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Y2K-vulnerable nuclear power plants

Wednesday, August 4, 1999


WASHINGTON, DC -- The chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
said today that six nuclear power plants in the United States will
remain unprepared for possible Year 2000 computer problems after
November 1, and according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), at
least three of those plants have Y2K readiness deadlines in
mid-December. Also identified by NEI were 16 additional plants with
deadlines in late October.

"Setting a late deadline for Y2K readiness in a nuclear power plant
may not allow enough time to address unforseen problems in such an
immensely complex and potentially dangerous facility," said U.S.
Senator Robert F. Bennett, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special
Committee on the Y2K Technology Problem. "Total Y2K readiness of the
nation's nuclear power plants is vital to keeping the lights on in
certain areas, and is absolutely necessary to guarantee public safety
during the millennium date change."

"Nuclear power plants shouldn't play Russian roulette when it comes to
Y2K - where they wait until the last minute and then hope for the
best," said U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Vice-Chairman of the
Senate Y2K Committee. "It is essential that there be adequate time
left so systems can be tested in order to assure a safe and continuous
power supply."

In testimony posted on the web site of the U.S. Senate Special
Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, NRC chair Greta Joy
Dicus said that the two D.C. Cook plants in Berrien County, Michigan
would not be Y2K ready until after November 1, and would remain shut
down during the Y2K transition. The plants are currently in the midst
of an extended shutdown, and have Y2K readiness deadlines of December

Dicus also said that four other plants with November-or-later
deadlines would require outages to complete Y2K activities. Those
plants are the Brunswick Unit 1 near Wilmington, N.C.; Comanche Peak
Unit 1 in Sommervell County, Texas; Salem Unit 1 in Salem County,
N.J.; and Farley Unit 2 near Dothan, Alabama, which has a December 16

"These outages have been scheduled, and each of the licensees have
experience on sister units in completing the most significant Y2K
remediation activities," she said.

Additionally, 15 plants have late October deadlines: Browns Ferry
Units 1 and 2 near Decatur, Alabama; Comanche Peak Unit 2 in
Sommervell County, Texas; Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 near San Luis
Obispo, California; Hope Creek in Salem County, New Jersey; North Anna
Unit 2 in Louisa County, Virginia; Peach Bottom Unit 3 in York County,
Penn.; Salem Unit 2 in Salem County, N.J.; Sequoyah Units 1 and 2 near
Chattanooga, Tenn.; South Texas Project Units 1 and 2 near Matagorda,
Texas; Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Penn.; Vermont Yankee in
Vernon, Vermont; and Watts Bar in Rhea County, Tennessee.
Currently 30 of 103 U.S. nuclear power plants remain unprepared for
Y2K. The NRC expects most to be Y2K ready by September 30, when it
will make a determination whether certain facilities will remain

Dicus said, however, that she believes all plants "will be able to
operate...safely during the transition from 1999 to 2000, and we do
not anticipate the need for the NRC to direct any plant-specific

Today's hearing also addressed the Y2K preparedness of gas utilities,
upon which 60 million homes and businesses rely for heat. Statements
by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and American Gas
Association indicate that natural gas industries plan to be Y2K ready
by September 30, but did not offer specifics on current levels of Y2K
preparedness. Bennett and Dodd said they would be asking for
additional information regarding current readiness and industry
progress toward the September deadline.

"I am pleased that the natural gas industry has set a goal of 100
percent compliance this fall," said Bennett. "But more specifics are
necessary in order for Congress and the American public to be assured
that this goal can be met."

"The natural gas industry's testimony today shows a good faith effort
is being made to become Y2K compliant," Dodd said. "I look forward to
receiving more detailed information so we can be sure the public won't
be left out in the cold."

The Y2K technology problem, also called the Y2K or Millennium bug,
prevents computers from reading the year 2000 correctly and can
potentially cause wide ranging system failures.

# # #


Joseph Project 2000, Elk River Chapter -

Our local Monticello Nuclear plant in Minnesota is not on this list, but
that is still not good news for others of you. If a nuclear power plant
does not have outside power from the "grid" it needs these diesel
generators to power the water pumps that keep the core from going "China."


This database includes incidents and reports from January 1, 1999 to the
present. It shows that defects and problems occur on a weekly basis. There
are 28 reports affecting 40% of all US commercial nuclear plants so far
this year.

There is currently a petition for rulemaking before the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission regarding backup power supplies. The NRC is now three months
late on making its decision.

