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[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 170 (Tuesday, September 1, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 54424-54432]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-19268]


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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

[Docket No. OSHA-2020-0001]


STP Nuclear Operating Company; Application for Permanent Variance 
and Interim Order; Grant of Interim Order; Request for Comments

AGENCY: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Labor.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: In this notice, OSHA announces the application of STP Nuclear 
Operating Company (STP Nuclear) for a permanent variance and interim 
order from the provision of OSHA standards that regulate the ensuring 
of isolation of permit-required confined spaces and presents the 
agency's preliminary finding to grant the permanent variance. OSHA also 
announces the grant of an interim order in this notice. OSHA invites 
the public to submit comments on the variance application to assist the 
agency in determining whether to grant the applicant a permanent 
variance based on the conditions specified in this notice of the 
application.

DATES: Submit comments, information, documents in response to this 
notice, and requests for a hearing on or before October 1, 2020. The 
interim order described in this notice became effective on September 1, 
2020, and shall remain in effect until it is modified or revoked, 
whichever occurs first.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments by any of the following methods:
    Electronically: You may submit comments and attachments 
electronically at: http://www.regulations.gov, which is the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal. Follow the instructions online for submitting 
comments.
    Facsimile: If your comments, including attachments, are not longer 
than 10 pages, you may fax them to the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-
1648.
    Mail, hand delivery, express mail, messenger, or courier service: 
When using this method, you must submit a copy of your comments and 
attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2020-0001, 
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of 
Labor, Room N-3653, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20210. 
Please note: While OSHA's Docket Office is continuing to accept and 
process submissions by regular mail, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 
Docket Office



is closed to the public and not able to receive submissions to the 
docket by hand, express mail, messenger and courier service.
    Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and OSHA 
docket number (OSHA-2020-0001). All comments, including any personal 
information you provide, are placed in the public docket without 
change, and may be made available online at http://www.regulations.gov. Therefore, the agency cautions commenters about 
submitting statements they do not want made available to the public, or 
submitting comments that contain personal information (either about 
themselves or others) such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, and 
medical data.
    Docket: To read or download comments or other material in the 
docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov or the OSHA Docket Office at 
the above address. All documents in the docket (including this Federal 
Register notice) are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index; 
however, some information (e.g., copyrighted material) is not publicly 
available to read or download through the website. All submissions, 
including copyrighted material, are available for inspection at the 
OSHA Docket Office. Contact the OSHA Docket Office for assistance in 
locating docket submissions.
    Extension of comment period: Submit requests for an extension of 
the comment period on or before September 16, 2020 to the Office of 
Technical Programs and Coordination Activities, Directorate of 
Technical Support and Emergency Management, Occupational Safety and 
Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution 
Avenue NW, Room N-3653, Washington, DC 20210, or by fax to (202) 693-
1644.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Information regarding this notice is 
available from the following sources:
    Press inquiries: Contact Mr. Frank Meilinger, Director, OSHA Office 
of Communications, U.S. Department of Labor, telephone: (202) 693-1999; 
email: meilinger.francis2@dol.gov.
    General and technical information: Contact Mr. Kevin Robinson, 
Director, Office of Technical Programs and Coordination Activities, 
Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management, Occupational 
Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, phone: 
(202) 693-2110 or email: robinson.kevin@dol.gov.

I. Notice of Application

    On February 18, 2019, STP Nuclear Operating Company (``STP 
Nuclear'' or ``the applicant'') 12090 FM 521, Wadsworth, Texas 77483, 
submitted under Section 6(d) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 
of 1970 (``OSH Act''; 29 U.S.C. 655) and 29 CFR 1905.11 (``Variances 
and other relief under section 6(d)'') an application for a permanent 
variance from the provision of the OSHA standard that regulates 
ensuring isolation of permit-required confined spaces, as well as a 
request for an interim order pending OSHA's decision on the application 
for variance (OSHA-2020-0001-0001) at its Wadsworth, Texas facility. 
Specifically, STP Nuclear seeks a variance from the provision of the 
standard that requires ``isolation of permit space,'' meaning the 
process by which a permit-required space is removed from service and 
completely protected against the release of energy and material into 
the space (29 CFR 1910.146(b)) and (29 CFR 1910.146(d)(3)(iii)). STP 
Nuclear also requests an interim order pending OSHA's decision on the 
application for a variance.
    According to the application, STP Nuclear operates two Pressurized 
Water Reactor nuclear power plants at its Wadsworth, Texas location. 
STP Nuclear's description of its operation indicates that these nuclear 
power plants use steam to drive turbine generators, which is cooled by 
circulating water through a condenser to convert the steam back into 
water. STP Nuclear uses a Circulating Water System (CWS) that cools the 
steam by pumping water from the Main Cooling Reservoir (MCR), through 
the condenser and back to the reservoir. The MCR is 7,000 acres and 
includes an intake structure where pumps that provide cooling to the 
units are located. These pumps include the circulating water (CW) 
pumps, of which there are a total of eight (four per unit). The flow 
from each CW pump discharges through a motor operated valve into a 96 
foot diameter pipe which passes over the reservoir embankment at 59 
feet elevation. The four pump discharge pipes combine into two 138 inch 
underground pipes that feed a manifold in the Turbine Generator 
Building (TGB). The circulating water flows through condenser tubes 
inside what STP Nuclear refers to as the ``water box.'' The manifold 
supplies water to each of the six main condenser water boxes with an 84 
inch motor-operated valve at the inlet and outlet of each water box. 
The water exiting the water boxes enters a discharge manifold which 
then splits into two underground 138 inch pipes returning the water to 
the MCR passing over the reservoir embankment at 58 feet elevation. The 
applicant asserts that the design of the CWS is such that it cannot be 
completely removed from service for water box cleaning or tube repair, 
and that maintenance activities occur when one of the two Power Plants 
are removed from service for refueling, which happens once every 
eighteen months.
    The condenser water box is a permit-required confined space that 
under STP Nuclear's procedures requires a confined-space permit and 
security alerts prior to entry. Employees can enter the water boxes to 
clean condenser tubes and to repair or plug leaking tubes only after 
being cleared by the STP Nuclear Entry Supervisor in accordance with 
STP Nuclear's confined space procedure. STP Nuclear performs 
maintenance on condenser water boxes prior to the summer months to 
ensure maximum efficiency, and therefore, maximum generation during the 
peak electric generating period in Texas. This maintenance activity 
(tube cleaning) minimizes fouling and blocking of the condenser tubes. 
Employees entering the water box to perform maintenance and repair 
activities could be exposed to the hazard of engulfment by water that 
could flow into the water box if condenser isolation valves were to 
rotate or otherwise fail during the maintenance or repair activity.
    STP Nuclear asserts that without frequent maintenance, the 
condenser tubes could leak and introduce contaminants, such as sodium, 
into plant systems that can erode barriers that prevent release of 
radioactive materials. Further, STP Nuclear asserts that if the water 
box cannot be timely isolated to repair tubes, it may have to shut down 
the nuclear power plant, which will cause interruption to the power 
supply. STP Nuclear previously believed that procedures already in 
place--lockout/tagout of the isolation valve, continuous monitoring for 
leakage past the valve and standby attendant--were adequate to protect 
employees.
    On March 22, 2018, OSHA received a complaint alleging that STP 
Nuclear failed to ensure isolation of the condenser water box as 
required by OSHA's permit-required confined space standard. In response 
to this complaint, STP Nuclear submitted a letter, dated March 28, 
2018, to OSHA's Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office (OSHA-2020-0001-
0002), asserting its belief that they are in full compliance with 29 
CFR 1910.146 and describing their current practices to comply with the



