Tue, 4 May 1999
From 'Wired' magazine
2000 Looms for US Nuclear Plants by Declan McCullagh
3:00 a.m. 30.Apr.99.PDT One-third of US nuclear plants will not be finished with Y2K repairs in time to meet the industry's self-imposed summer deadline, says a report due for release on Friday.
Of the 66 operating nuclear facilities, 20 said that they will need extra time to rid their computer systems of Year 2000 glitches, according to the most recent quarterly report from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC).
Some nuclear plants have chosen to wait until after 30 June to fix systems during regular maintenance cycles, and industry officials predict that all repairs will be done well in advance of 1 January 2000.
"They will be finished before the end of the year. There's relatively little that needs to be done at the units," NERC spokesman Eugene F. Gorzelnik said. "There are some units that are down for scheduled maintenance among that group. There's every expectation that they will be completed by the end of the year."
NERC President Michehl Gent is scheduled to present the report to Energy Department and White House officials at a news conference in Washington. But an electronic copy of the 57-page report was posted earlier on the NERC Web site.
As of the end of March, remediation and testing in all electric companies was 75 percent complete, the report said. Nuclear units lag slightly behind, with 71 percent complete, and 46 percent are finished with contingency planning. But 16 percent of the companies surveyed have yet to develop a written Y2K plan, a move that experts say is the first step to debugging their systems.
NERC, a trade association for the US and Canadian electric industry, says "interruptions of electric service due to Y2K appear unlikely."
But the group also says hospitals; telephone companies; and gas, water, and sewage facilities "should review their emergency power supply provisions and procedures." So should large corporations.
"This is looking at normal emergency preparation procedures that [businesses] should be following," Gorzelnik said.
In some situations, he said, "it makes sense for [a business] to have an emergency generator.... Look at the risk and decide what you need to do. We believe that Y2K is no different from the normal risks that people face every day."
NERC stressed that no operator of a nuclear reactor has found Y2K problems "that would have prevented safety systems from shutting down a plant."
But a Nuclear Regulatory Commission audit of the Seabrook, New Hampshire plant found that reactor coolant-level monitoring systems, fuel handling systems, and reactor vessel-level indication systems would not work properly in 2000. The NRC has required that all nuclear power plants report their Y2K-readiness by 1 July 1999.
In North America, power generation and distribution are handled through three electrical interconnections, or grids, that include the United States, Canada, and a tiny portion of Mexico. The grids are split up into 10 regions and run by 136 control centers.
Through Integrity, May the Balance of Heart and Head, Direct the Will of All.
"Onward & Upward"