NUKE PLANT FANS - Russian nuke plants 'not yet Y2K compliant', but 'Hey! Don't worry about it...!' says UN : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Friday December 17

Soviet-Built Nukes Not Y2K Ready, Experts Say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Many Soviet-designed nuclear power plants are unprepared for the Year 2000 but no systems with immediate impact on safety are in danger of failing because of the Y2K computer glitch, a United Nations-backed international clearinghouse for Y2K data said Thursday.

Of the 68 reactor units in the nine countries of the former Soviet Union, ``many ... contain non-safety related systems that are not yet Y2K compliant,'' the International Y2K Cooperation Center said. Bruce McConnell, the center's director, cited the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency as saying 14 of the plants of greatest concern are in Ukraine and one is in Armenia.

The report did not spell out exactly how many were lagging nor their locations but referred to ``the urgent need for (upgrade) work to continue and for adequate funds to be made available.''

``Contingency plans are in place,'' said the report on the readiness of nuclear plants worldwide for the century rollover.

At issue are possible automated system mix-ups when 1999 ticks into 2000 on Jan. 1. Many computers were engineered to handle only two digits for the year in date fields and could err or crash when ``00'' arrives.

Soviet-designed nuclear power plants have been a constant focus of international Y2K concern, partly because of the 1986 accident at Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor. The world's worst nuclear disaster, it spewed radiation over large parts of Europe.

In advanced nuclear power plants, digital systems control operations and monitor temperature and possible leaks. Soviet-designed models involve ``very few'' date-sensitive components, the International Y2K Cooperation Center said.

The center, which is based in Washington and funded by the World Bank, said Y2K-related errors could ``reduce the ability of operators to analyze and respond'' to equipment problems and ''degrade overall plant performance in the weeks following the date change.''

``Over time, such a degradation in performance would reduce the margins of safety and efficiency in these plants,'' it said.

The report -- which billed itself as having been reviewed by nuclear experts around the world -- described grass-roots calls for a general Y2K shutdown as ``understandable.''

But, it said, ``We do not believe this step is generally necessary.''

``Shutdowns create their own risks. In addition, we note that keeping plants on-line increases the stability of the electrical distribution grid.

``Because of the extensive Y2K work that has been done and the increased staffing and monitoring of nuclear power plant operations over the date change period, we do not believe there is a net safety benefit to a general shut down ... during the period,'' the report said.

Overall, it said nuclear power plants worldwide ``will operate as safely as they normally do'' during the date change and the days following.

The Vienna-based IAEA, the world's nuclear watchdog, will enhance its normal warning and emergency notification system during the date change. It will poll its contacts in member states shortly after each country enters the new year.

In addition, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have developed a Y2K Early Warning System, dubbed YEWS.

YEWS is designed to let nuclear regulators share information on the status of nuclear facility operations, local grid stability and telecommunications during the date transition.


-- John Whitley (, December 17, 1999


One of the "Articles of Faith" of Y2K is that anything not remediated yet in a nuke plant is "non-safety related".

Another "Article of Faith" is that anything not remediated is not mission critical.

Do the computers and embedded systems appreciate the level of our faith?

Odd lack of names mentioned in connection with this report "which billed itself as having been reviewed by nuclear experts around the world.

-- Linda (, December 17, 1999.


December 17, 1999

Chernobyl deemed Y2K ready; engineer not so sure


Ukrainian officials say Chernobyl has been purged of the year-2000 computer problem. International monitors say they do not expect all systems at Soviet-era nuclear power plants to be year-2000 compliant by the New Year.

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine Rainer Goehring spends his days helping ensure the Chernobyl nuclear plant is safe, but he plans to be far away when the New Year rolls around. Just in case. Ukrainian officials say Chernobyl, scene of the worlds worst nuclear accident, has been purged of the year-2000 computer problem. Mr. Goehring, a civil engineer who manages a project on storing spent nuclear fuel, says hes heard the assurances and decided to leave. Im not convinced, said Mr. Goehring, a Belgian. I propose everybody decide for themselves. International monitors say they do not expect all systems at Soviet-era nuclear power plants in Ukraine, Armenia and Lithuania to be year-2000 compliant by the New Year, creating the possibility of widespread blackouts  or perhaps worse. Mr. Goehrings office is a few hundred yards from the towering concrete-and-steel structure known as the sarcophagus  a haunting reminder of what happened at Chernobyl in April 1986 when its No. 4 reactor went up in flames and exploded. The blast spewed radiation over much of Europe. The Ukrainian government has blamed at least 8,000 deaths on the accident  including those killed immediately, workers who died in the massive cleanup operation and people who died later of radiation exposure. No one is sure what glitches the result of unfixed older computers and embedded circuits mistaking 2000 for 1900 and going haywire  might do in this former Soviet republic of 50 million people. Western analysts say cash-strapped Ukraine is among the worlds least-prepared nations. At Chernobyl, a wall separates the crumbling sarcophagus that covers the ruins of the No. 4 reactor from the plants only functioning one, No. 3. It is scheduled to be operating during the Dec. 31 rollover, with a normal shift of 178 workers on duty. Chernobyl officials insist the year-2000 glitch, known as Y2K in computer jargon, will not cause a repeat catastrophe. Of course, we guarantee that, said Anatoliy Iliichev, Chernobyls computer expert, adding that all problems have been fixed. Foreign observers say chances are slim of glitch-induced nuclear accidents at Chernobyl or any of the other 57 Soviet-era reactors in Russia and elsewhere in the old Soviet bloc. But they say bug-triggered failures are possible in some plant systems. The primary headaches are Ukraine which has 16 [reactors], Armenia which has only one and to a slightly lesser degree two Chernobyl-type reactors in Lithuania, said David Kyd, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body that monitors the industry. Mr. Kyd said the IAEA expects some secondary Ukrainian reactor systems, including computers designed to detect radiation leaks, to not be year-2000 compliant by years end, though primary systems may be ready. Nor are all systems at the Lithuanian reactors expected to be ready, he said. In addition, computer problems may not only be confined to the New Year. Because 2000 is a leap year, Feb. 29, March 1 and Dec. 31 could also be problematic, Mr. Kyd said. In any case, the 14 working reactors at Ukraines five nuclear plants experience problems almost every week, frequently shutting down. Chernobyl officials say reactor No. 3 underwent extensive glitch tests before resuming operation on Nov. 26 following months of repairs. The plant has two computer systems, a more than 20-year-old Soviet-designed Skala and a new Western backup system. Although the new computer is not date-sensitive, it has been tested for glitch risk and the Soviet system was tested by simulating the year-2000 changeover, officials say. The central controls main computer was found to be Y2K-sensitive. It controls all the reactors parameters and that was our main headache, Mr. Iliichev said. But we have conducted tests and are certain now the main computer will pass the changeover. Both computers supply operators with information on the reactor, but the reactor itself is run by analog systems that are not susceptible to the year-2000 glitch, said Borys Baranov, a Chernobyl shift manager. Ukraine had pledged to shut down Chernobyl by 2000, but now says it needs foreign aid to complete two new reactors to compensate for Chernobyls lost power and to find new jobs for most of the plants 9,561 workers. Ukraines economy is in tatters and it depends on nuclear power.

Ukrainian officials say Chernobyl has been purged of the year-2000 computer problem. International monitors say they do not expect all systems at Soviet-era nuclear power plants to be year-2000 compliant by the New Year.

-- Homer Beanfang (, December 17, 1999.

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