standard. On April 20, 2018, the Corpus Christi, Texas OSHA Area Office 
provided a response to STP Nuclear's explanation stating that it was 
feasible to install two 5,000 pound blank flanges to isolate the system 
and directed STP Nuclear to take corrective action (OSHA-2020-0001-
0003).
    In STP Nuclear's February 18, 2019, variance application, the 
applicant asserts that isolating the water box using blank flanges 
creates a greater hazard and significant risk for injury. Further, the 
applicant believes that installing blank flanges has the potential to 
compromise the structural integrity of the system. To ensure isolation 
of the condenser water box prior to maintenance activities, STP Nuclear 
proposes in its variance application an alternative safety measure--
drilling four holes into the 99.75 inch diameter upper valve flange, 
and fabrication of 20 three-fourth inch diameter mechanical stops (stop 
pins), which will be installed to block movement of the butterfly valve 
disc to ensure isolation of the water boxes during maintenance work.
    OSHA initiated a preliminary technical review of STP Nuclear's 
variance application and developed a set of follow-up questions on June 
9, 2019 (OSHA-2020-0001-0003), regarding the assertions of equivalent 
worker protection included in the application. On June 27, 2019, STP 
Nuclear provided written answers to the follow-up questions, (OSHA-
2020-0001-0004) as well as supplemental materials to support the 
variance application including: A Hazard and Operability Study report 
and recommendations (hazard analysis using a ``HAZOP'' methodology); a 
copy of all detailed procedures used when employees are entering or 
inside the water box; and a copy of emergency procedures and equipment 
used while employees are working inside the water box.
    In reviewing the application, OSHA evaluated the use of two blank 
flanges, a 99.5 inch diameter, 2.5 inch thick steel blank weighing 
5,563 pounds each to isolate the condenser water boxes during 
maintenance activities. The applicant asserted in the variance 
application that installing a blank flange to isolate a condenser water 
box creates a greater hazard and significant risk for injury to both 
personnel and the physical building. STP Nuclear asserts that 
installing a blank flange requires removal of the water box inlet and 
outlet expansion joints and installation of two steel blanks. 
Installing the blank flanges as described above entails a high degree 
of risk, as it would require moving these heavy objects from the 
building entrance to the water box, using rigged chain falls to trapeze 
the blanks to the water box, as well as construction of a support 
structure for the water box, in order to support the additional weight 
of the 5,563 pound blanks and ensure the water box and/or inlet pipe 
does not misalign from removal of the expansion joint. Further, OSHA 
carefully reviewed the administrative and engineering controls outlined 
in the variance application and supplemental materials as part of its 
proposed alternative work practices identified in the variance 
application.
    Following this review and discussions with STP Nuclear, OSHA 
determined that STP Nuclear proposed an alternative that will provide a 
workplace as safe and healthful as that required by the permit-required 
confined space standard. OSHA is granting STP Nuclear an interim order 
that permits it to continue operations while OSHA continues to consider 
the application for a permanent variance.

II. The Variance Application

    Pursuant to the requirements of OSHA's variance regulations, the 
applicant certifies that it provided employee representatives of 
affected workers with a copy of the variance application. The applicant 
also certifies that it notified the workers of the variance application 
by posting, at prominent locations where it normally posts workplace 
notices, a summary of the application and information specifying where 
the workers can examine a copy of the application. In addition, the 
applicant informed the workers and their representatives of their 
rights to petition the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational 
Safety and Health for a hearing on the variance application.

A. Background

    STP Nuclear's variance application and the responses to OSHA's 
follow-up questions provided the following: Detailed descriptions of 
the condenser water box maintenance process; the proposed work 
alternative to isolate the condenser water box using stop pins while 
performing maintenance activities; and procedures developed to manage 
the permit-required confined space. Additionally, STP Nuclear provided 
a HAZOP'' study as technical evidence supporting STP Nuclear's 
assertion of equivalency of worker protection.
    As an alternative to installation of blank flanges, STP Nuclear 
proposes a comprehensive engineered system and appropriate 
administrative controls to satisfy the isolation requirement. The 
engineered system uses mechanical stops (stop pins) to block the 
movement of the butterfly valve disk in combination with administrative 
procedures to isolate the condenser water box in order to perform 
maintenance activities. The stop pins function as the isolation device, 
in that utilizing the stop pins prevents the engagement of the 
condenser water box, thus interrupting the flow of water to the 
condenser water boxes to allow maintenance activities. STP Nuclear 
asserts that using stop pins to isolate butterfly valve disks in 
condenser water boxes match the requirements of 29 CFR 
1910.146(d)(3)(iii).
    Further, STP Nuclear asserts that its mechanical stop system has 
been evaluated via a HAZOP study, which is a process that seeks to 
identify potential operating hazards and risks in systems/processes. 
The HAZOP study included a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) 
that was developed and documented. The FMEA is an assessment of the 84 
inch butterfly valves in the closed position, with stop pins installed, 
to physically isolate the condenser water box while the remainder of 
the CWS remains in operation. The HAZOP study seeks to identify the 
potential hazardous scenarios, as they relate to personnel entry into 
the isolated water box, to determine potential areas of concern, 
especially regarding a possible engulfment hazard. Issued June 20, 2019 
(OSHA-2020-0001-0004), the HAZOP study included eight recommendations 
for additional engineering and administrative controls, all of which 
have been adopted by STP Nuclear. These recommendations are described 
in Proposed Condition D of this notice.
    STP Nuclear contends that the administrative and engineering 
controls comprising the alternative safety measures included in the 
variance application provide the workers with a place of employment 
that is at least as safe and healthful as they would obtain under the 
provisions of OSHA's permit-required confined space standard.

B. Variance From 29 CFR 1910.146(b) and 29 CFR 1910.146(d)(3)(iii)

    As an alternative means of compliance with the isolation 
requirements of 1910.146(b) and 1910.146(d)(3)(iii), STP Nuclear is 
proposing to use a comprehensive system of engineering and 
administrative control procedures. The engineering controls include (1) 
a modification of the condenser isolation valves to drill four holes 
into the 99.75 inch diameter upper valve flange, to



allow the installation of mechanical stops (``stop pins'') which block 
rotation of the isolation valve disks, (2) utilizing a physical lock on 
the 6 inch cross-tie valves, and (3) utilization of automated drains 
that provide a secondary means of evacuating water leakage from the 
isolated water box connected piping. STP Nuclear has also established 
administrative controls to support the use of the stop pin system, 
including: (1) Continuous monitoring for leakage past the isolation 
valve, (2) utilizing a dedicated water box drain pump operator while 
personnel are inside the isolated water box, (3) utilizing a standby 
attendant to aid in the evacuation of an employee working in the 
condenser water box in the event of an emergency, and (4) a dedicated 
emergency evacuation procedure.
    Further, the applicant asserts that: (1) Full isolation of the 
water boxes would create a greater hazard to its employees, and (2) the 
continuous water system makes shutdown of the water supply impossible. 
Shutting down the circulating water system could potentially cause the 
nuclear power plant to leak radiation, which is a significant public 
health hazard.

C. Technical Review

    OSHA conducted a review of STP Nuclear's application and the 
supporting technical documentation. After completing the review of the 
application and supporting documentation, OSHA concludes that STP 
Nuclear:
    1. Has a permit-required confined space entry program;
    2. Performed a hazard analysis using the Hazard and Operability 
Study (``HAZOP'') methodology to assess the risks of entering condenser 
water boxes to perform maintenance on condenser tubes;
    3. Implemented controls recommended in HAZOP study (outlined in 
Proposed Condition D of this notice);
    4. Established procedures for condenser water box online isolation 
and restoration;
    5. Has developed the Condenser Water Box Online Isolation and 
Restoration procedure to remove condenser water boxes from service for 
maintenance;
    6. Has modified or will modify the isolation valve seats in 
condenser water boxes by installing specified mechanical stops (``stop 
pins''). These stop pins are inserted downstream of the inlet disc and 
upstream of the outlet disc following condenser water box isolation and 
drain down;
    7. Implemented detailed administrative procedures designed to 
ensure that all employees working on or near condenser water boxes, 
which include having a watch stander present at all times, as well as 
emergency evacuation procedures in the event that water begins flowing 
into isolated condenser water boxes;
    8. Procured and provided appropriate equipment and supplies;
    9. Made the alternative isolation control policies and procedures 
available to employees;
    10. Trained authorized and affected employees on the application of 
the proposed alternative work practice and associated isolation control 
policies and procedures;
    11. Developed additional administrative controls and procedures to 
minimize the potential for authorized and affected employees to work 
around isolated condenser water boxes;
    12. Conducted a comparison of the blank flange versus use of stop 
pins, which mechanically limits disc travel providing additional 
personnel safety against engulfment.
    13. Has effective emergency rescue procedures to quickly and 
effectively evacuate workers within the condenser water box, including 
a rescue team present on site during maintenance activities; and
    14. Conducted a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, which was an 
assessment of the 84 inch butterfly valves in the closed position.

