The Accidental Armageddongreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
The Accidental Armageddon
[ For Educational Purposes Only ]
By HELEN CALDICOTT
The Y2K bug could trigger a nuclear holocaust. So what are the experts doing? Hoping for the best ....
MANY of the world's chemical plants, nuclear reactors and nuclear-weapon systems rely heavily on date-related computer systems. So what will happen to them come the millennium bug?
It is remarkable that the Pentagon, the United States Defence headquarters, computerised its nuclear weapons, delivery systems and early-warning systems, despite knowing there was a date-related problem. And it beggars comprehension that the nuclear power industry made the same mistake.
There are 433 non-military nuclear power reactors in the world, 103 of them in the US. All depend on an intact coolant system. In most reactors, integral components of the cooling system are computerised. So if any date-dependent fixture breaks down, the reactor could melt down within minutes.
How to deal with this? Even if the reactor is taken ``off line'' - that is, the fissioning process is stopped on 31 December and the cooling system fails on 1 January - it will still melt down within two hours. Indeed, even if the fission reaction were to be stopped today, the core would still be so hot in six months that it would melt down within 12 hours if the coolant system failed.
But there's more. The circulation of coolant water is also dependent on an external electricity supply and an intact telecommunications system. If the millennium bug causes power failures and/or telecommunication malfunctions, reactors will be vulnerable. Because of this possibility, each US reactor has been equipped with two back-up diesel generators. But at best these are only 85 per cent reliable. So, in the event of a prolonged power failure, the back-up diesel generators will not necessarily prevent a nuclear catastrophe. And 67 Russian-built reactors are even more vulnerable, because they have no back-up generators.
What is more, the Russian electricity grid is itself at great risk because, as one might expect, the political and economic turmoil in that country means the Y2K problem has hardly been examined. There are 70 old nuclear reactors on old Russian submarines moored at dock in the Barents Sea. If they were to lose the electricity grid powering their cooling systems, they would melt.
About 80 per cent of France's electricity is nuclear generated. Its government has announced it will close its nuclear power plants for four days over the New Year. But this will not stop meltdowns if the external electricity supply is lost and the coolant fails to reach the intensely hot radioactive cores.
Because the air masses of the two hemispheres do not generally mix at the equator, Australia is likely to be largely protected from the fallout from any catastrophic radioactive accidents in the northern hemisphere, where most reactors are located.
But Russia and America maintain an arsenal of up to 3000 nuclear warheads, targeted at each other and their allies. These weapons are on hair-trigger alert, meaning only minutes are allowed for either side to determine whether an apparent attack is the result of a computer error. And Australia is home to several of the Russian targets, among them Pine Gap, Nurrunga, North West Cape and Tidbinbilla. In the event of a nuclear war - accidental or deliberate - they could expect to be on the receiving end of at least one hydrogen bomb each.
The Pentagon, which maintains more computer systems than any other organisation in the world, is in disarray about Y2K. The Pentagon admits that it is physically impossible to locate all the embedded microchips within the systems. And even if a system is deemed Y2K compliant, each system interfaces with others, so that a faulty embedded chip or hardware problem in one system can infect another that is deemed Y2K compliant, and ``bring it down''.
The US Deputy Secretary of Defence, John Hamre, was quoted in October last year as saying: ``Probably one out of five days I wake up in a cold sweat thinking (that the Y2K problem) is much bigger than we think, and then the other four days I think maybe we are on top of it. Everything is so interconnected; it's very hard to know with any precision that we have got it fixed.''
It has been well documented that the Pentagon's early-warning computers experience more than 100 significant errors each year. And on the Russian side, in one well-reported 1995 incident, their computers detected telemetry from a US missile that was launching a Norwegian weather satellite. Thinking the Americans had initiated a nuclear war, the Russians, for the first time, actually opened the nuclear ``football'', the computer used to launch a nuclear attack. For some minutes, President Boris Yeltsin contemplated pressing the button. Only when the missile veered off target did the Russians realise that they were not under attack.
