Y2K Rattles Nuclear Activists

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By Robert MacMillan, Newsbytes. December 22, 1999

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has not taken enough steps to make sure that the nation's 103 operating nuclear power plants are ready to handle the Year 2000 date change, and as a result should be shut down over the New Year's weekend, said the Y2K World Atomic Safety Holiday, a coalition of 50 public interest groups.

Meanwhile, State Department officials at a Monday briefing said that it will shut down both immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing at many of its embassies during the New Year's weekend, but only so that more hands can pitch in on deck in case of any Year 2000- related problems.

The Atomic Safety Holiday group, speaking today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., fronted a variety of speakers whose opinions of the NRC's claims of nuclear Year 2000 readiness reflected skeptical criticism.

Nuclear power is "dangerous today, dangerous tomorrow and dangerous on New Year's Eve," said Jim Riccio, staff attorney for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, so a stand-down on the New Year's weekend is essential.

"There is a legitimate basis for this concern," Riccio said. "The NRC did not require nuclear power licensees to state why or how the Y2K problem had been suitably addressed. There is still some question as to the suitability of the electric grid."

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks vehemently disagreed with this assessment.

"We don't believe the shutdown of the operating nuclear plants is necessary or warranted. The safe operation of the nuclear plants is expected to contribute to a stable and reliable power grid during the transition and we have confirmed that all 103 operating reactors are fully Y2K ready," Dricks said. "We have done that on the basis of reviews of information that were supplied to us by the nuclear power industry as well as by reviews, audits and independent inspections of all the facilities."

Riccio suggested that the nuclear industry and the NRC are complicit in an attempt to keep US citizens from suspecting that nuclear power is generally unnecessary.

"Unfortunately, the nuclear industry doesn't want to shut down their reactors," he said. "Perhaps they are afraid people will realize that we don't need nuclear power."

The NRC also rejected the Nuclear Information and Resource Service's request to run "full-scale emergency drills in 1999, covering a range of potential computer failures" because it said that this is not be necessary, said Paul Gunter, that group's director of the Reactor Watchdog Project.

"Chief among our concerns today is that the federal agency established to protect the public from the...danger...is in regulatory retreat from that same industry," Gunter said.

Dricks disputed that the NRC is merely covering for the industry that it is supposed to regulate.

"The charge that we're coddling the industry or are not an independent regulatory agency is groundless," Dricks said, adding that nuclear power plants already have "done everything possible to insure that they will be able to operate safely."

He also said that the NRC's emergency operations center in Rockville, Md., will be fully manned throughout the date change, and that, "We will have resident inspectors in every control room in every plant in the country, and we will...take whatever action is necessary to protect the public health and safety."

Riccio, during the press conference, bristled at a reporter's charge that he is representing "anti-nuclear" public interest groups, saying that such a statement "...is just trying to denude what we have to say. The reality is that nuclear reactors are dangerous...they basically poison the air, the water and the environment."

At Monday's State Department briefing, meanwhile, spokesman James Foley told reporters that, because of a combination of potential Year 2000 breakdowns and the threat of terrorist actions, the embassies will be "in a heightened posture."

"(They) would have been anyway, as we approached the turn of the millennium, and now with the specific threat information that we've shared with the public eight days ago or nine days ago, the...US embassies around the world are indeed in a very heightened security posture," Foley said. "But my understanding, though, is that these personnel adjustments to the staffing of our embassies are related to the fact that we have to shift the focus of our workload to the Y2K rollover during that period."

Foley also reiterated the State Department's concern about Year 2000-related problems in Russia, Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine, which he said explains why embassy personnel have been partially moved elsewhere.

-- y2k dave (xsdaa111@hotmail.com), December 22, 1999



Where I'm at in Illinois, our power provider (Illinova), has one nuclear power generation facility 20 miles west southwest of my home (very bad if meltdown scenario occurs). I queried them a while ago about their backup facilities.

In case of loss of power to the facility, they have 3 independent back up systems (diesel generators); each backup having 7 days of fuel supply. They say more fuel would be readily available, but did not elaborate on that other source. If indeed there is a critical shortage of fuel supplies caused by either Y2K issues or the current natural disaster in Venezuela, the gov. will most likely divert existing supplies to critical users (hopefully that includes every nuclear power station).

The situation is certainly getting a little tense right about now.

-- TM (mercier7@pdnt.com), December 22, 1999.


"...we have confirmed that all 103 operating reactors are fully Y2K ready," Dricks said.

IF they had actually confirmed that all operating reactors are fully Y2K COMPLIANT, then they probably wouldn't mind allowing qualified citizens reviewing they findings, would they?

-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), December 22, 1999.


ILLINOVA (Illinois Power) originally built that power station for $4,200,000,000 some 15-20 years ago (10 times the original estimate). They just sold it the other day to a British outfit for a measly $20,000,000.

Talk about bending over and grabbing your ankles!

-- TM (mercier7@pdnt.com), December 22, 1999.

Actually, TM's last point illustrates that the nukular (sic) industry has a BIG money bucket, that just gets deeper and deeper every time someone whispers "safety".

I'm within the "lingering death" zone of a plant, but I've worked in the industry, and based on what I saw, I'm not losing any sleep over it. If they're not compliant, then no one is. (And if that's the case, it's not really going to matter what happens to the nuke plants.)

-- Servant (public_service@yahoo.com), December 22, 1999.

I suspect that QUALIFIED citizens would be welcome. I equally suspect that the NIRS crowd will, before 12/29 have collective CVA's if they don't use the valerian more extensively.

Night train

-- jes an ol footballer (nighttr@in.lane), December 22, 1999.

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