Cook, Michigan: July 27, 1999
All four diesel generators are declared inoperable but still functional.
Discovery of condition which could leave EGDs inoperable following a

Beaver Valley, Pennsylvania: July 16 - 17, 1999
Diesel Generator fails during test due to voltage and current problems.
Battery chargers become inoperable. Generator restart faulty. Batteries
are inoperable. Plant shutting down. Pumps inoperable briefly.

Pilgrim, Massachusetts: July 16, 1999
An existing modification of the circuit logic would prevent bus from
energizing properly from diesel generators.

Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Idaho: July 12, 1999
(not a commercial power reactor) Two diesel generators fails following a
fire at substation. No fuel from Three Mile Island remains onsite.


Here is the link:


United States Senate Special Committee on the
Year 2000 Technology Problem

Hearing: International Year 2000 Issues: Will the World Be Ready?
March 5, 1999

Opening Statement
Lawrence K. Gershwin
National Intelligence Officer
For Science and Technology,
National Intelligence Council

excerpts ...

There remain significant information gaps that make it difficult for us to
assess how serious the Y2K problem will be around the world. In many cases,
foreign countries only recently have become aware of the problem and begun to
examine their critical infrastructure systems for potential Y2K failures. In
comparison, the United States has made a significant effort to identify and
redress Y2K problems, and it was only after the process was well underway that
it was possible to get a good appreciation of the extent of the problem and its
implications. Many foreign countries, particularly those that are the furthest
behind, have not made such an effort, so--for our part--we can identify their
likely problem areas but cannot make confident judgments at this point about
what is likely to happen. Those problem areas that we have detected that have
the potential to affect US interests include, among others, foreign nuclear
reactors and power grids, military early warning systems, trade, the oil and
gas sectors , and worldwide shipping and air transport, all of which I will
elaborate on.

The consequences of Y2K failures abroad will range from the relatively benign,
to problems within systems across sectors that will have humanitarian
implications such as power loss in mid-winter. The coincidence of widespread
Y2K-related failures in the winter of 1999-2000 in Russia and Ukraine, with
continuing economic problems, food shortages, and already difficult conditions
for the population could have major humanitarian consequences for these


Russia has exhibited a low level of Y2K awareness and remediation activity.
While the Russians possess a talented pool of programmers, they seem to lack
the time, organization, and funding to adequately confront the Y2K problem. The
$3 billion estimate last month from Alexander Krupnov, Chairman of the Russian
Central Telecommunications Commission, is six times the original estimate.
Frankly, we do not know how they arrived at this number.

One issue we are watching in Russia relates to vulnerability of Soviet-designed
nuclear plants in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia to Y2K-related
problems. DOE analysts have done a systematic analysis of the safety of foreign
reactors, and some of the former Soviet models are the worst. US nuclear
reactor specialists know a great deal about the design and safety of these
reactors, but they do not yet know what specific Y2K problems they may have.
Documentation for plant equipment and software in use in Soviet-designed
reactors is either poor or nonexistent. Many of the vendors who supplied this
equipment or software have not been in business since the fall of the Soviet
Union and are not available to help.

We envision two ways in which potential problems with Soviet-designed reactors
could evolve. The first involves the operation of internal components or
sensors crucial to the operation of the plant, being affected or degraded by
Y2K problems. For example, a valve with a digital controller designed to
automatically adjust the flow of cooling water, could potentially malfunction
because the digital controller does not recognize the year 00. The second
involves problems arising from the loss of off-site power to the reactor due to
Y2K problems in the power grid. This could lead to a series of Y2K problems
possibly occurring simultaneously, presenting an even greater challenge to the
reactor operators.

While loss of electric power would in itself normally result in reactor
shutdown, that process could potentially be complicated if internal Y2K
problems arise within the reactor complex itself. We have not yet identified
any safety-related equipment with Y2K-related problems within Soviet-designed
reactors; however, other, non-safety-related equipment used to operate the
plant may have problems. For example, in some Soviet-style reactors (RBMK's -
14 graphite moderated, water cooled reactors) a computer is used to control
power production. Failure of this computer would cause activation of the safety
systems, the control rods would automatically be inserted, and the reactor
would begin to shut down. When external power is lost, diesel generators are
used to supply power to cooling pumps to remove heat from the core. These
diesels must have adequate fuel supplies on hand for at least a week in order
to prevent fuel melt.

While some Soviet-designed reactors are less vulnerable to problems from Y2K
failures due to safety improvements incorporated into their designs, other
reactors currently in use in Russia and other former Soviet states and allies,
such as the remaining reactor at Chernobyl, are of more concern. While DOE has
initiatives underway designed to assist the Russians in reducing the risk of
Y2K-related reactor safety issues, the Russians have been slow to accept our
help. DOE is sponsoring a study at Pacific Northwest Laboratories to identify
the most likely Y2K failures in Soviet-designed reactors from internal Y2K
problems or from electric power grid problems--and to assess the implications
of potential failures.

