Pa. nuclear plant and Y2K - DGI's need to read : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is in the newsroom this morning:

PECO Energy's Peach Bottom Unit 2 nuclear facility near York, Pa. recently experienced a 7 hour lockup of the plant's primary and backup plant monitoring system computers during Y2k testing. The NRC weekly summary of 2/12/1999 reports that operators lost the plant's Safety Parameter Display System (SPDS), Emergency Response Data System (ERDS), and 3d Monicore thermal limit monitoring system during the event.

Engineers had taken the backup PMS computer off-line and had advanced the PMS clock to a year 2000 Date. This led to a lockup of the backup PMS, and the system transferred to the primary, on-line PMS computer. The engineers did not recognize that the system had transferred and, believing that the original command was not accepted, again advanced the system clock, causing the primary PMS to lock up also. Several initial attempts to restore the PMS computers were unsuccessful, and operators determined that this constituted a major loss of emergency assessment capability. The PMS computers are not Y2K compliant, but the engineers believed that this would not impact the testing. Operators did not expect the testing would affect the on-line PMS computer. PECO Energy plans to perform a full root cause analysis of this event.

Once and for all, someone needs to answer the question - the nuclear industry appears to be in total denial on this issue - is there safety issues with nuclear plants and Y2K??

-- Dan Webster (, February 26, 1999


Uh . . . I live//b> in York, PA which is only a short drive to Three Mile Island.

Robert, need some analysis here please. At least tell me once again not to worry about the nukes. I'd feel so much better if you could.

. . . scurrying family to basement now . . . did I just hear a siren???

-- David (, February 26, 1999.

. . . turning off the bold . . .

-- David (, February 26, 1999.

Let me get some baaackground info .. not going to conclude anything yet.

remember though, what I've been saying about testing and backups? Computers fail in wierd and wonderful ways - and the real embedded chips problems taht will tend to shut down things are the ones that "nobody thought of....." like this.

Notice the startup of the backup, the early time frame invloved, and the extent of the apparent failure - losing a monitoring system (one level of three systems in this case, then the backup as the reaction to the first) is not a critical event, unless you are already in a casualty. Make sense? If there is nothing "out of ordinary to monitor" - there is no significant impact if the monitoring system drops during testing.

However - they are investigating, lets see what the NRC does, what the penalty (fines) are, what "lessons learned" are passed to other utilities, etc. This shows the feedback and training part of the nuke plants that makes them more likely to manage to generate power after Y2K than other plants. No backup systems, or not as many backup systems elsewhere. Not as much (if any) pre-testing for failures like this. No penalties or fines for "test failure", and no "lesson learned" data going to other utilities.

As an example of the "level" of this failure - its like testing the water temperature gage on your car. The test caused the gae to fail, and caused the backup temperature gage to fail. Now, losing the primary (and secondary) temperature gage doesn't harm anything unless your car is out of coolant or has bust a hose. In normal operation, it would keep operating. But they do now to fix their gages. The manual and alternate temperature readings (showing core temperatures) would still be able to show trends and detect problems, but you should run with everything correct. That's why I suspect they will get fined for the test failure - which will warn everybody else.

A conventional power plant would have no temperature gage or oil pressure gage or tachometer, much less a backup gage, backup oil pressure gage, oil pressure warning siren, and hourly water temperature and oil level surveys and manual dipstick readings. It would just have a single "red" "high temperature" warning light on the dashboard - and most conventional plants would not have tested the thing at all. So when it failed next year - the conventional plant whould not know they even had a failed light bulb in the warning socket - and so would blow up their engine.

Does this analogy make more sense of a confusing, admittedly potentially frightening, situation? Be glad instead that the system worked - they now have a chance to fix it in a timely manner, to teach other plants what happened, and to test other things for the unexpected.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, February 26, 1999.

. . . scurrying family to basement now . . . did I just hear a siren???

Wish you hadn't said that:

*** One day I was eating a pancake filled with applesauce, sweet applesauce. Suddenly the air raid sirens began to scream, advertising another ripple on our river of life. Applesauce. There was terror in applesauce. I didn't know what it was about that stuff, the flavor or the texture. It was definitely not apples per se. I like apples, apple juice and apple pie. My liking of apple pie even made me a good American.