III. Description of the Conditions Specified by the Interim Order and 
the Application for a Permanent Variance

    This section describes the alternative means of compliance with 29 
CFR 1910.146(b) and 29 CFR 1910.146(d)(3)(iii). These conditions form 
the basis of the interim order and STP Nuclear's application for a 
permanent variance.

Proposed Condition A: Scope

    The scope of the interim order/proposed permanent variance would 
limit coverage to the work conditions specified under this proposed 
condition. Defining the scope of the proposed permanent variance 
provides STP Nuclear, STP Nuclear's employees, potential future 
applicants, other stakeholders, the public, and OSHA with necessary 
information regarding the work situations in which the proposed 
permanent variance would cover. To the extent that STP Nuclear does not 
comply with the conditions in this variance, it would, alternatively, 
be required to comply with OSHA standards.
    Pursuant to 29 CFR 1905.11, an employer (or class or group of 
employers) may request a permanent variance for a specific workplace or 
workplaces. If OSHA approves a permanent variance, it would apply only 
to the specific employer(s) that submitted the application and only to 
the specific workplace or workplaces designated as part of the project. 
In this instance, if OSHA were to grant a permanent variance, it only 
would apply to the applicant, STP Nuclear at the Wadsworth, Texas 
nuclear plant. The Interim Order and Proposed Variance would not apply 
to any other employers or STP Nuclear locations outside of its 
Wadsworth, Texas facility.

Proposed Condition B: List of Abbreviations

    This proposed condition defines the terms used in the interim order 
and proposed variance to clarify and standardize their meaning. 
Abbreviations used throughout this proposed permanent variance include 
the following:

1. CFR--Code of Federal Regulations
2. CWS--Circulating Water System
3. ECO--Equipment Clearance Order
4. FMEA--Failure Modes and Effects Analysis
5. HAZOP--Hazard and Operability Study
6. MCR--Main Cooling Reservoir
7. OSHA--Occupational Safety and Health Administration
8. OTPCA--Office of Technical Programs and Coordination Activities
9. RRP--Rope Rescue Program
10. TGB--Turbine Generator Building

Proposed Condition C: List of Definitions

    The proposed condition defines a series of terms, mostly technical 
terms, used in the proposed permanent variance to standardize and 
clarify their meaning. Defining these terms serves to enhance the 
applicant's and the employees' understanding of the conditions 
specified by the proposed permanent variance.\1\
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    \1\ In these conditions, the present tense form of the verb 
(e.g., ``must'') pertains to the interim order, while the future 
conditional form of the verb (e.g., ``would'') pertains to the 
application for a permanent variance (designated as ``permanent 
variance'').
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Proposed Condition D: Safety Practices and Procedures

    This proposed condition requires that STP Nuclear (1) adhere to the 
Condenser Water Box Online Isolation and Restoration Procedure provided 
to OSHA with the Variance application and (2) implement the hazard 
prevention and control requirements provided with the Variance 
application



to ensure the continued effective functioning of the alternate work 
practice (use of stop pins) to isolate condenser water boxes before 
performing maintenance activities. Further, STP Nuclear must implement 
the following additional administrative controls identified in the 
HAZOP study:
    1. Close the cycle inlet and butterfly valves with a local 
handswitch.
    2. Remove power from the inlet and isolation valve and hang Danger 
Tags on the local handswitch and the breaker.
    3. Drain the condenser water box to another condenser water box 
using the permanent installed condenser drain down pumps.
    4. Check for leakages past the isolation valve seat. In the event 
that a leak is found, STP Nuclear will use a handwheel to manually 
achieve proper disk seating and ensure that a Danger Tag is hung on the 
handwheel.
    5. Establish and implement a procedure to ensure that no other 
maintenance will be performed on the condenser water box, unless 
permit-required confined space measures are used.
    6. Modify each of the 12 condenser water box isolation valves to 
drill four holes into the 99.75 inch diameter upper valve range, which 
will be plugged when the condenser water box is in service and 
fabricate 20 three-fourth inch diameter stop pins, which will be 
installed to block movement of the butterfly valve disk and hang Danger 
Tags on the pins.
    7. Confirm that lineup changes (i.e. pump switching, valve position 
changes) within the CWS are prohibited while personnel are within the 
water box.
    8. Limit the number of personnel occupying the isolated water box 
to no more than 3 in the inlet or outlet and no more than 4 persons in 
total during condenser water box maintenance activities.
    9. Utilize technology-based level measurement instruments with 
local audible alarms to alert the personnel working in the isolated 
water box of a rising water level in the CWS piping beneath the water 
box. This instrument would serve as a secondary means of monitoring the 
water level in addition to the manual level monitoring via Tygon 
tubing.
    10. Utilize hydraulic calculations to analyze the potential leak 
paths into an isolated water box and quantify the inflow rates and 
durations to fill the water box. This will identify how much time 
personnel have to evacuate the water box in the event of a water leak 
into the isolated water box.
    11. Utilize a physical lock on the 6 inch cross-tie valve (or 
replace the valve with a design that allows physical locking) to 
prevent any unauthorized operation of the valve during the condenser 
water box maintenance activity.
    12. Monitor the water levels in the supply side water box (and 
return water box) regardless of when personnel are present. Continuous 
monitoring for water leakage on the supply and return water boxes of an 
isolated segment of the system as water leakage from either side could 
present a hazard to personnel even if they are not in the water box 
where the leakage is occurring.
    13. Require the presence of a dedicated water box drain pump 
operator while personnel are occupying the isolated water box.
    14. Utilize the water box low-point drains (6 inches for Unit 1 and 
8 inches for Unit 2) to provide secondary means of evacuating water 
leakage from the isolated water box connected CWS piping.
    15. Install a level indicator that will alarm to alert the employee 
in the water box to evacuate because of rising water levels and auto 
start the two drain pumps. This should be in addition to the portable 
system being used in monitoring the levels.
    16. In addition to the watch stander attendant required under 29 
CFR 1910.146, the rescue team members must be present at the water box 
throughout duration of the maintenance activities.

