Nuclear Plants: Post-Y2K Stressgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
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The world's 430 operating nuclear power plants in 34 countries should operate normally during the coming millennium date rollover, but performance problems could pop up in the weeks immediately following the New Year, according to a report issued today by the International Y2K Cooperation Center (IY2KCC).
"Unless Y2K work continues in plants where resources have been limited, Y2K-produced errors in operational management and monitoring systems will degrade overall plant performance in the weeks following the date change," said IY2KCC director Bruce W. McConnell. "Over time, such a degradation in performance would reduce the margins of safety and efficiency in these plants."
The report added that while many advanced nuclear plants employ digital systems that control plant operations and systems that initiate a reactor shutdown, the majority of digital systems are used in non-critical functions, such as monitoring fuel usage and demand load, and processing work orders.
At the same time, however, the report stressed the dependence of nuclear power plants on the normal performance of "external infrastructures," including the electric power grid, telecommunications, water and fuel deliveries, declaring that "failures in these systems can require plants to modify, cut back or discontinue operations."
To guard against the possibility of a temporary disruption in electric power grids, many nations - specifically those in the former Soviet Union states, India and Eastern Europe - will stockpile at least three weeks of diesel fuel to power the reactor cooling systems after a shutdown.
Given popular awareness of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, specific attention was to Russia's nuclear power plants, most of which reportedly operate under a modified mixture of former Soviet and western technology.
"Fortunately, generation units in these plants use older control systems, with very few date-sensitive components," the report said. "Date-sensitive systems in these plants do not trigger automatic actions that would affect safety."
Year 2000 experts will be watching Russia's nuclear power plants for one other reason: They are the closest to the Greenwich mean time zone, and thus the world's first reactors to encounter the date rollover.
The IY2KCC's report also sought to address the popular belief that the best remedy for reducing the risk of nuclear disaster over the New Year weekend might be simply to shut down the reactors deemed most vulnerable to a the millennium bug. But, the report argued, doing so could create more problems than it seeks to solve.
"Shutdowns create their own risks. In addition, we note that keeping plants online increases the stability of the electrical distribution grid," the report said. "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 shutdown of nuclear power plants during the period."
The IY2KCC on Monday released a report on the Year 2000 preparedness of 190 countries that participated in its survey. The study found that most nations should expect a multitude of inconvenient but non-life-threatening Year 2000-related problems over the New Year's weekend and for a short time thereafter.
Starting Dec. 29, 190 countries will provide updates to an Internet-based reporting system called the Global Status Watch (GSW), where national Year 2000 coordinators from each national government will input information from eight sectors in "real-time." The Website, accessible to the general public, will rate each sector based on that country's level of capacity: Green for all systems go, yellow to indicate a reduced capacity and red for serious problems.
The IY2KCC has prepared back up phone and fax systems of reporting, in case the very problem a given country is supposed to be monitoring and reporting affects their ability to do so.
In the event that a country experiences problems it cannot locally correct, "regional sector networks will enable the sharing of common problems and solution approaches," the report said.
In a joint effort between the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, officials have developed the Y2K Early Warning System (YEWS). YEWS will allow nuclear regulators to share information on the status of nuclear facilities over the New Year's weekend. Thus far, only 33 countries have joined the YEWS initiative.
The International Y2K Cooperation Center, was established in February 1999 under the auspices of the United Nations, with funding from The World Bank.
Data for The International Y2K Cooperation Center can be viewed starting Dec. 29, 1999, at http://www.iy2kcc.org.
The Y2K Early Warning System is at http://www.nrc.gov/IP/Y2K/yewsfaq.htm.
-- Steve (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 26, 1999
Excellent catch Steve.
-- GoldReal (GoldReal@aol.com), December 26, 1999.
Steve, Have you heard that it takes several months for Nuclear plants to cool down after a shut- down verses the Russians claiming to have only 3 weeks of diesel for a cool down period? Any comments about which concept is valid?
-- James (email@example.com), December 26, 1999.
There seems to be conflicting information on the cool-down time required. I'm not a nuke expert by any means, but I know others here are quite knowledgable. Perhaps someone can provide a link to the previous thread(s) which addressed this question.
-- Steve (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 26, 1999.