Corporations -- Doing the Easiest, Safest Thing? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Electric (certainly nuclear/electric), Natural Gas and Chemical companies might all end up doing the easiest, safest thing. Because they cannot be anywhere near certain with regard to the embedded components of their control systems, or their ability to sustain their process via their suppliers -- might they not just shut down? There is a huge potential employee safety and public safety (and public relations) and legal downside to staying up. The downside with regard to shutting down for 4 to 7 days? None! Every large process must undergo plant turnaround from time to time to handle planned maintenance and construction. It would be very simple to just schedule this for the Y2K rollover. Even if a company does extensive Y2K preparation, the safe, responsible action would be to shut down. This sudden swing toward responsible decision (I think) might be fueled by the ZERO COST of that decision. Its going to come down to what's easiest -- not any particular FACTS regarding preparedness or probabilities of system failure. So, if I'm right, we'll see alot of "Voluntary Planned Outage" being announced somewhere in 1999 if not sooner. Transient interruptions in service (a week on the outside) but interruptions nonetheless. OK, this is supposed to be a question... Am I nuts, or what?

-- Jeff Morris (, July 14, 1998


Maybe there would be an advantage for chemical companies to shut down if they thought that continued operation with non-compliant systems could pose a public health risk, but electric and natural gas companies? I think the result would be immediate court orders to resume operations if at all possible, followed by massive lawsuits from all the businesses that lost money due to the shutdown.

-- Max Dixon (, July 14, 1998.

My family lives near several chemical plants. The chemical companies have alarms throughout the city when there is a fire, toxic spills, or toxic emissions. These alarms sound on an average of 5 times a month. I was talking to her on the phone the other night and the alarm sounded. When it sounds, you are to stay indoors, windows and doors closed. FYI they have clusters of cancers and birth defects in her city! Safety? All they care about is making a buck, keeping the shareholders happy, and churning out the hazardous chemicals. The utility company emits toxic waste from their power plant. They spend thousands of dollars repainting and washing cars, houses, etc. It's cheaper for them to do this than fix their plant. By the way, they sold it to another energy company....deregulation you know.

-- Barb-Douglas (, July 15, 1998.

Max, the key here is the reason they're going down. It's going to be difficult to sue for non-delivery if the stated reason for the plant going down is public safety or employee safety. These would be covered (likely, more than once) in the purchase agreement or delivery contract to allow the plant such downtime without fear of litigation. I doubt any single company is going to shut down all of their operations. I feel it is likely that they will shut down operations pegged as "high risk". It's going to be a while before this is tested. It's a decision they can make fairly late in the game. Good chance that welders and pipefitters will be very busy for a few weeks, though. You have to be doing SOMETHING during that downtime.

-- Jeff Morris (, July 15, 1998.

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