America's early-warning system could also be at risk because of the millennium bug. False messages could be received because of computer malfunction in the infra-red satellites used to detect missile launches; in the ``over the horizon'' radar system that monitors missile flight; or in the overall C3I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) System set up to detect Russian missile launches.
Russia appears not to have taken seriously the Y2K problem as it relates to its nuclear arsenal. And nor has the US devoted much time to helping the Russians. High-level talks were conducted, before the Kosovo war on establishing a joint early-warning room so that Russia and America could reassure each other in the event of accidents or computer failures. But once NATO bombs began dropping, the Russians backed away.
So the picture is potentially grim. Can anything be done? Yes.
Every nuclear reactor should be fitted urgently with back-up alternative electricity sources, such as solar or wind power. This is not an impossible task, and it could be achieved if the US showed the same level of commitment as it has displayed in the Kosovo crisis.
As for nuclear weapons, the arsenals of France, England, Israel, India, Pakistan and China are not on hair-trigger alert. But all strategic weapons in Russia and America should be decoupled within the next six months - that is, the weapons should be removed from their missiles. Also, the bombs themselves must be de-alerted.
But perhaps the biggest threat is worldwide apathy. The truth is that we have less than seven months to deactivate these deadly arsenals before the clock strikes midnight. And we won't meet that deadline unless the international community, including Australia, demands that it be done.
Dr Helen Caldicott is secretary of the Our Common Future party, and founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
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-- Ashton & Leska (email@example.com), June 20, 1999
Bob Brock wrote on csy2k:
"I am curious about one thing. Could the Helen Caldicott who wrote the article be this one?
"Raised in Australia, Helen Caldicott trained as a physician and devoted herself to the treatment of children afflicted with cystic fibrosis. But it was in the political turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s that she found her true calling. Resigning from the faculty of Harvard Medical School, she helped to found and was the first president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and the Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND), two organizations at the forefront of the nuclear-freeze movement. Over the next ten years Caldicott brought her message to world leaders, to the media, and to audiences of thousands whom she roused to action with singular eloquence. In 1985, PSR's umbrella affiliate, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize."
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
Great. Russia blatantly threatened us with Y2K, and we've given them exactly the excuse they were looking for.
E X P E C T T O B E N U K E D
Russia Threatens US With Y2K Nuke Attack
[ the 3 URLs which carried this story are all now dead; in archives ]
[ For Educational Purposes Only ]
3/2/99 -- 7:45 PM
Official: Tensions with NATO raise danger of false missile
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's disputes with the West over Iraq and Yugoslavia are increasing the chances that Moscow would retaliate after a false warning of a missile attack, a top Russian defense official said Tuesday.
False missile warnings may be caused by the Year 2000 computer bug - which Russia has been slow to tackle - or other radar glitches, said Vladimir Dvorkin, head of a Defense Ministry department in charge of missile-warning systems.
He insisted that Russia would be much less likely to retaliate for a false alarm caused by the so-called ``millennium bug'' if the United States and NATO heeded Moscow's demands and called off the bombings of Iraq and the threat of airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
``The risk of making the wrong decision is higher when international tensions escalate,'' Dvorkin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
``The risk of such mistakes, including those caused by the unresolved Y2K problem, would be eliminated if international tensions eased, especially in conflict regions such as Iraq and Yugoslavia,'' he said.
Dvorkin didn't specify what could cause a false missile-attack warning besides the Y2K bug, saying only that ``theoretically, mistakes are possible.''
In 1995, Russian officials apparently mistook a Norwegian rocket launch for a missile aimed at Russia, prompting President Boris Yeltsin to open his ``black case'' containing nuclear launch codes. No attack was launched.
While Moscow may not respond to a false warning with an all-out nuclear strike, he refused to specify just how it would react to a mistaken alarm from its strategic radar.
``It doesn't mean that a decision will be made to use all stockpiled nuclear forces in retaliation to a (perceived) mass attack,'' he said.
At the same time, the Defense Ministry sought to stress that it was dealing successfully with the Y2K bug, and the risk of it causing Russia's nuclear forces to fire off unintentionally was negligible. Still, Dvorkin said that 74 control centers of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces were judged in ``critical'' condition because of their unpreparedness for the Y2K glitch.