I would not gag down applesauce again until I forced myself just recently. Whenever I tasted it, Id shiver. I could not eat it, even though this would insult hostesses who served it to me over the years. I would eat everything else, including guts retrieved from cowshit, and cattle feed with rodentshit. This fact would help keep us alive for many years. But not applesauce.

My mayhem ghost caused me to develop abnormally in that I avoid watching war movies. I find exploding humans and screaming sirens deeply saddening, instead of uplifting and fulfilling like it seems to be for most people. They splatter guts inside their boob tubes and stare at them by the millions; they participate in such games on video.

Do they want ghosts in their souls?

Hard as Ive tried, I have not always been able to avoid these ghosts. They would surface at unexpected times throughout my life.

For example, my wife and I would one day visit a theater to see Not Without My Daughter. I had not yet met my mayhem ghost and did not know that it existed. This movie was based on the true story about an American girl who married an Iranian boy. Nowadays the sexes of the partners have to be specified. In the good old days it always was easy to know this, one boy and one girl. But since we are now on a higher level of civilization, brought about by a higher level of technology, a marriage can be of any combination. And we can even be proud of any combination.

A recent creation of such a combination is the virtual marriage. One partner of this combination thinks the sex of his or her mate is such and such, but turns out later to be different from what he or she thought he or she had married. When we become still more civilized in a few years, a marriage might even include other species, such as a Holstein bull hitched to a normal boy or an abnormal normal girl or any combination not yet recognized. I only refer to a Holstein bull because later in life one such tried to hitch me.

Anyway, in the movie this couple moved to Iran a few years after their daughter was born. The daughter indicates that this was a marriage in the old sense of the word, as created by God, and was totally square.

Subsequently, A. K., who claimed to be in close contact with God, and always wore a grim face, and always wore a black rag twisted around his head, and always sported a full beard he could hide in, led a holy war which included Iran's children who died to go to heaven, so theyd visit him when he arrived there himself. This earned him the Man of the Year award of a national magazine and his picture brightened its cover.

In this movie I did not expect to be instilled through my remaining ear with the terror of air raid sirens. This invited the mayhem ghost. Nor did it occur to me up to this time that after so many years its screaming would still bother me. I had not benefited from it since my first war. The devil's howl caused an intense agony in my heart and soul. I wanted to cower under the seats but I was stuck in the middle of the crowded theater.

I also wanted to find out how enjoyable this sensation could get and try to slay this ghost. I had to convince myself that it was only a ghost and that I had nothing to fear. I had to be certain that it was not the devil, but only a distant memory of him.

Upon leaving the theater I burst out sobbing uncontrollably. A fist gripped my heart. I wanted to rip it out myself so it would not hurt anymore. Squirting tears, gasping for air, I tried to explain to my worried wife that I was all right.

"Im OK, sob, FlowerBear, sob, Im just entertaining these people. Baahhhh. In case they found the movie boring. Baaahhhhhh."

That is what I would have told her, my FlowerBear, had my jokingbraincells not been shunted by this episode.

Someday my government will protect me with: "Caution, the devil's wail may rip your soul. It will destroy your heart".

It will protect me, since I am not normal and victims give bureaucrats a purpose for their existence. To protect victims from other victims, and then again from bureaucrats ***

-- Not Again! (, February 26, 1999.

Right Robert!

"Operators did not expect the testing would affect the on-line PMS computer." And this is an example why i'm a gloomer about Y2K. Billions and billions of systems and code supporting our web...impossible to predict how they will all react. I believe Carl Sagan would agree with me. It's very reassuring that PECO is testing and failing -now-, but will all the other nume plants do the same? Will all the other utilities and businesses? billions and billions...

Breath deep David. PA is one of the states most on top of Y2K ;-)

Not Again, don't feel bad to post your memoir snippets, this is wonderful therapy and it might just be what you need to banish the remaining ghosts. What you lived wasn't in vain, it's history repeating itself, but you're teaching many of us to recognize it.

-- Chris (, February 26, 1999.

At the risk of sounding incredibly stupid and simplistic. Does this mean that by undergoing this Y2K testing and encountering the problem which hopefully they find the full root cause for and remedy; they in turn shall be free and clear with the changeover at the end of the year from 99 to 2000?

-- Suburb (, February 26, 1999.

