Big Glitch at Nuclear Plant Shows Perils of Y2K Tests : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Big Glitch at Nuclear Plant Shows Perils of Y2K Tests

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 7, 1999; Page A03

Washington Post Article


-- Ray (, March 07, 1999


When they fail - they fail in wierd and wonderful ways.

Generally good reporting - notice that the "script" needed for the Sec. test was to allow post-testing verification of specific transactions - that's an essential part of what's missing form the "communication drill" next April 9 on the power grid - and again -notice that the Apr 9 test is touted as much, much more importatn than is actually the relatively minor phone and communcations drill extent and duration of the national "test".

If they don't actually chnage configurations under real condiions - all they will find out is the telephones work - on Apr 9, 1999. Not, anything about conditions on Jan 1- Feb 29 2000.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 07, 1999.


I have a question about these lines :

Plant managers say the incident posed no risk to the public, but they nevertheless began planning to shut down the facility, which supplies electricity to the Philadelphia area. They eventually scotched those efforts after the computer specialists determined the source of the problem--a technician had improperly set the test clock--and restored the systems seven hours later.

Although the cause was human error, technology specialists say the glitch here illustrates an unanticipated peril of the Year 2000 problem: As computer systems that have been repaired are now being tested in live conditions, inadvertent mistakes and undiscovered bugs can bring the machines--and the organizations that rely on them--to a grinding halt.

Why are they planning to shut down the facility ?

It was a human error not a Year 2000 problem. This error is related to the system not to a date.

-- Menno (, March 08, 1999.

Menno, I can't help you with your question but you might try asking it at:

Rick Cowles
Electric Utility Forum


-- Ray (, March 08, 1999.

The shutdown would have temporary and was preventitive in nature - its the only prudent response when an unexpected occurrance happens.

I used this analogy before - this problem was like losing your oil pressure gage on your car. Normally - you'd expect oil pressure to stay high - even though you can't see the actual pressure any more. (After all, the gage only reports what pressure is, it doesn't create the pressure itself. However loss of oil pressure would immediately break the engine, so you wouldn't want to drive continuously cross country with no oil pressure gage.)

So, if you were going to drving much longer, you'd replace the gage as soon as you can. In this case, for a power plant during a routine operation, it makes sense to plan a shutdown and repair - if the problem cannot be immediately and readily found and fixed.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 08, 1999.


You are wright, it is normal to shut down a power plant when the operator is no longer informed.

My mistake, my interpretation was to shutdown Peach Bottom in the future.

-- Menno (, March 08, 1999.

Update on Peachbottom from Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9.

"Systems crashed in Y2K test" full story here

"Sheehan said the NRC considered the crash a result of human error, not a Y2K problem. "Even though it was Y2K-testing-related, it wasn't Y2K-related," he said. He said the NRC planned no disciplinary action against Peco. "It appears they were doing what they are supposed to be doing. . . . We would rather have them doing this testing now as opposed to later this year." Peco said the test that went awry on Feb. 8 was completed successfully yesterday. A test at Peach Bottom's Unit 3 reactor is scheduled for tomorrow. Rick Cowles, a utility-industry consultant, said that although the crash would not have impeded a safe shutdown of the plant, losing the plant monitoring computer would slow down the plant's and the NRC's ability to respond to problems. He said the Peach Bottom incident should be a wake-up call to the nuclear power industry, which he says has been "smug" about addressing Y2K. Nuclear plants have until July 1 to give the NRC a detailed description of what Y2K-related work remains to be done and when they will do it. Wood said Peco's report will state that two systems at Peach Bottom's Unit 3 will not be fully Y2K compliant until fall because they must be worked on during a plant shutdown."

-- Chris (, March 09, 1999.

Yes, that particular repair (feedwater control system, I believe) has been done at a couple of other similar plants - the replacement itself is straightforward and doesn't take long. Pre-plan the job, get the material (and backup parts) now, write the procedures, drill (walk-through) the repair process, pre-stage equipment and parts, line up the tag-outs and isolation/shutdwn maintenence process - been there, done that, worn the old hard hat - simple stuff really.

They probably have the schedule already set out - down to the minute by minute procedure of who does what when where to which gadget and why. When your downtime costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per day - you don't "guess" simple repairs like this.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 09, 1999.

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