Proposed Condition E: Communication

    This proposed condition requires the applicant to implement an 
effective system of information sharing and communication to provide 
workers performing maintenance activities within condenser water boxes 
of any hazards that may affect their safety. Effective information 
sharing and communication are intended to ensure that affected workers 
receive updated information regarding any safety-related hazards and 
incidents, and corrective actions taken, prior to the start of each 
shift. The proposed condition also requires the applicant to ensure 
reliable means of emergency communications are available and maintained 
for affected workers and support personnel during maintenance 
activities within the condenser water box. Availability of such 
reliable means of communications would enable affected workers and 
support personnel to respond quickly and effectively to hazardous 
conditions or emergencies that may develop during water box maintenance 
operations.

Proposed Condition F: Worker Qualification and Training

    This proposed condition requires the applicant to implement an 
effective permit-required isolation qualification and training program 
for authorized employees who perform maintenance activities within 
condenser water boxes. Additionally, proposed Condition F also requires 
the applicant to train each affected employee on the purpose and use of 
the permit-required confined space procedures. Further, OSHA is 
imposing conditions beyond those submitted by STP Nuclear in the 
Variance application.
    The proposed condition specifies the factors that an affected 
worker must know to perform safely during maintenance operations within 
the condenser water box, including how to enter, work in, and exit from 
a condenser water box under both normal and emergency conditions. 
Having well-trained and qualified workers performing condenser water 
box maintenance activities is intended to ensure that they can 
recognize and respond appropriately to electrical safety and health 
hazards. These qualification and training requirements enable affected 
workers to handle emergencies effectively, thereby preventing worker 
injury, illness, and fatalities. Additionally, proposed Condition F 
requires the applicant to train each affected employee in the purpose 
and use of the alternative permit-required confined space isolation 
procedures identified in the permanent variance application.

Proposed Condition G: Inspections, Tests, and Accident Prevention

    This proposed condition requires the applicant to implement an 
effective program for completing inspections, tests, program 
evaluations and accident prevention for performing maintenance and 
cleaning activities within the condenser water box and associated work 
areas. This condition would help to ensure the safe operation and 
physical integrity of the condenser water boxes and the work areas 
necessary to safely conduct maintenance operations.
    This condition also requires the applicant to conduct tests, 
inspections, corrective actions and repairs involving the use of the 
alternative isolation process used to perform maintenance activities on 
condenser water boxes identified in the variance application. Further, 
this requirement provides the applicant with information needed to 
schedule tests and inspections to ensure the continued safe operation 
of the



equipment and systems and to determine that the actions taken to 
correct defects are appropriate. These tests, inspections, corrective 
actions, and repairs should be conducted in concert with the Condenser 
Water Box Online Isolate and Restoration Procedure submitted to OSHA by 
STP Nuclear with the Variance application.

Proposed Condition H: Additional Recordkeeping Requirement

    Under OSHA's recordkeeping requirements in 29 CFR part 1904 
Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, STP 
Nuclear must maintain a record of any recordable injury, illness, or 
fatality (as defined by 29 CFR part 1904) resulting from the task of 
cleaning and performing maintenance activities within the condenser 
water box by completing OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident 
Report and OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. 
In addition, STP Nuclear must maintain records of all maintenance 
activities performed at condenser water boxes at the STP Nuclear site, 
as well as associated hazardous condition corrective actions and 
repairs.

Proposed Condition I: Notifications

    Under the proposed condition, the applicant is required, within 
specified periods of time, to: (1) Notify OSHA of any recordable 
injury, illness, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, loss of an 
eye, or fatality that occurs as a result of cleaning or maintenance 
activities around the condenser water box; (2) provide OSHA a copy of 
the incident investigation report (using OSHA Form 301, Injury and 
Illness Incident Report) of these events within 24 hours of the 
incident; (3) include on OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident 
Report information on the conditions associated with the recordable 
injury or illness, the root-cause determination, and preventive and 
corrective actions identified and implemented; (4) provide the 
certification that affected workers were informed of the incident and 
the results of the incident investigation; (5) notify OSHA's Office of 
Technical Programs and Coordination Activities (OTPCA) and the Corpus 
Christi, Texas Area Office at least 15 working days in advance, should 
the applicant need to revise the permit-required confined space 
isolation procedures related to condenser water box cleaning or 
maintenance affecting STP Nuclear's ability to comply with the 
conditions of the proposed permanent variance; and (6) provide OTPCA 
and the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office, by January 31 of each 
calendar year, with a report covering the previous calendar year, 
evaluating the effectiveness of the alternate permit-required confined 
space isolation procedures set forth in the conditions of the permanent 
variance.
    Additionally, this proposed condition requires the applicant to 
notify OSHA if it ceases to do business, has a new address or location 
for the main office, or transfers the operations covered by the 
proposed permanent variance to a successor company. In addition, the 
condition specifies that the transfer of the permanent variance to a 
successor company must be approved by OSHA. These requirements allow 
OSHA to communicate effectively with the applicant regarding the status 
of the proposed permanent variance, and expedite the agency's 
administration and enforcement of the permanent variance. Stipulating 
that an applicant is required to have OSHA's approval to transfer a 
variance to a successor company provides assurance that the successor 
company has knowledge of, and will comply with, the conditions 
specified by proposed permanent variance, thereby ensuring the safety 
of workers involved in performing the operations covered by the 
proposed permanent variance.

