The Paducah Sun

March 8, 2000

NRC may write up USEC for violation

By Joe Walker
Sun Business Editor

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a notice of violation against USEC Inc. after the firm disciplined 11 employees for a training-related problem at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

NRC Senior Resident Inspector Ken O'Brien said Monday that he will recommend that a notice be issued for a Level 4 violation, which is the lowest possible, USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said. If the notice is issued, USEC will respond in writing about how the problem was addressed, she said.

Plant management learned last June that the 11 workers had wrongly certified that they had completed a training course to use equipment called freezer-sublimers. The equipment stores uranium hexafluoride for use when power costs are lower, she said.

Two front-line managers were most seriously disciplined for intentionally stating that they had completed a training module when they really had not, Stuckle said. Another front-line manager and eight operators received lesser, varying degrees of discipline because they apparently mistakenly signed that they had finished the training, she said.

About 190 employees completed the training without problems, Stuckle said.

Although USEC promptly told the NRC about the trouble, it was not safety-related because the operators already were certified to use the equipment, Stuckle said. The training module was designed to improve their skills, she said.

Plant management learned from an operator that the problem had taken place about a month earlier, Stuckle said. USEC then stopped the training, investigated and got confirmations from the two front-line managers. The employees were retrained, corrective measures taken and crew briefings held, Stuckle said.

"We then looked for other similar incidents at the plant and found none," Stuckle said. "We have determined that this was an isolated incident, but one that we will not tolerate."