But he insisted that Russia will resolve the problem by the end of the year.
Russia has said it needs up to $3 billion to tackle the millennium bug problem, and appealed to NATO for help.
And we all know what's gone down since these pointed statements were made!
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
All I can do after reading that is utter UT,OH....ah sh*t.
-- Mike (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
I very rarely post to this forum, but since I was quoted from CSY2k, I'll take my chances on being censored this once. I presonally believe that the chances of a nuclear exchange are as great now as they were immediately after the Cuban missle crisis. NATO has violated it's charter, Korea is testing the waters, a number of countries (Serbia, Iraq, etc.) feel justified in engaging in terrorism and no one is sure what they may have purchased from the Russian nuclear arsenal. India and Pakastian are firing artillery at each other and both have the bomb. China is very concerned about what impact NATO's new role could play in some of their territory disputes and I don't believe that Korea does anything without China's assent.
The political situation concerns me much more than Y2k...
-- Bob Brock (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
I agree. I just can't prepare for some of those possibilities. Where's Mel Gibson? (got lip gloss?)
-- Will continue (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
Funny, the political situation worries me much LESS than Y2K. Which only proves that we are very selective in what we choose to worry about. Nuclear disaster? That relieves me of a lot of responsibility since I can't do a thing but die along with everyone else. That's easy.
-- Mara Wayne (MaraWayne@aol.com), June 20, 1999.
The cities won't need lights because they'll glow in the dark.
-- Randolph (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
http://y2ksurvival.com/survival Bomb shelters...potassium iodide? http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=000vD4 http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=000puv http://www.nuclearwinter.com/
-- Mumsie (Lotsakids@home.com), June 20, 1999.
"And we all know what's gone down since these pointed statements were made! "
Why yes we do. Yeltsin has arrived at the G8 conference as scheduled and has a scheduled meeting with Clinton next month. Your point?
-- come on folks..pay attention (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
I agree that there are some things that you can't prepare for. I also got a little lost on the comment about Yeltsen going to the G-8 meeting and keeping up with current events. Has Yeltsen regained control of the military? After all, he said that he didn't seen those troops into Kosovo. Have India and Pakastain reached a truce? Have the N. Koreans and S. Koreans quit sinking each others ships without a current US naval presence in the area?
How does nuclear war differ significantly from the Milne/Infomagic billions dead scenerio? Can one really prepare for the end of western civilization? I personally think that all a person can do is to prepare for what they think will happen and adapt to whatever life deals out.
It's father's day and I'm feeling somewhat reflective today. I've seen Ms. Caldicott speak a few times and she is truly an intelligent woman and a very impressive speaker. She has strength in her convictions and integrity in her methods.
As I said before, I normally don't post here so this will be my last one for a while.
-- Bob Brock (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
This just out today --
Sunday June 20 2:48 PM ET
Russia Agrees To Talk About ABM Pact Changes
By Steve Holland
COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - The United States won the agreement of Russia Sunday to consider changes in the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to enable the possible development of a "Star Wars Di-style U.S. missile defense system.
"For the first time, Russia has agreed to discuss changes in the ABM treaty that may be necessitated by a national missile defense system were we to decide to deploy one," said White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, hailing the deal as significant.
In exchange, the United States agreed to a resumption of negotiations on a START 3 treaty reducing long-range nuclear arms.
It had been insisting that the START 2 treaty first be ratified by Russia's opposition-controlled lower house of parliament.
The goal of START 2 is to bring warheads down to a maximum of 3,500 on each side. Under START 3 they could go down to 2,000 on each side. The U.S. Senate ratified START 2 in 1996.
The agreements were reached during a meeting between President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin -- evidence of a thaw in East-West relations which had been chilled by NATO's 11-week-long bombardment of Yugoslavia.
"The summit gave us a chance to work on what we have in common," said Clinton.
The United States wants to make amendments to the 1972 ABM treaty, which sets limits on the type of systems Russia and the United States can deploy to intercept incoming missiles.
