PHILADELPHIA, OCT. 29 -- A steel-pipe manufacturer and three corporate officers were indicted by a federal grand jury today on charges that they fraudulently sold substandard parts to nuclear power plants nationwide.

U.S. Attorney Edward Dennis said the defendants are accused of misrepresenting commercial-grade steel piping as higher-quality nuclear-grade material in a scheme he said showed a "callous disregard for the public's safety."

"The fact the lower-quality steel might have worn out too early was "the kind of thing that keeps you up at night," Dennis said, but he added that few if any of the substandard parts were believed to have been used by power plants since the alleged scheme began in 1982.

Charged with fraud, conspiracy and related offenses were Joseph Romanelli, president of Tube-Line Corp.; Vernon Anderson, quality assurance director of Tube-Line, and Ealan Wingate, president of Midwood Industries. Also named were Tube-Line, Midwood and Pressure Piping Components, all based in New York and wholly owned subsidiaries of Hi-Shear Industries Inc. in Delaware.

The companies that received the material included the Tennessee Valley Authority, Carolina Power and Light, Duke Power Co. in North Carolina, Babcock and Wilcox, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Public Service Electric and Gas Co. in New Jersey and the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn.