Nuke may not test after all! : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

NEWS from NIRS NUCLEAR INFORMATION & RESOURCE SERVICE 1424 16th St. NW Suite 404 Washington, DC 20036 202-328-0002 fax 202-462-2183

August 25, 1999 For Immediate Release Contact: Mary Olson 202-328-0002

U.S. Federal Regulator Rejects Y2K Compliance as Standard for 103 U.S. Power Reactors

NRC Allows Potentially Untested Y2K "Fixes" in Nuclear Safety Related Systems

Will Rely on Chronically Unreliable Back-Up Power Systems With only 7 Days Back-Up Fuel

NRC Will Not Require Industry-wide Year 2000 Drill

Relying on narrow and confusing definitions, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has officially asserted its decision to exempt the nation's 103 large nuclear power reactors from a Y2K compliance standard. Y2K readiness is the NRC's choice which allows for work-arounds and other short cuts. Testing of systems to show Y2K readiness is suggested, but not required.

The agency goes further to assert that specific regulation for Y2K readiness is also not required.

At the heart of this move is the definition of safety. Although NRC is by law charged with providing "reasonable assurance of adequate public health and safety," when talking about nuclear reactors, they use the word 'safety' as a term of art. In this context NRC means specifically only the parts of the reactor that stop the nuclear chain reaction and put the reactor on stand-by. These systems are for the most part not computerized.

"The problem is that both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are cases of events that happened with the reactor on-line, not during shut down. Taking TMI off line did not stop the nuclear fuel from melting. Some systems that were installed in U.S. reactors after Three Mile Island to increase the margin of safety have been shown to be susceptible to Y2K malfunctions," said Mary Olson, NIRS Nuclear Y2K Project Coordinator. "Our petitions would have required that all systems "relevant to safety" be assessed, remediated, and tested to show Y2K compliance. Aren't these systems more important than an automated teller machine?"

These moves came via a mismanaged release of information over the past week (August 17- 23). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission officially denied NIRS petitions for the establishment of new regulations to specifically address nuclear safety in the context of Y2K-related computer failures submitted last December.

NRC also struck down any requirement for an industry-wide Y2K drill to build worker and management readiness to cope with challenges which the roll-over to 2000 might bring. A limited drill is being planned by NRC and a handful of utilities.

"Perhaps most disturbing is the official rejection of our call to increase back-up power reliability at the nation's nuclear sites. Nuclear reactors depend on another source of electricity to insure that vital monitoring and cooling systems operate. These systems are essential, even if the reactor is off-line. Our research shows that back-up diesel generators are just not as reliable as people have a right to expect, given that Y2K failures may cause local and regional power outages," said Paul Gunter, Director of the NIRS Nuclear Reactor Watch Dog Project. "Diesel generators have mechanical failures, fuel problems, are prone to overheating, and in some cases, vulnerable to the Y2K Bug itself!"

"John Koskinen, Head of the President's White House Council on Year 2000 Transition, has been telling state officials that they should assume an electrical outage of three weeks duration as part of their contingency planning. While Koskinen is not asserting that such an outage will occur, shouldn't the nation's nuclear reactor operators also take this as the baseline for their contingency planning?" Said Mary Olson, NIRS Nuclear Y2K Project Coordinator. "Loss of off-site power and loss of back-up power, also called Station Blackout, is the single largest contributor of risk to reactor operation, according to NRC. What makes January 1, 2000 unique is that every reactor system in the country, and indeed, the world will be challenged on the same day."

NRC's rejection of NIRS petition on back-up power states that only 7 day's supply of diesel fuel is required to be at each reactor site.

An NRC press release announcing their action was posted prior to effective notification of NIRS or publication in the Federal Register. Coincidence or calculation timed this long-coming official rejection during NIRS well-publicized Nuclear Free Great Lakes and Northeast Action Camps when all NIRS Program staff were away.

Text of the original NIRS petitions is posted on and the NRC response is available at gister&docid=99-21750-filed

. Citizens living near nuclear power stations around the world are mobilizing attention to these, forming the Y2K World Atomic Safety Holiday (WASH) Campaign. Leaders are reaching out to the 34 nations where the world's 433 nuclear power reactors operate. A Y2K WASH presence will be in Berlin during the G-8 meeting on Y2K contingency planning on September 21. A forum sponsored by Y2K WASH and the Nobel Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War will address Y2K challenges to both nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons systems.