The changes are needed because legislation adopted by the Republican-led Congress in March commits Washington to put in place a defensive shield against limited missile attack.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called the arms agreement, reached at talks held here after the Group of Eight summit, "a very important declaration."
Russia is concerned that a U.S. defensive system capable of shooting down incoming missiles would breach the ABM treaty and undermine the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction.
The idea at the time of the ABM Treaty was that neither side would be likely to launch a nuclear strike if they knew they had no defenses to prevent the resulting catastrophe.
But many military experts, diplomats and national security figures in Washington feel the ABM Treaty is a Cold War relic that has no place in a new, more dangerous world where so-called rogue states like North Korea and Iraq might attempt a missile strike against the United States.
The Clinton administration has pledged $6.6 billion in its fiscal 2000 budget for the development of a missile defense but will delay a presidential decision on building one until June 2000.
A joint statement issued by the two countries said discussions on START 3 and the ABM treaty would begin later this summer.
They agreed to "consider possible changes in the strategic situation that have a bearing on the ABM treaty and, as appropriate, possible proposals for further increasing the viability of this treaty," it said.
Berger said the two sides would begin preliminary negotiations to determine what a START 3 treaty would look like so the government could move swiftly on an accord should the Russia's Duma lower house of parliament ratify START 2, which was signed in 1993.
One problem Russia has with START 2 is paying to dismantle nuclear weapons required under the treaty. Some politicians also do not want to give up the status that having nuclear weapons provides.
Now, that's good news, no matter how thin you slice it. Shows a spirit of cooperation; not a tendency towards an "accidental Armageddon".
Ashton & Leska, take your fear-mongering junk and SHOVE IT.
-- Chicken Little (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
-- Chicken Little (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
red off once again
-- redstuff (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
-- (@ .), June 20, 1999.
Well gee, chicken little said everything is going to be o-tay... woweee I'm so relieved. You just saved me hundreds of dollars in rice and beans! Thanks a million buddy, you really made a good point. It's people like Ashton and Leska who are trying to start a nuclear exchange by being such a couple of "doomers".
Woweee, thank the lord for guys like you Chicken Little. Your just so brainy and wise! Now that we know to how to stop people from using the atomic weapons they have amassed in the past thirty years everyhting will be just fine!
If we could only stop people from being so darn gloomy then we'd never have to worry about THAT BIG BRIGHT LIGHT from ever appearing over one of our cities. If we could all just be optimistic then the nukes will never fly!
By golly thats it! Hey everyone, I got it figured out! If everyone just SMILES and says it's all O-TAY then we'll never get irradiated.
Whew... whatta relief. You ought to run for President Chicken Little.
(sarcasm mode off)
-- (not going to get@irradiated at. home), June 20, 1999.
Where was helen caldicott when the 100 th monkey protest shut down the nevada test site in 1992. I think that it is great that she is rasing the awareness of the medical dangers nuclear weapons are to the human race, But she needs to do more stop sitting on the sidelines Helen. Y2k is a nightmare for the nuclear c3I,the nuke processing facilities and power plants around the world. If she is truly the activist she says she is, then she needs to hold a world wide press confrence at the U.N with the top board members of the national federation of atomic scientists and leading software specialist like Ed Yourdon and others to formally demand that all nuclear powerplants,facilities, and weapons systems be de-alerted and taken off line until June of 2000 and outline for the press why that failure to not do so will have catistrophic world wide consequences. Y2k if not dealt with in a proactive responsible manner now by world officals could kill the planet. No Bluffing on this one. I worked on airborne early warning systems for many years, y2k and the corrupt data problem is not something you should take litely. If it's not fixed (the Nukes and chem plants)as of now then they need to shut it down. Put the U.N on the Hot seat to take the lead on this one and to take the heat if thimgs go enviromentally bad.
-- y2k aware mike (y2k aware mike @ conservation .com), June 20, 1999.
