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Category: Power_Grid

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(Links to documents appear after the summary.)

Electrical power is the Big One. This is the heart of Western Civilization. If the power generation plants fail because of the effects of the Millennium Bug, it's literally over for the West. We are all hooked up to the system. But no public utility will survive if the power goes down and stays down. No business will survive. It will be a total breakdown. As Roberto Vacca titled his 1973 book, it would mean THE COMING DARK AGE.

The issue here is the domino effect. Power generation in the United States relies on coal -- in the range of 40%. The problem here is railway freight. How can the plants get delivery of coal if the railroad system goes down because of noncompliance? Coal delivery problems began in the winter of 1997-98.

Then there is nuclear power, which supplies about 20% of the power generated in the United States. What if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission closes nuclear plants in late 1999 because they are not y2k compliant. At present, they are not compliant. The NRC has sent a warning to all 108 nuclear plants. Take 20% of the nation's power off line in one day -- 40% in some regions -- and what happens to the grid?

The typical large city power plant has something in the range of 5,000 suppliers of goods and services. How will they be paid if the banks go down? Also, how will users pay the power companies? This problem must be dealt with now, not in 2000 and beyond.

The grid may not go down overnight. (Then again, it may.) The problem is erosion: the second law of thermodynamics. Things wear out. How do they supply the plants with replacement parts if the banking system is in a crisis? This is the problem of the division of labor. A banking failure threatens the grid. The failure of the grid threatens everything.

If your local power plant somehow solves these problems, what happens if others don't solve them? What if an overloaded grid shuts down? It could take down your local system. This is the coordination problem: among the local generation stations, among the regional grids, and among the suppliers.

We don't want to think about this. But the problem exists. The articles I've posted give some hint of the magnitude of the problem. There are over 7,800 power-supplying organizations in the United States. They are all tied together in one gigantic mainframe-controlled system that is laced with embedded chips. Canada is tied into our system.

Sometimes power goes down all over a region. There are several regional districts. They are interconnected. Supposedly, the regional grids can be separated from the others if one goes down. But this circuit-breaker system, like everything else on the grids, relies on computers.

"It can't happen," you say. I hope you're correct. Tell me, why can't it happen? Please don't respond, "Because I don't want it to."

Are you dependent on local public utilities that will go down if your local power generation system goes down? Yes, you are. You are TOTALLY dependent, in all likelihood. What if your local power system goes down with the regional system? Or even the national? What if your local system actually does get compliant, but then is pulled into the black hole of the national power grid? Maybe it can pull out in time. Maybe the computers inside the region are all compliant as well as integrated. Don't count on it.

It's not good enough to get a local system y2k-compliant. Most of the power systems of the nation must be compliant or they all go down, region by region, in one gigantic rolling blackout. If New York City goes down, Hog Jowls, Alabama probably will, too.

Then so does every computer in the country, compliant or not. And if they all go down, nobody will be able to repair any of them. There is no tomorrow if the national power grid goes down on Jan. 1, 2000.

Again, I am not predicting this. What I am predicting is that the fractional reserve banking system is at risk, and that government controls on banking will not help to repair that endangered system. I fear erosion: the wearing out of all complex systems and the inability of engineers to get replacement parts because of a failure in the means of payment and a contracting division of labor. If railway freight is compromised at the same time, the likelihood of power failures rises.

Nobody in authority is talking about the relation of y2k and the electrical power generators of the world. Yet there is no issue more critical to our survival.

I am making my personal plans based on what I understand. What I understand is this: (1) there is not one compliant plant in the U.S.; (2) power plants must be supplied with fuel, which requires trains (coal) or nuclear power; (3) power plants rely on suppliers (up to 6,000); (4) things wear out; (5) it takes power to generate power, i.e., the suppliers that make power generation possible. In short, it takes the division of labor. I think the division of labor will collapse in 2000. If the power grid goes completely down, it will stay down. The division of labor will collapse to early 19th century levels, except that we have lost early 19th century skills. This is unthinkable, of course, but I keep thinking about it.

One site is devoted to y2k and electrical power. I suggest that you visit it.

(Other categories: "Domino Effect," "Noncompliant Chips.")

