action program implementation, and the 
engineering program effectiveness. Ninety days prior to the 
assessments, FENOC shall inform the Regional Administrator, NRC Region 
III, in writing, of the identity of its outside assessment 
organizations, including the qualifications of the assessors, and the 
scope and depth of the assessment plans. These outside independent 
assessments at Davis-Besse shall be completed before the end of the 4th 
calendar quarter of 2004 and annually thereafter for 5 years. Within 45 
days of completion of the assessments, the Licensee shall submit by 
letter to the Regional Administrator, NRC Region III, all assessment 
results and any action plans necessary to address issues raised by the 
assessment results.
    2. FENOC shall conduct a visual examination of the reactor pressure 
vessel upper head bare metal surface, including the head-to-penetration 
interfaces; the reactor pressure vessel lower head bare metal surface, 
including the head-to-penetration interfaces; and the control rod drive 
mechanism flanges, using VT-2 qualified personnel and procedures during 
the Cycle 14 midcycle outage. The results and evaluation of the 
inspections will be reported by letter to the Regional Administrator, 
NRC Region

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III, prior to restart from the midcycle outage, and any evidence of 
reactor coolant leakage found during the inspections will be reported 
by telephone within 24 hours of discovery to the Regional 
Administrator, NRC Region III, or designee.
    If the Licensee determines that submittals made in accordance with 
these conditions contain proprietary information as defined by 10 CFR 
2.390, the Licensee shall also provide a nonproprietary version in 
accordance with 10 CFR 2.390(b)(1)(ii). The Regional Administrator, NRC 
Region III, may, in writing, relax or rescind any of the above 
conditions upon demonstration by the Licensee of good cause.


    Any person adversely affected by this Confirmatory Order, other 
than the Licensee, may request a hearing within 20 days of its 
issuance. Where good cause is shown, consideration will be given to 
extending the time to request a hearing. A request for extension of 
time in which to request a hearing must be made in writing to the 
Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555, and must include a statement of good 
cause for the extension. Any request for a hearing shall be submitted 
to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN: Chief, 
Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff, Washington, DC 20555. Copies of 
the hearing request shall also be sent to the Director, Office of 
Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
Washington, DC 20555, to the Assistant General Counsel for Materials 
Litigation and Enforcement at the same address, to the Regional 
Administrator for NRC Region III, 801 Warrenville Road, Lisle, Illinois 
60532-4351, and to the Licensee. If a person requests a hearing, that 
person shall set forth with particularity the manner in which his 
interest is adversely affected by this Order and shall address the 
criteria set forth in 10 CFR 2.309(d).
    If a hearing is requested by a person whose interest is adversely 
affected, the Commission will issue an Order designating the time and 
place of any hearing. If a hearing is held, the issue to be considered 
at such hearing shall be whether this Confirmatory Order should be 
sustained. An answer or a request for hearing shall not stay the 
immediate effectiveness of this Order.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    Dated this 8th day of March, 2004.
J.E. Dyer,
Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 04-5849 Filed 3-15-04; 8:45 am]