-- Hmmm (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
Irradiated, you idiot,
(and I'm coitainly sorry this forum doesn't respond to standard HTML tags....woopsie)
Ashton and Leska can't start a nuclear exchange, obviously. But they can start unwarranted panicky thoughts in people's minds with their patently wicked slop.
What is the benefit in trying to spread thoughts that we're all gonna get nuked? HUH? If we do, there will be precious few of us left to worry about anything, now isn't that right? So why spend your time worrying about something like that? Or trying to spread fear about that? It's completely out of our hands.
The other month a man got killed on a highway outside of town by an oak tree that fell over on his car. Totally freakish accident. I guess if you folks had read about that, you'd worry about oak trees for the rest of your time on earth, and try to get everybody else to do the same. Well, I'm not going to live like that. Life is a gamble; you take your chances. Without freaking out over every single little real or imagined threat, and without trying to freak everybody else out to boot.
People trying to spread fear about supposed Nuke threats is like screaming "Fire" in a crowded theater, when there is no demonstrated fire. Such behavior is totally contemptible. Those who attempt to spread such guff ought to be horse-whipped. At the very least.
-- Chicken Little (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
And once upon a time, DDT was routinely sprayed on our fields and forests, lead was a component of gasoline and paint, and thalidomide was given to pregnant women. All were finally perceived to be the serious threat to human health and the planet that they are and their use in these manners were stopped.
For that matter, blacks used to have to sit on the back of the bus, women couldn't vote, and schools were segregated.
If we just sit back and say there is nothing we can do,it is beyond our feeble efforts and out of our control, then it is. But if we could look at all of the above situations, and many more like these, and see them for the atrocities that they were and change them, why can we not do the same with nuclear power and weapons?
It all starts with one voice. Why can't it be yours?
-- farmer (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
You calling me an idiot after you make an analogy of oak trees to atomic weapons? ha
Not spread fear of nuclear annahilation? ha
Instead you want I should tell everyone how safe it is to have thousands of hydrogen bombs laying around leaching radioactivity into the envirnonment? ha
Your absolutey priceless Chicken Little, and I mean that in the worst possible way. One day YOUR going to look up into that beautiful blue sky, see a BIG BRIGHT LIGHT for a millisecond and maybe have time to think to yourself that the threat of nucelar attack wasn't so contemptible at all. I cannot even believe a concious human being would utter such nonesense... "you ought to be horsewhipped at the very least".... hardy har har
Yeah Chicken Little, no worries mate... I'm sure they'll NEVER set those things off. That mutually assured destruction and all...
I wonder what dense material percolates in your mind that passes for a brain. I mean, I can see your point how stupid it is to spread fear about y2k because no one has proved it's danger yet. But you'd have to have been raised in a broom closet to know the potenial for nuclear energy. Ever hear of a Nuetron bomb? Saturates the environment with radiation but leaves buildings intact, destroying all organic material. Yeah, you know... there wouldn't be any point in building a bomb like that... because I'm sure no HUMAN would ever be so stupid (tee hee) to use a device so vile.
Well anyway, have a nice life Chicken Little. Hope you are right about the nukes. But then again, why worry about them right? I mean, all they really add up to is just a bunch of oak trees sitting around in decaying missile silos. Don't sweat the small stuff right?
(ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!!!)
-- (I wonder@what CL's brain. looks like?), June 20, 1999.
Oh Chicken Little,
I think I'll stop telling people to use seat belts. No point in going around worrying about EVERY LITTE THING right? If I tell them to use seat belts I'll just be spreading unneccesary fear about car accidents.
Gosh, your about as sharp as a bag of wet mice. Or,
Your about as clever as a stone boat!
Chicken Little is one brick short of a load, his cheese has slipped off it's cracker, he has a leak in his bean bag...
He is missing a goodly amount of attic insulation...if brains were black powder he couldn't blow his nose.
Okay, that was childish, but it made me feel good...
Don't fear nuclear bombs... HA!
"So why spend your time worrying about something like that? Or trying to spread fear about that? It's completely out of our hands. "
Did Chicken Little ACTUALLY say that??
I guess I'll stop recycling then too... a project that big is completly out of my hands. (giggle)
Go to Hell CL, your a first class dope.
