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FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company; Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1; Notice of Issuance of Director's Decision Under 10 CFR 2.206

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Notice is hereby given that the Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, has issued a Director's Decision with regard to a Petition dated April 24, 2002, filed by David Lochbaum on behalf of multiple organizations, hereinafter referred to as the “Petitioners.” The Petition was supplemented on May 9, 2002. The Petition concerns the operation of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1, operated by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company.

The Petition requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issue an Order to FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (the licensee), requiring a verification by an independent party (VIP) for issues related to the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) head problem at Davis-Besse, Unit 1, and that the VIP be tasked with the following:

1. Verifying the adequacy of the problem identification and resolution (PIR) process.

2. Verifying the root cause evaluation prepared by the licensee for the damage to the RPV head.

3. Verifying that the long-term accumulation of boric acid within the reactor containment did not impair the function of safety-related systems, structures, and components (SSCs).

4. Verifying that the licensee has taken appropriate actions in response to NRC generic communications.

5. Verifying that the licensee has not deferred other plant modifications without appropriate justification.

6. Verifying that all entities responsible for safety reviews (e.g., Quality Assurance, INPO, the nuclear insurer, the plant operating review committee, the offsite safety review committee, etc.) are properly in the loop and functioning adequately.

7. Documenting its work in a publicly available report.

8. Presenting its conclusions to the NRC in a public meeting conducted near the plant site.

In support of their request, the Petitioners cite the Order issued by the NRC on August 14, 1996, to Northeast Nuclear Energy Company, the owner of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut, as a recent and relevant precedent for the action they requested. The Petitioners consider that restarting the Davis-Besse plant before an independent team of experts has examined the safety issues related to the RPV head problem would be potentially unsafe and in violation of Federal regulations.

The Petition of April 24, 2002, raises concerns originating in the licensee's identification of extensive degradation to the pressure boundary material of the RPV head on March 6, 2002. The VIP requested by the Petitioners would provide an independent program to verify the adequacy of plant owner performance and to reassure the public that all reasonable safety measures have been taken prior to plant restart.

On May 9, 2002, the Petitioners and the licensee met with the staff's Petition Review Board. The meeting gave the Petitioners and the licensee an opportunity to provide additional information and to clarify issues raised in the Petition.

The NRC sent a copy of the proposed Director's Decision to the Petitioners and to the licensee for comment on August 16, 2002. The Petitioners responded with comments on August 29, 2002, and the licensee responded on August 30, 2002. The comments and the NRC staff's response to them are included in the Director's Decision.

The Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation has denied the request to issue an Order. The reasons for this decision are explained in Director's Decision DD-02-01 pursuant to 10 CFR 2.206, the complete text of which is available for inspection at the Commission's Public Document Room, located at One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville, Maryland, and on the NRC's Web site​reading-rm/​adams.html (the Electronic Reading Room), via the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) under Accession No. ML022620366.

The NRC staff finds that its ongoing actions are sufficient to verify the adequacy of the licensee's performance related to RPV head degradation issues and to reassure the public that all reasonable safety measures have been taken prior to plant restart. The establishment of the Augmented Inspection Team and the Inspection Manual Chapter (IMC) 0350 Oversight Panel, as well as the comprehensive technical reviews being performed by the staff and investigations being performed by the NRC's Office of Investigations, are responsive to the degradation problem at Davis-Besse. The staff has adequate expertise and resources to monitor the licensee's corrective and preventative actions. Start Printed Page 64668Thus, the enforcement-related action requested by the Petitioners for a VIP is not warranted. Additionally, the licensee is already taking action to provide an adequate level of independent verification for restart activities. Therefore, the Petitioners' request that the NRC issue an Order to the licensee requiring the establishment of a VIP is denied. If further assessment by the IMC 0350 Oversight Panel identifies new and/or different issues that would warrant consideration of an enforcement-related action similar to that used at Millstone, a change to the current staff regulatory approach would be considered.

A copy of the Director's Decision will be filed with the Secretary of the Commission for the Commission's review in accordance with 10 CFR 2.206 of the Commission's regulations. As provided for by this regulation, the Director's Decision will constitute the final action of the Commission 25 days after the date of the decision, unless the Commission, on its own motion, institutes a review of the Director's Decision in that time.

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Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 15th day of October, 2002.

For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Samuel J. Collins,

Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

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[FR Doc. 02-26707 Filed 10-18-02; 8:45 am]