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Summary and Comments

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1997-07-16 00:00:00


Summary of Y2K Issues Facing Nuclear Power


Martyn Emery has done yeoman service in pursuing the issue of nuclear power generation. The regulators believe that the y2k problem does not affect the actual enguineering aspects of these plants. But these plants are still not compliant. Therefore, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States and its sister organization in Great Britain could lawfully shut down the plants in 1999.

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Date: 14 Jul 97 From: Martyn Emery <101464.664@CompuServe.COM> Subject: Update: Nuclear Utilities

Last week we raised the question of the need to perform some high-level research to ascertain information about the Nuclear Industry in the US and UK.

In addition to direct contact with three representative from both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and in the UK the Health and Safety Executive (Nuclear Safety Directive) several members of the maillist also contributed their own findings.

The NRC have issued a information alert on December 24 1996 that can be accessed via their home page The information alert was addressed to all NRC licensees, certificate holders and registrants. The alert only covers potential failues in software and systems, and does not include any reference to embedded systems or supply chain failures. The information notice requires no specific action nor written response. According to NRC there are no plans to issue any directives that require the licensees to act in the near future.

The UK H&S Executive are following the same non-regulatory line.

Both organizations were extremely aware and knowledgeble of the embedded issues and both explained that SAFETY features of the nuclear industry are NOT compromised by Y2K. According to NRC and H&S, engineering issues are NOT a problem in ANY control or safety systems - this has been THOROUGHLY audited. However, security features and other non "Reactor Specific" features MIGHT be, and compromise there would, by the terms of the license, force a plant shutdown.

For example if the security system fails, and failure mode is lock OPEN, the plant cannot be safely secured, and must BE shut down. If the timekeeping system that tracks the hours the operators work fails (they are like airline pilots - only so many continuous "flying" hours are allowed) the system must BE shut down. If a power cut effects part of the processing plant, then for safety reasons the plant will shutdown. Likewise if the payroll system that pays the security guards fails, and they "walk," the plant must BE shut down. These are the same issues that would also affect just about any other business. The NRC has a series of meetings planned whereby the above will be discussed.

There is a high degree of self-regulation, though:

The Nuclear Utilities Software Management Group has a Year 2000 workshop planned for Kansas on July 22-23, Bill Olsen is the Program manager and can be contacted on 610 582 5945.

This note has been prepared with care for the group's own use, but no representation is made as to the contents accuracy, efficacy or completeness. Persons seeking to place reliance on the notes for their own or third party commercial purposes do so entirely at their own risk.

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