-- (Narf@P&theB.com), June 20, 1999.
Ignore it and it'll go away right Chicken? Now I know how you got your handle. jerk
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 20, 1999.
Nothing to Fear? History says otherwise, Fear This...
"A bright light filled the plane," wrote Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb. "We turned back to look at Hiroshima. The city was hidden by that awful cloud...boiling up, mushrooming." For a moment, no one spoke. Then everyone was talking. "Look at that! Look at that! Look at that!" exclaimed the co-pilot, Robert Lewis, pounding on Tibbets's shoulder. Lewis said he could taste atomic fission; it tasted like lead. Then he turned away to write in his journal. "My God," he asked himself, "what have we done?"
-- (email@example.com), June 20, 1999.
Chicken Little uttered: (and I'm coitainly sorry this forum doesn't respond to standard HTML tags....woopsie) It does respond to standard HTML tags, in your post where you changed the colour to red you did: FONT SIZE+1
The Text you typed
FONT You missed out the / on the last two fonts. So later on when you attempted to cancel out the red, you cancelled the last font, and then you again?!? tried and it cancelled the 2nd last one. Two more times and you would have done it :-) Regards, Simon
-- Simon Richards (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 21, 1999.
My previous post stuffed up because I attempted to close all the fonts that other people opened. I didn't do enough Font closures, sorry all.
-- Simon Richards (email@example.com), June 21, 1999.
I've been awake too long, sigh
-- Simon Richards (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 21, 1999.
Up the creek with out a p.....................................!
-- && (&&@&&.&), June 21, 1999.
The probability of nuclear holocaust (or any event that is possible) over time can be represented by:
p = (the sum of p(1999), p(2000), p(2001)...)
As the small probabilities of each given year are added together, the total probability approaches the value of 1.
There have been numerous "broken arrows" (accidents not widely reported in the media) and crises putting nuclear forces within minutes of orders to attack.
1962 might have been a 20% probability, but the Russian attack capability was miniscule compared with today's rubble-bouncing redundancies.
1999 might be one of many 1% years. 2000 may be a 5% year. Then back to a sequence of 1% years.
But arguing about the probability in any given year is less important than understanding the cumulative probability over time. It doesn't take 100 1% years to give you a cindered Earth. "Russian Roulette" doesn't guarantee you five SAFE trigger pulls before the sixth goes off.
In one ironic twist with nukes, we may even be made SAFER if India and Pakistan, or Israel and _somebody_ exchange a few educational warheads, if it were to provoke no wider war and the media reports were sickening enough to persuade US, Russia, Britain, France and China to back down to an adequate deterrent of 10 warheads each. (Once again: stakes vs. odds.)
What is not made impossible, given enough time, is inevitable.
-- jor-el (email@example.com), June 21, 1999.
-- Max Dixon (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 21, 1999.
[ Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only ]
Assessing Risk of Y2K Meltdown: Watchdog Group Calls For Shutdown Of All Plants
By David M. Bresnahanm, ) 1999 WorldNetDaily.com
The nuclear power industry has failed to prepare properly for the Year 2000 computer bug, according to a watchdog group, making the potential for a nuclear meltdown high.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service continues to call for the shutdown of all nuclear power plants to avoid possible Y2K computer bug problems. A recent report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given critics additional reason for concern.
The NRC has confirmed that at least 35 nuclear power plants are not Y2K compliant and at best could only be Y2K ready by the end of the year.
NIRS noted that several of these reactors aren't even scheduled to complete their Y2K fixes until November 1999 or later. The last-minute nature of such repairs leaves virtually no time for testing and further adjustment if needed, according to NIRS spokesmen.
"The NRC's program is unacceptable," said NIRS' executive director Michael Mariotte. "It's what we feared all along -- this agency is waiting until the last minute and then just hoping that everything will work out OK. But with nuclear reactors, there is no margin for error. Simply hoping for the best is a sure indication that the worst can happen."