Russia's Gazprom Natural Gas Pipeline network also is susceptible to potential
Y2K outages. It supplies nearly 50 percent of the total energy consumed by
Russia, almost 15 percent of the total energy consumed by Eastern Europe, and 5
percent of that consumed by Western Europe. Based on the natural gas storage
capacity and the drawdown capability at the storage sites, we believe that
Western Europe can survive a Gazprom shutdown for over 30 days. This assumes
that there are no Y2K problems associated with distribution of the gas from the
storage areas. Of greater concern are Eastern Europe, Russia itself, and the
other states of the former Soviet Union should Russia's ability to transport
and export natural gas be interrupted in mid-winter. Russia will lose virtually
all of its natural gas and the information that we have on the storage capacity
and drawdown capability of Eastern Europe and other states of the former Soviet
Union suggests that those countries could experience severe shortages should
Gazprom shut down. Like all major pipeline operators, Gazprom has emergency
contingency plans to assure continued gas delivery after a pipeline shutdown or
explosion. While available options include manual equipment operation, use of
stored gas, and switching to backup pipe segments, it is unclear whether these
measures are sufficient to deal with the scale of problems that could occur due
to Y2K failures.


Military systems and their command and control are particularly
information-technology dependent, and thus potentially vulnerable to disruption
if Y2K problems are not adequately addressed. Foreign strategic missile
systems, particularly in Russia and China, may experience Y2K-related problems.
Missile-related concerns involve the vulnerability of environmental control
systems within silos to Y2K disruption. Sensors and controllers need to be Y2K
safe. Liquid-fueled missiles within silos must be monitored for fuel leaks.
Optimum temperature and humidity levels must also be maintained within the
silos. I want to be clear that while local problems are foreseeable, we do not
see a problem in terms of Russian or Chinese missiles automatically being
launched, or nuclear weapons going off, because of computer problems arising
from Y2K failures. And, our assessment remains that we currently do not see a
danger of unauthorized or inadvertent launch of ballistic missiles from any
country due to Y2K problems.

Based on our analysis, we think the Russians may have some Y2K problems in the
early warning systems that they use to monitor foreign missile launches, and at
their command centers. You may have seen Maj. General Dvorkin's statement at a
Moscow press conference this week that the Y2K problem does threaten early
warning and space control systems. Problems within these systems could lead to
incorrect information being either transmitted, received, or displayed or to
complete system outages.

General Dvorkin stated that tests have revealed which hardware and software
needs to be remediated or replaced and that final tests of the adjusted
software will take place in October of this year. DoD has been working with the
Russians for months on these problems. DoD has announced plans to establish a
joint US-Russian Defense Y2K Coordination Center in Colorado Springs, CO in
order to share early attack warning information, thus preventing confusion
should any Y2K-related false or ambiguous warnings occur. A DoD delegation
visited Moscow last month to help the Russians get up to speed on potential
Y2K-related nuclear early warning problems.

Regarding world trade and oil, some of our most important trading
partners--including China and Japan--have been documented by, among others, the
Gartner Group, as behind the US in fixing their Y2K problems. Significant oil
exporters to the United States and the global market include a number of
countries that are lagging in their Y2K remediation efforts. Oil production is
largely in the hands of multinational corporations in the oil-producing
countries, but this sector is highly intensive in the use of information
technology and complex systems using embedded processors. Microprocessors and
computer systems are utilized for oil and gas production, processing, and
transportation. Computers and microprocessors are used to monitor, report, and
store data on the status of equipment and facilities and to assist in
performing or controlling operations. In more sophisticated infrastructures,
operations of equipment and facilities may be highly automated to enable
networks of facilities to be controlled remotely. This places that industry at
risk of Y2K-related problems which could result in a slowdown of extraction,
refining and delivery.

The oil sector is also highly dependent on ports, ocean shipping, and domestic
infrastructures. Y2K specialists have noted that world ports and ocean shipping
are among the sectors that have done the least to prepare for the Y2K problem.

Waterborne commerce carries not only oil but a significant amount of the
world's goods of all types. It is difficult to predict at present the effect of
Y2K on the shipping industry, however, many ships and transshipment points use
higher level computer systems and equipment that contain embedded systems.
Widespread failures in waterborne commerce carriers could also have significant
impacts in the supply of food and commercial goods, resulting in possibly
severe economic disruptions. Malfunction of navigational equipment either
aboard or external to the ship may also occur, resulting in either collisions
or groundings, potentially resulting in environmental problems.