IV. Grant of Interim Order, Proposal for Permanent Variance, and 
Request for Comment

    OSHA hereby announces the preliminary decision to grant an interim 
order allowing STP Nuclear to perform maintenance operations in 
condenser water boxes, subject to the conditions that follow in this 
document. This interim order will remain in effect until the agency 
modifies or revokes the interim order or makes a decision on STP 
Nuclear's application for a permanent variance. Beginning with the 
publication of this notice until the agency modifies or revokes the 
interim order or makes a decision on the application for a permanent 
variance, the applicant is required to comply fully with the conditions 
of the interim order as an alternative to complying with the isolation 
requirements of permit space contained in 29 CFR 1910.146 (the 
standard). The standard defines ``isolation of permit space'' in 29 CFR 
1910.146(b) as: The process by which a permit-space is removed from 
service and isolated, and completely protected against the release of 
energy and material into the space by such means as: . . . blocking or 
disconnecting all mechanical linkages. Further, 29 CFR 
1910.146(d)(3)(iii) requires isolation of the permit-required confined 
space.
    In order to avail itself of the interim order, STP Nuclear must: 
(1) Comply with the conditions listed in the interim order for the 
period starting with the grant of the interim order until the agency 
modifies or revokes the interim order or makes a decision on the 
application for a permanent variance; (2) comply fully with all other 
applicable provisions of 29 CFR part 1910.146; and (3) provide a copy 
of this Federal Register notice to all employees affected by the 
proposed conditions, using the same means it used to inform these 
employees of the application for a permanent variance.
    OSHA is also proposing that the same requirements would apply to a 
permanent variance if OSHA ultimately issues one for this employer. 
OSHA requests comment on those conditions as well as OSHA's preliminary 
determination that the specified alternatives and conditions would 
provide a workplace as safe and healthful as those required by the 
standard from which a variance is sought. After reviewing comments, 
OSHA will publish in the Federal Register the agency's final decision 
approving or rejecting the request for a permanent variance.

V. Specific Conditions of the Interim Order and the Application for a 
Permanent Variance

    The following conditions apply to the interim order OSHA is 
granting to STP Nuclear. These conditions specify the alternative means 
of compliance with the definition of ``isolation of permit space'' in 
29 CFR 1910.146(b) and 29 CFR 1910.146(d)(3)(iii) that STP Nuclear is 
proposing for its permanent variance. To simplify the presentation of 
the conditions, OSHA generally refers only to the conditions of the 
proposed permanent variance, but the same conditions apply to the 
interim order except where otherwise noted.\2\
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    \2\ In these conditions, OSHA is using the future conditional 
form of the verb (e.g., ``would''), which pertains to the 
application for a Permanent variance (designated as ``Permanent 
variance'') but the conditions are mandatory for purposes of the 
Interim Order.
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    The conditions would apply to all STP Nuclear employees located at 
the Wadsworth, Texas location during the maintenance and cleaning of 
condenser water boxes. These conditions are outlined in this Section.

A. Scope

    The interim order applies, and the permanent variance would apply, 
only to the task of performing maintenance activities within condenser 
water boxes at STP Nuclear. The interim order and



proposed variance would not apply to construction work (i.e. work for 
construction, alteration and/or repair, including painting and 
decorating) performed within condenser boxes at STP Nuclear. The 
interim order and proposed variance apply only to work:
    1. That occurs at STP Nuclear, 12090 FM 521, Wadsworth, Texas 
77483; and
    2. Performed in compliance with all applicable provisions of 29 CFR 
1910.146. Additionally,
    3. No other maintenance work, including electrical maintenance may 
be performed using the conditions of this interim order.
    4. Except for the requirements specified by 29 CFR 1910.146(b) and 
29 CFR 1910.146(d)(3)(iii), STP Nuclear must comply fully with all 
other applicable provisions of 29 CFR 1910.146 during maintenance 
activities of condenser water boxes.
    5. The interim order will remain in effect until OSHA modifies or 
revokes it; or OSHA publishes a Federal Register notice granting the 
permanent variance in accordance with 29 CFR 1905.13, whichever occurs 
first.

B. List of Abbreviations

    Abbreviations used throughout this proposed Permanent variance 
would include the following:

1. CFR--Code of Federal Regulations
2. CWS--Circulating Water System
3. ECO--Equipment Clearance Box
4. FMEA--Failure Modes and Effects Analysis
5. HAZOP--Hazard and Operability Study
6. MCR--Main Cooling Reservoir
7. OSHA--Occupational Safety and Health Administration
8. OTPCA--Office of Technical Programs and Coordination Activities
9. RRP--Rope Rescue Program
10. TGB--Turbine Generator Building