The NRC presented a list of 35 reactors that are behind schedule, along with a projected date they hope to have the plants at least Y2K ready. Compliant means that a system is completely repaired and will function without error at the turn of the century. A system which is only Y2K ready is one that has various patches that may enable it to function even though it is not repaired. One such patch is to change the date to fool the system. Such a fix may cause other problems.
Commercial nuclear power plants that are not ready were listed by the NRC along with projected dates that they will be Y2K ready. NIRS officials are concerned that not enough time remains between the dates given and the end of the year to test the systems to be sure sufficient repairs have been made. The plants that are not repaired, along with their projected dates of Y2K readiness are:
* Beaver Valley, Units 1 and 2; Shippingport, Pa., 9/30/99
* Browns Ferry, Units 2 and 3; Athens, Ala., 10/31/99
* Brunswick, Unit 1; Southport, N.C., 11/30/99
* Clinton; Clinton, Ill., 9/22/99
* Comanche Peak, Unit 1; Glen Rose, Texas, 11/30/99
* Comanche Peak, Unit 2; Glen Rose, Texas, 10/30/99
* D.C. Cook, Units 1 and 2; Bridgman, Mich., 12/15/99
* Davis-Besse; Port Clinton, Ohio, 8/1/99
* Diablo Canyon, Units 1 and 2; San Luis Obispo, Calif., 10/31/99
* Farley, Unit 2; Columbia, Ala., 12/16/99
* Hope Creek; Hancocks Bridge, N.J., 10/29/99
* Limerick, Unit 2; Limerick, Pa., 9/30/99
* Monticello; Monticello, Minn., 9/1/99
* North Anna, Unit 2; Mineral, Va., 10/29/99
* Oyster Creek; Toms River, N.J., 9/30/99
* Peach Bottom, Unit 2; Delta, Pa., 9/30/99
* Peach Bottom, Unit 3; Delta, Pa., 10/31/99
* Perry; Perry, Ohio, 8/1/99
* Salem, Unit 1; Wilmington, Del., 11/6/99
* Salem, Unit 2; Hancocks, N.J., 10/29/99
* Sequoyah, Units 1 and 2; Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., 10/31/99
* South Texas, Units 1 and 2; Bay City, Texas, 10/31/99
* St. Lucie, Units 1 and 2; Fort Pierce, Fla., 7/15/99
* Three Mile Island, Unit 1; Middletown, Pa., 10/21/99
* Turkey Point, Units 3 and 4; Florida City, Fla., 7/15/99
* Vermont Yankee; Vernon, Vt., 10/31/99
* Watts Bar; Spring City, Tenn., 10/31/99
"Obviously, the nuclear utilities still have an enormous amount of work to do to repair their computer systems for the next century," said Mary Olson, NIRS' Y2K specialist. "The NRC is trying to put the best spin possible on this problem, but the fact is some utilities just aren't going to be ready in time. Experts agree that no nuclear power will be needed in the U .S. on January 1, 2000, (because) there will be plenty of electrical generation available. For that reason, we join with our colleagues across the globe in calling for a nuclear moratorium on January 1-- a shutdown of all nuclear facilities across the world. Who knows, we may find we can live without them permanently?"
NIRS submitted three petitions for rulemaking to the NRC at the end of 1998.
One would require any utility not fully Y2K-compliant by Dec. 1, 1999 to be closed until it can prove it is Y2K-compliant. Thus far, the NRC has not indicated that any reactor will be Y2K compliant by Dec. 1, 1999.
NIRS also wants the U.S. to provide assistance to Eastern-Bloc nuclear reactors that suffer from Y2K problems.
"More U.S. assistance is necessary for many Eastern countries to ensure that January 1, 2000 is not a time of meltdown, but of celebration," said Olson. "The U.S. Congress needs to recognize that several Eastern countries need help in basic Y2K work and in enabling the implementation of meaningful contingency plans. Such assistance is of little cost to the U.S., but will be of great benefit if meltdowns and electrical grid disruptions can be avoided."
The North American Electric Reliability Council issued a report on the Y2K computer bug challenge to the electric industry. The report states that uninterrupted production of electricity is critical to the nation's infrastructure.