Robert, I think it is unlikely NRC will impose a fine. I base this on an understanding of EPA's enforcement policy, and an indication from the following minutes that EPA and NRC are being encouraged to take similar approaches:

From PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON YEAR 2000 CONVERSION Meeting Minutes January 14, 1999 (excerpt)


Al Pesachowitz, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), discussed EPA's Y2K enforcement policy, which is available on the Web at The policy states that EPA will waive 100 percent of the civil penalties that might otherwise apply, and recommend against criminal prosecution, for environmental violations caused by specific tests to identify and eliminate Y2K-related malfunctions. The policy is limited to testing-related violations disclosed to EPA by February 1, 2000, and it is subject to certain conditions[snip]

Frank Miraglia noted that the NRC has mechanisms for granting enforcement discretion, which may be used to handle Y2K issues. Specifically, he cited a regulation that allows operators to deviate from their license if acting to protect public health and safety. The NRC recently released its Y2K contingency plan for review and comment. A copy of the plan was included in the meeting package.

The Chair observed that in the normal enforcement process, certain standards must be met to avoid fines and/or closure. In the event of Y2K disruptions, however, it may be important for functions to continue. Al Pesachowitz noted that EPA laws include enforcement discretion. The key is demonstrating due diligence with action to protect public health and safety. The Chair suggested that the EPA and NRC share the results of their public comment periods on the new regulations. He noted the importance of establishing a common approach to enforcement. Robert Colby, Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), emphasized developing a consistent schedule for enforcement. "

-- Brooks (, February 26, 1999.

. . . is it OK to come out now???

Oh, alright, I get it. Bug wasn't dangerous. Just testing. Better now than later. Oil pressure gauge . . . good analogy, I understand that one . . . thanks Robert.

Didn't mean to stir up old memories Not Again, sorry. Folks around here still spooked over TMI. Can't imagine WWII. Nothing like tragic experiences to burn lasting images into our conscience.

Breathing easier . . . it's OK guys you can come up now

Later folks.

-- David (, February 26, 1999.

On the other hand David, if you only have one warning light, you're in the middle of the Indy 500 doing 200 mph in a million dollar race car trying for a 2 million dollar prize (or nothing for the losers), do you want to stop and test the warning light if it stays dark?

That's the situation the regular plants and chemical refineries (the ones not doing adequate pre-2000 testing) will be placing themselves. They are just keeping on keeping on, believing that if they see nothing (the warning light is off) then nothing is wrong (they have good oil pressure, and don't need a warning light.) This is true - at the current time, they don't need a warning light because they have oil pressure - "just like always".

Until their engine blows up under the stress of changing conditions (....they had no oil pressure for 30 seconds, didn't stop the car, didn't save the engine, and so they have no engine and no car for two months. And lose the race anyway.)

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, February 26, 1999.

Thanks Robert. I feel sooooo much better now. OK, so I'll be in the dark for 2 months, but at least I won't be glowing eh?

-- David (, February 26, 1999.

"Does this mean that by undergoing this Y2K testing and encountering the problem which hopefully they find the full root cause for and remedy; they in turn shall be free and clear with the changeover at the end of the year from 99 to 2000?"

What this means is simply that this particular mode of failure will (probably) be eliminated. Continued testing may well elicit other unexpected modes of failure, which also will be fixed.

But certainty that no more surprises will be encounterd is impossible to achieve.

-- Tom Carey (, February 26, 1999.

Speaking of Three Mile Island, I'm reminded of the panic fleeing that occurred when that event was going on and how it might be reflected in Y2K. I was a young GI stationed in southern Georgia with a neighbor who's family lived fairly close to TMI. The poor girl had eight relatives show up on her two-bedroom apratment's doorstep fourteen hours after the first public announcements. If we start having pre-Y2K jitters and panics, a lot of folks might have such unexpected guests.

Harrisburg, PA to Valdosta, GA in fourteen hours, it may still stand as a record.


-- Wildweasel (, February 26, 1999.


You weren't flying (a plane), were you? ;-) But that wasn't a record. How about Cleveland, GA to Philly in twelve hours? Don't know to this day how we did it, must've had a tail wind. :-)

Maybe this sounds like Pollyana, but every test that occurs, pass or fail, sounds like good news to me. It's one more problem detected, one more "uh-oh, never thought of that one" exposed *before* the singularity.

-- Elbow Grease (, February 26, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