C. Definitions

    The following definitions would apply to this proposed permanent 
variance. These definitions would supplement the definitions in STP 
Nuclear's application for permanent variance.
    1. Affected employee or worker--an employee or worker who is 
affected by the conditions of this proposed permanent variance, or any 
one of his or her authorized representatives. The term ``employee'' has 
the meaning defined and used under the Occupational Safety and Health 
Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.).
    2. Competent person--an individual who is capable of identifying 
existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working 
conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, 
and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to 
eliminate them.
    3. Engulfment--the surrounding and effective capture of a person by 
a liquid or finely divided (flowable) solid substance that can be 
aspirated to cause death by filling or plugging the respiratory system 
or that can exert enough force on the body to cause death by 
strangulation, constriction, or crushing.
    4. Hazard and Operability Study--an evaluation of tasks or 
operations to identify potential hazards and to determine the necessary 
controls.
    5. Isolation--the process by which a permit space is removed from 
service and completely protected against the release of energy and 
material into the space by such means as: Blanking or blinding; 
misaligning or removing sections of lines, pipes, or ducts; a double 
block and bleed system; lockout or tagout of all sources of energy; or 
blocking or disconnecting all mechanical linkages.
    6. Permit-required confined space--a confined space that has one or 
more of the following characteristics: (1) Contains or has a potential 
to contain a hazardous atmosphere; (2) Contains a material that has the 
potential for engulfing an entrant; (3) Has an internal configuration 
such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly 
converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a 
smaller cross-section; or (4) Contains any other recognized serious 
safety or health hazard.
    7. Qualified person--an individual who, by possession of a 
recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who, by 
extensive knowledge, training, and experience, successfully 
demonstrates an ability to solve or resolve problems relating to 
maintenance of condenser water boxes.

D. Safety Practices and Procedures

    1. STP Nuclear shall adhere to the Condenser Water Box Online 
Isolation and Restoration Procedure provided to OSHA with the Variance 
application while performing cleaning or maintenance activities within 
condenser water boxes, in accordance with STP Nuclear's permit-required 
confined space program.
    2. STP Nuclear shall implement the hazard prevention and control 
requirements identified in the Variance application (use of stop pins) 
to isolate condenser water boxes before performing maintenance 
activities within condenser water boxes.
    3. STP Nuclear shall close the cycle inlet and butterfly valves 
with a local handswitch.
    4. STP Nuclear shall remove power from the inlet and isolation 
valve and hang Danger Tags on the local handswitch and the breaker.
    5. STP Nuclear shall drain the condenser water box to another 
condenser water box using the permanently installed condenser drain 
down pumps.
    6. STP Nuclear shall check for leakages past the isolation valve 
seat. In the event that a leak is found, STP Nuclear will use a 
handwheel to manually achieve proper disk seating and ensure that a 
Danger Tag is hung on the handwheel.
    7. STP Nuclear shall establish and implement a procedure to ensure 
that no other maintenance will be performed on the condenser water box, 
unless permit-required confined space measures are used.
    8. STP Nuclear shall modify each of the 12 condenser water box 
isolation valves to drill four holes into the 99.75 inch diameter upper 
valve range, which will be plugged when the condenser water box is in 
service and fabricate 20 three-fourth inch diameter stop pins, which 
will be installed to block movement of the butterfly valve disk and 
hang Danger Tags on the pins.
    9. STP Nuclear shall confirm that lineup changes (i.e. pump 
switching, valve position changes) within the CWS are prohibited while 
personnel are within the water box.
    10. STP Nuclear shall limit the number of personnel occupying the 
isolated water box to no more than 3 people in the inlet or outlet and 
no more than 4 people in total during condenser water box maintenance 
activities.
    11. STP shall utilize technology-based level measurement 
instruments with local audible alarms to alert the personnel working in 
the isolated water box of a rising water level in the CWS piping 
beneath the water box. The instrument would serve as a secondary means 
of monitoring the water level in addition to the manual level 
monitoring via Tygon tubing.
    12. STP Nuclear shall utilize hydraulic calculations to analyze the 
potential leak paths into an isolated water box and quantify the inflow 
rates and durations to fill the water box. This will identify how much 
time personnel have to evacuate the water box in the event of a water 
leak into the isolated water box.
    13. STP Nuclear will utilize a physical lock on the 6 inch cross-
tie valve (or replace the valve with a design that allows physical 
locking) to prevent any unauthorized operation of the valve during the 
condenser water box maintenance activity.



    14. STP Nuclear shall monitor the water levels in the supply side 
water box (and return water box) regardless of when personnel are 
present. Continuous monitoring for water leakage on the supply and 
return water box of an isolated segment of the system as water leakage 
from either side could present a hazard to personnel even if they are 
no in the water box where the leakage is occurring.
    15. STP Nuclear shall require the presence of a dedicated water box 
drain pump operator while personnel are occupying the isolated water 
box.
    16. STP Nuclear shall utilize the water box low-point drains (6 
inch for Unit 1 and 8 inch for Unit 2) to provide secondary means of 
evacuating water leakage from the isolated water box connected CWS 
piping.
    17. STP Nuclear shall install a level indicator that will alert the 
employee in the water box to evacuate because of rising water levels 
and auto start the two drain pumps. This should be in addition to the 
portable system being used in monitoring the levels.
    18. STP Nuclear shall ensure that rescue team members be present at 
the condenser water box throughout the duration of the maintenance 
activities.

E. Communication

    STP Nuclear must:
    1. Implement a system that informs workers performing maintenance 
activities within condenser water boxes of any hazardous occurrences or 
conditions that might affect their safety.
    2. Provide a means of communication among affected workers and 
support personnel in energy isolation where unassisted voice 
communication is inadequate.
    (a) Use an independent power supply for powered communication 
systems, and these systems would have to operate such that use or 
disruption of any one phone or signal location will not disrupt the 
operation of the system from any other location.
    (b) Test communication systems at the start of each shift and as 
necessary thereafter to ensure proper operation.