-- Rainman (, August 26, 1999


Got lead underwear?

-- Charles R. (, August 26, 1999.

This is a very interesting piece. Can someone please elaborate on what the implications are....(aside from the obvious)... Does this appear to be a huge breech of safety precautions??

-- LindaO (, August 26, 1999.

To me, the most startling implication is the fact that an unnamed "federal regulator" can make a decision of this magnitude without presidential or pentagon approval. And to rely on a measly seven day backup fuel supply is absurd. The quantity of embedded chips in a nuke plant runs into the millions making the task impossible. Something they were aawre of from the start. There has to be an alterior motive to this insane position. This lends credence to the conspiracy theorists ramblings of the Majestic 12 who plan to control the world. Even if it kills them.

-- Rainman (, August 26, 1999.

There is no reasonable thought to apply in such an unreasonable set of circumstances.

Anybody know Jimmy Carter? If so, call him and ask him for help. He has a degree in Nuclear Engineering.

Maybe he could make enough noise to get the media to wake up from their extraordinary slumber.

-- no talking please (, August 26, 1999.

"Never before in history have so many human beings trusted that so few wouldn't screw up..." - Ed Yardeni

-- a (a@a.a), August 26, 1999.

The NIRS (nor the Union of Concerned Scientists) is not a valid, unbiased, truthful source of information about any aspect of nuclear power.

Their assertions are faced on fear, spun from a tenuous original premis ("we must shutdown nuclear power plants") and using any words possible to warp and distort public opinion. in this press release, soon to be mimic from their Mass. Democratic Rep in a few hours, they are preying on your legitimate concerns about y2k to spawn irrational fears of the press's ultimate boogie man "nuclear power."

Consider though that the nuclear power industry is the ONLY utility group that regularly runs contingency drills, is the ONLY group that is required to hold formal and documented operator training in emergency and routine procedures, that runs critical procedures through simulators and 'walkdowns" of emergency and startup and irregular operations.

They are the ONLY utiliity group that faced outside audits of their y2k solutions, and they are the ONLY utility group required by law to keep drawings and documentation of plant changes and equipment operating history - or did you think every body even "knew" what was installed?

The nuclear industry is the only industry required to keep maintenance and construction historical and logged tracking of all equipment purchased, repaired, and replaced: and its venders are the ONLY group required to also maintain a complete history of ALL parts constructed for nuclear service.

The nuclear industry is the ONLY utility group that truly say it has control of its venders, that its plants were built and inspected per plans, and that the plans are correct: the rest are not required to have audited documents, nor any drawing control process. This alone helps ensure the plants "y2k audit" is more accurate and allows better remediation and testing. Testing not done elsewhere. The nuclear plants are built from a few consistent designs that differ in details, but not in instrumentation and controls: thus reducing risk and uncertainity.

The nuclear industry is the ONLY utility group that reported regular and consistent progress towards y2k readiness, unlike the rest of the industry that merely said "we're ready" as soon as the federal government (through a voluntary association which has no regulatory power) said "claim you're ready." Even now, the progress reported by the nuclear industry shows more y2k "drills" and tests than ANY other group: so they are the single most likely ot be able to provide power next year.

They claim that emergency power generators are unreliable, and require massive re-design, replacement and upgrades: yet (deliberately ?) want to replace these key components under an emergency condition, without allowing time to do the basic design, analysis, or purchasing. Thus, the "repair" will force the plant to shut down - which is their goal.

As no other utilities have emergency restart generators at all, and "black start" drills are conducted ONLY at nuclear power plants, if their y2k fears are real, then only the nuclear plants are capable of restarting after problems......loss of power is important, don't get me wrong.

But the generators, the emergency systems, and the backup power supplies are designed to cover those conditions.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, August 27, 1999.

Mr. Cook:

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

With your permission, I would like to X-post this to the eu&y2k forum.

-- nucpwr (, August 28, 1999.

Granted, of course.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, August 30, 1999.

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