more on the Russian reactor problems : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread Friday April 23 11:55 AM ET

Chernobyl Faces Millennium Bug Problem KIEV (Reuters) - The Chernobyl nuclear power station is likely to be affected by the ``millennium bug'' but officials said Friday there was still enough time to fix the computer problem.

Chernobyl, site of the world's worst civil nuclear disaster, has aging Soviet-era reactors. Nuclear experts are worried that computer problems linked to the year 2000 could cause trouble for such plants throughout the former Soviet Union.

``We have already started working on this problem and are sure that Chernobyl will be ready to come into the year 2000,'' Yury Neretin, Chernobyl's deputy chief engineer, told a news conference.

Earlier this year, local nuclear officials said the bug would not affect the ex-Soviet state's nuclear plants because of their unsophisticated computer equipment, but Neretin said this was incorrect.

``We understand the importance of this problem and have to say that it will affect our station,'' he said.

The bug stems from the once common practice of using only two digits for recording the year in computer program dates, like 99 for 1999. That shortcut has the potential, when dates change in 2000, to confuse computers, causing them to reject data or to crash.

Neretin said the problem could threaten only secondary computer programs at Chernobyl, not linked directly with the electricity production or operating a nuclear reactor.

It was 13 years ago this month that Chernobyl exploded, spewing a cloud of poisonous radioactive dust over Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and part of Western Europe.

-- Arlin H. Adams (, April 23, 1999


I'm skeptical - if they have a legitimate problem, it woul;d appear to take longer than the time they have left (companies and formert USSR agencies out of business, disbanded, unable to get supplies from old suppliers, unable to rebuilt things, etc.)

If they don't have a legitimate Y2K problem, but are using this to "extort" money from the West, then the report would be more "alarmist" - possibly. On the other hand - due to the age of the plant - there may be so little automated systems that there is almost nothing to remediate - hence they are optimistic.

If they don't report number of systems inspected, number remediated, umber tested - treat following reports of "progress" with caution.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 25, 1999.

I think this may be of general interest ...

I'm a computer scientist by training and historically somewhat of a y2k skeptic. However, I'm reconsidering my position. Why? See below.

I was in Moscow last week, meeting with two of our partners (doing contract software work). They have lots of contacts with various utilities and agencies in the Moscow and Tver region, so I got a chance to really see a broad range of Russian software systems, as well as get a sense of overall work in progress.

Let me tell you: you have no idea how bad it is in Russia. Take what you've heard and multiply in by 10. Banks are closed, money is worthless, factories are shut down, people are unemployed, crimials run amok while the good people suffer. It's a testimony to the Russian people that they somehow survive, they're a resilient lot. I think most Americans would have given up in similar situation. We've got it so soft and easy over here I sometimes fear it's gone to our heads.

Anyway, here is the scary thing. Russia is heading towards an absolute y2k meltdown. I'm convinced of this. I saw their systems. They're antique, both standalone and embedded. Exactly the systems that have the most y2k problems. And - nothing is being done about y2k! Nothing! It's not simple denial (although they've got plenty of that), it's simple defeatism. No one cares, no one takes responsibility. They're too busy trying to keep the lights on right now to worry about Jan 1. I found the whole thing incredible, but I am not overstating the case. The Russians are doing zip.

So what? you might ask. Well, remember Russia is "Bangladesh with nuclear missiles". Thank God Bush and Clinton negotiated some nuclear arms reductions, but the fact is still 8000 warheads are pointing right at us (forget about the "detargeting" prograganda - missiles can be automatically set back to original targets in seconds). I got a chance to talk with two former Red Army men (one on retirement, one retired but working for Tver nuclear agency). The systems I saw commercially, they told me, reflect what you find in Russian nuclear weapons and command-and-control. According to them, it is simply not the case that the military systems are of higher grade. (They have things like shock, EMP and overall hardening, but it is still the same type of equipment). Worse, they tell me the situation in the military is even worse than in the civilian sector. Even in the SRF (Strategic Rocket Forces - the Russian elite), morale is low, enlisted men are going hungry, and they certainly aren't fixing y2k problems. Both of these men - a major and a colonel - are expecting something "disastrous, if not catastrophic" to happen. Exact quote.

The Russian military system is completely rotted out, but so far has remained standing. Y2K will be the event that pushes it over the edge. After seeing their systems and talking with the Russians, I came away convinced that this is *the* issue that might actually make the y2k doomsday scenarios a possibility. (A single 1-megaton hit on any major US city would forever alter this country).

To be clear, I don't for a minute think the Russians would attack the US. What I'm worried about is a technical failure with unforseeable side-effects, aggravated by an overall command system that has completely broken down.

In some ways I feel like the Russians. Just bury my head in the sand and hope for the best. But I know this isn't right. So I'm making some rather dramatic personal plans.

Well, this is what I learned. Best to you all.

-- Christopher Talekov (, April 25, 1999

-- Andy (, April 25, 1999.

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