F. Worker Qualifications and Training

    STP Nuclear will implement an effective permit-required confined 
space isolation qualification and training program for authorized 
employees involved in performing maintenance activities within 
condenser water boxes. STP Nuclear must:
    1. Utilize the permit-required confined space isolation training 
program submitted to OSHA as part of this Variance application, and 
train each authorized employee on the isolation process for condenser 
water boxes, and the procedures required under it;
    2. Develop a training program and train each affected employee in 
the purpose and use of the alternative permit-required confined space 
isolation procedures used for maintenance of condenser water boxes 
under this interim order and document this instruction;
    3. Ensure that workers performing maintenance activities within 
condenser water boxes know how to enter, work in, and exit from a 
condenser water box under both normal and emergency conditions;
    4. Ensure that each authorized and affected employee have effective 
and documented training in the contents and conditions covered by this 
proposed variance and interim order; and
    5. Ensure that only trained and authorized employees perform 
permit-required confined space isolation procedures for the task of 
performing maintenance of condenser water boxes at the STP Nuclear 
site.

G. Inspections, Tests, and Accident Prevention

    STP Nuclear will have to implement the detailed program for 
completing inspections, tests, program evaluations, and incident 
prevention for the isolation of condenser water boxes for maintenance 
purposes in accordance with its permit-required confined space 
procedure submitted to OSHA as part of their Variance application. STP 
Nuclear must:
    1. Ensure that a competent person (authorized employee) conducts 
daily visual checks and monthly inspections and functionality tests of 
condenser water boxes and permit-required confined space isolation 
procedures that ensure the procedure and conditions of this proposed 
variance and interim order are being followed.
    2. Ensure that a competent person conducts daily inspections of the 
work areas associated with the maintenance of the condenser water 
boxes.
    3. Develop a set of checklists to be used by a competent person in 
conducting daily inspections of the condenser water boxes and permit-
required confined space procedures used while performing maintenance 
activities at condenser water boxes at the STP Nuclear facility.
    4. STP Nuclear will remove from service any equipment that 
constitutes a safety hazard until STP Nuclear corrects the hazardous 
condition and has a qualified person approve the correction.
    5. STP will maintain records of all maintenance activities of the 
condenser water box, as well as associated corrective actions and 
repairs, at the job site for the duration of the variance. Where 
available, the maintenance, servicing, and installation of replacement 
parts must strictly follow the manufacturer's specifications, 
instructions, and limitations.

H. Additional Recordkeeping Requirement

    STP Nuclear must maintain a record of any recordable injury, 
illness, or fatality (as defined by 29 CFR 1904) resulting from the 
task of cleaning and performing maintenance activities within the 
condenser water box by completing OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness 
Incident Report and OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and 
Illnesses. In addition, STP Nuclear must maintain records of all 
maintenance activities performed at condenser water boxes at the STP 
Nuclear site, as well as associated hazardous condition corrective 
actions and repairs.

I. Notifications

    To assist OSHA in administering the conditions specified herein, 
STP Nuclear must:
    1. Notify OSHA's Office of Technical Programs and Coordination 
Activities (OTPCA) and the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office of any 
recordable injury, illness, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, 
loss of an eye or fatality (by submitting the completed OSHA Form 301, 
Injury and Illness Incident Report) resulting from implementing the 
alternative isolation procedures of the proposed variance conditions 
while completing the tasks of cleaning and/or maintenance of the 
condenser water box, but still meet the recordable injury or illness 
criteria of 29 CFR 1904. The notification would have to be made within 
8 hours of the incident or 8 hours after becoming aware of a recordable 
injury, illness, or fatality; a copy of the incident investigation 
(OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident Report) must be submitted 
to OSHA within 24 hours of the incident or 24 hours after becoming 
aware of a recordable injury, illness, or fatality.
    2. Provide OTPCA and the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office a copy 
of the incident investigation report (using OSHA Form 301, Injury and 
Illness Incident Report) of these events within 24 hours of the 
incident;
    3. Include on the OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident Report 
information on the conditions associated with the recordable injury or 
illness, the root-cause determination, and the preventive and 
corrective actions identified and implemented.



    4. Provide certification to OTPCA and the Corpus Christi, Texas 
Area Office within 15 working days of any incident of which STP Nuclear 
informed affected workers of the incident and the results of the 
incident investigation (including the root-cause determination and 
preventive and corrective actions identified and implemented).
    5. Notify OSHA's Office of Technical Programs and Coordination 
Activities (OTPCA) and the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office at least 
15 working days in advance, should the applicant need to revise the 
permit-required confined space isolation procedures related to 
condenser water box cleaning or maintenance affecting its ability to 
comply with the conditions of the proposed permanent variance.
    6. Provide OTPCA and the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office, by 
January 31 of each calendar year, with a report covering the previous 
calendar year, identifying the maintenance activities performed on the 
condenser water boxes and evaluating the effectiveness of the alternate 
permit-required confined space isolation procedures set forth in the 
conditions of the permanent variance.
    7. Inform OTPCA and the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office as soon 
as possible, but no later than 7 days, after it has knowledge that it 
will:
    (i) Cease doing business; or
    (ii) Transfer the operations specified herein to a successor 
company.
    6. Notify all affected employees of this proposed permanent 
variance by the same means required to inform them of the application 
for a variance.
    OSHA will publish a copy of this notice in the Federal Register.

Authority and Signature

    Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for 
Occupational Safety and Health, Washington, DC 20210, authorized the 
preparation of this notice. Accordingly, the agency is issuing this 
notice pursuant to Section 29 U.S.C. 655(6)(d), Secretary of Labor's 
Order No. 1-2012 (77 FR 3912, Jan. 25, 2012), and 29 CFR 1905.11.

    Signed at Washington, DC, on August 27, 2020.
Loren Sweatt,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety 
and Health.
[FR Doc. 2020-19268 Filed 8-31-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-26-P