"More than any other element of the North American economic and social infrastructure, the electricity production and delivery systems must be dependable during the transition to Y2K. Every other critical element of infrastructure depends on the availability of an interconnected, reliable supply of electrical power. There is no doubt that cascading or even localized outages of generators and transmission facilities could have serious short- and long-term consequences," the report states. Electric power in the U.S. is distributed through a power grid, which is made up of four large interconnections, according to NERC. Disruptions within the grid could cause a failure of the entire grid, or perhaps a failure of one of the interconnections.
"A major disturbance within one part of an interconnection will rapidly have an impact throughout the interconnection and has the potential to cascade the effect to the entire interconnection," the NERC report explains.
Although the loss of one, two, or even three power plants within an interconnection will not necessarily cause cascading outages, the Y2K problem may bring about such a failure. Many power plants have digitally controlled parts from the same manufacturer. These common modes could spell disaster.
"Y2K poses the threat that common mode failures (such as all generator protection relays of a particular model failing simultaneously) or the coincident loss of multiple failures may result in stressing the electric system to the point of a cascading outage over a large area," NERC admits in the report.
The late dates announced by the NRC for so many nuclear plants to be Y2K ready make testing difficult in the time remaining before the end of the year, according to the announcement by NIRS. The NERC report specifically points out that individual testing of power plants is not sufficient.
"An individualistic approach to the problem may not cover all potential problem areas (e.g., coordination with neighboring utilities) and, thus, could adversely affect operations within an interconnection. An individual electric utility that invests tens of millions of dollars in solving Y2K problems could be affected in a major way by an outage initiated in neighboring systems that have not been as diligent. Therefore, preparation of the electricity power production and delivery systems in North America must be a coordinated team effort by those entities responsible for system reliability. All preventive programs do not have to be the same, but they do have to be coordinated.
The industry will succeed or fail together in its readiness for Y2K," predicts the NERC report.
WorldNetDaily previously reported the admission by NERC officials that critical information on the Y2K testing of power plants was purposefully being withheld from the public and from the Department Of Energy. That policy is still in effect.
NERC claims the challenges of meeting the Y2K transition can be handled successfully if critical areas are properly solved. NIRS believes the one problem which may be the greatest threat to the electric system, and to the safety of the general population, is the nuclear power plants. Only 15 to 20 percent of all power in the U.S. is generated from nuclear power, and NIRS claims all nuclear plants could be turned off in December with no adverse effects since usage is at the lowest level at that time of year.
NERC admits that newer power plants actually have a greater risk than older ones. Newer plants use digital control systems and older plants use analog controls. The digital equipment use time-dependent algorithms that could cause a system to trip offline if they fail.
It is also possible that global positioning satellites could fail in orbit, and some electric power plants depend on time signals from those satellites to run energy management systems. If the satellites fail the power system will fail. NERC is quick to point out that the satellites are controlled by the U.S. Government.
"Electric supply and delivery systems are highly dependent on microwave, telephone, and VHF radio communications. The dependency of the electric supply on facilities leased from telephone companies and commercial communications network service providers is a crucial factor. With telecommunications systems being the nerve center of the electric networks, it is important to address the dependencies of electric utility systems on the telecommunications industry during critical Y2K transition periods," the NERC report states.
NERC conducted a test in April to determine if the power grid could function with only high frequency radio systems as a backup in case other telecommunications systems fail. Another test will take place in September.
There are protection systems within power plants, but the newer ones are controlled by digital devices. It is possible that a failure of these devices could bring loss of power from many power plants all at the same time.
"Although many relay protection devices in use today are electromagnetic, newer systems are digital.
The greatest threat here is a common mode failure in which all the relays of a certain model fail simultaneously, resulting in a large number of coincident transmission facility outages," explained the NERC report.
NIRS believes that the prudent approach is to shut down all nuclear plants in December and never turn them back on unless they can be proven to be fully Y2K compliant, not just Y2K ready. Spokesmen from NERC and the NRC claim the people from NIRS are overreacting.
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (email@example.com), July 27, 1999.