Bonnie Camp's analysis of GAO power grid report : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

taken from Rick Cowles forum

there's some very interesting reading to be found at:

You will need an Adobe Acrobat reader for access. The report is dated Feb. of this year and is testimony to a Senate subcommittee about the NRC's ongoing efforts to adopt a risk-based approach to regulatory requirements. While this is not a document addressing Year 2000 efforts, I did think parts of it have relevance to that issue.

In the Background section concerning the effects of deregulation on the NRC's regulatory efforts, one of those parts was, "According to one study, as many as 26 of the nation's nuclear power plant sites are vulnerable to shutdown because production costs are higher than the projected prices of electricity." Since there are now 103 operating nuclear plants, this means that a full 25% are at risk of being closed due to economic issues, regardless of any potential Y2K problems. Yet a great deal of money and effort has still had to be invested into Y2K projects at all the nuclear plants. This suggests a financial burden on the utilities which own nuclear facilities, which they will be hard put to make up in generating profits.

Secondly, on page three of this report is a section titled, "Utilities Do Not Have Accurate and Reliable Design Information for Some Plants". Reading further, "Design information provides one of the basis for NRC's safety regulation. Yet, for more than ten years, NRC has questioned whether utilities had accurate design information for their plants. Inspections of 26 plants which NRC completed early in fiscal year 1999 confirmed that for some plants, (1) utilities did not have accurate design documentation, (2) NRC did not have assurance that safety systems would perform as intended at all times, and (3) NRC needed to clarify what constitutes design information subject to NRC's regulations."

There's a lot of info in this report, including, "NRC does not plan additional design team inspections because it concluded that the industry does not have serious safety problems." This was reassuring to me until I read the next sentence, "NRC's Chairman disagreed with this broad conclusion.."

This report also mentions, "However, NRC's regulations and other guidance do not define, for either a licensee or the public, the conditions necessary for a plant's safety; therefore, determining a plant's safety is subjective." While I realize that this GAO report deals in the main with how the NRC might reduce the regulatory burden on nuclear plants in a deregulated framework, it nevertheless is not a confidence builder regarding the NRC's ability to enforce Year 2000 issues either. One of the conclusions of this GAO report states, "NRC's oversight has been inadequate and slow." "Since 1979, various reviews have concluded that NRC's organizational structure, inadequate management control, and inability to oversee itself have impeded its effectiveness." Yet this is the same agency we are all relying upon to take quick action if they determine a plant has not reached targets for Y2K readiness?

While I still have the conviction that those working in nuclear power plants are just as concerned with safety as the rest of us, and I'm all for a prudent plan to reduce any unnecessary regulatory burdens on utilities, I have to admit that this GAO report did not raise my confidence level concerning NRC Year 2000 oversight issues and did raise concerns I had not been aware of previously. Anyone interested in utility issues should read this entire report carefully.

-- Bonnie Camp (, April 21, 1999.

-- Taz (Tassie, April 21, 1999

Answers new.items/rc99071t.pdf

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 21, 1999.

Yes Bonnie, but as DanDan the Power Man has said, the PC's at his unnamed power company have all been upgraded to Window 95 and he and his colleagues "don't think" embeds will be a problem.

Besides...we need to wait for the July status report, which give us a better spin, ah, picture, of where we stand 19 weeks before the rollover. Or rolloff, whatever the case may be.

-- a (a@a.a), April 21, 1999.

To clarify what may be a point of confusion...

Bonnie's comments relate to 2/4/99 GAO congressional testimony regarding "NRC: Strategy Needed to Develop a Risk-Informed Safety Approach". The report most recently bandied about on this forum is GAO's 4/99 Congressional Report: "Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Readiness of the Electric Power Industry".

-- Brooks (, April 21, 1999.

Last I checked Win95 was not y2k compliant...

Not to worry Mircosoft is working on a patch

it's suppose to come out anytime now...

-- STFrancis (, April 21, 1999.

Just like their last three patchs for Windows NT 4.x were supposed to clean up Y2K issues and didn't?

-- David (C.D@I.N), April 21, 1999.

Some time ago I posted on this forum the simple points that:

1 - I've read that not having enough power to meet demand can not only cause brown-outs but can overload transformers, causing black-outs in areas until repaired;

2 - That in some places, up to 45% of their power is generated by nuclear plants, and who knows how much power that plant sells to many power companies through the grid;

3 - That I'd heard that nuke plants non-compliant would be shut down in June or July to provide time for reactor cooling prior to problems which could, for example, kill the cooling system and cause meltdown;

4 - Which led me to wonder, if even a small number of our nuke plants went offline, combined with existing problems in the power industry already at Y2K, wouldn't the lack of power from those closed plants affect things as well?

The response from one person on this board was (and I wish I had this URL) that the plants would NOT be closed down, that they WOULD fix them in time simply because they HAD to and nothing else would be allowed.

I thought perhaps I was cynical to be dismayed by this attitude and that perhaps they were right.

Now I am thinking what I thought initially, what a polly response, and isn't this nuke issue yet one more thing to add to the power issue's woes?

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 21, 1999.

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