Updated - Subject

09-Jun-97   Solar Flares in 2000: Another Disaster Factor
24-Jun-97   A Vulnerable, Brittle System
24-Jun-97   Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Y2K
24-Jun-97   The Vulnerable Power Grid
24-Jun-97   The Day the Power Shut Down: July 3, 1996
16-Jul-97   Summary of Y2K Issues Facing Nuclear Power
22-Jul-97   Outsourcing Repairs? The Door Is Closing
28-Jul-97   Shutdown: If 2 or More Primary Lines Go Down at Once
28-Aug-97   Specialist Predicts NRC Will Shut Down Nuclear Plants in 12/99
28-Aug-97   Y2K Dependent Areas of a Utilities Company That Could Tank It
20-Sep-97   The Embedded Chip Problem: Personal Testimony
02-Oct-97   Risks to Nuclear Power Plants
02-Oct-97   The Nuclear Regulator Commission's Dependence (and Ours)
06-Oct-97   Warning: Nuclear Power Plants Are Not Compliant
07-Oct-97   Industry Group Asks Terrifying Questions
22-Oct-97   Noncompliant Chips and Public Utilities
24-Oct-97   Australian Phone Company Worries About Electricity
27-Oct-97   Threat to Power Generating Stations: Bad Chips
01-Nov-97   Open Letter to the Power Industry
01-Nov-97   If the Trains Can't Deliver Coal to Power Generation Stations
03-Nov-97   Warning from TVA's Y2K Manager: What Systems Could Fail
04-Nov-97   A Looming Disaster, Says Former Oklahoma Representative
10-Nov-97   California Power Company Y2K Repair Overseer Says, No Problem!
11-Nov-97   Nuclear Power Problem: How Dependent Is Your Region?
14-Nov-97   Y2K Problems for Nuclear Power Plants: Will They Stay Open?
25-Nov-97   New Government Move to Centralize the Grid
01-Dec-97   Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC): Still Assessing
03-Dec-97   Y2K Project Manager Warns: The Embedded Chip Problem Is Real
04-Dec-97   Railroad Jam-Up Creates Coal Shortage, Power Problems
08-Dec-97   English Utility Owned by Huge US Power Company Lists Problem Areas
10-Dec-97   Embedded Chips Shut Down Plant for 13 Days
11-Dec-97   Why the NRC Is Likely to Shut Down All 108 Nuclear Power Plants
29-Dec-97   Electric Utilities Begin Selling Off Assets. Why?
12-Jan-98   Theatened Systems and Silent Public Utilities in Minnesota
12-Jan-98   No Y2K Fix for Power-Generation Systems Yet -- Just Billing
22-Jan-98   Expert Says Chance of Failures Is 100% (This Seems Fairly High)
05-Feb-98   Nuclear Power Plants at Risk
05-Feb-98   Nuclear Power Industry Is Not Being Forthright, Says Y2K Programmer
05-Feb-98   Fried Green Transformers in 2000, Specialist Warns
05-Feb-98   NRC Calls for Comments on Plants' Operations
11-Feb-98   SEC Sends Out a Warning Letter to Public Utilities
12-Feb-98   Warning from Y2K Repairman: The Industry Is Still in Denial
20-Feb-98   BUSINESS WEEK Admits: The Experts Aren't Sure
23-Feb-98   Aukland Shuts Down
24-Feb-98   Aukland Described: A Mess
27-Feb-98   The Industry Won't Make It, Says Industry Watchdog
28-Feb-98   Check Your Region's Dependence on Nuclear, Coal/Oil
09-Mar-98   Montreal Power: Outside Suppliers Saved the System (1998)
09-Mar-98   Auckland: A Catastrophe and Foretaste of Things to Come
10-Mar-98   British Government Fears a Power Failure
11-Mar-98   6,000 Different Things That Can Disrupt Your Power Company
11-Mar-98   Contingency Planning in Britain for Power Failures
13-Mar-98   Near-Breakdown in Auckland: One Man's Testimony
17-Mar-98   BUSINESS WEEK Feedback: Utilities at Risk.
07-Apr-98   Good News from Joel Skousen (A Rare Event)
07-Apr-98   A Nuclear Power Plant's 1999 Schedule: 60 Days to Spare
07-Apr-98   Huge Power Company Admits It's Not Compliant Yet
08-Apr-98   Texas Utilities: 100 Million Lines, Began in Mid-1996
08-Apr-98   Ontario Hydro Admits the Problem: The Grid's Participants
08-Apr-98   Classic Strategy: Warn Readers About Their Outfits' Y2K Problems
08-Apr-98   Meanwhile, Back in the Nation's Capitol....
08-Apr-98   Could You Be a Little More Specific?
08-Apr-98   No Standards for the Repair
09-Apr-98   Gas Pipelines: Another Power Problem
09-Apr-98   $75,000 to Belong to an Embedded Chip Work Group
13-Apr-98   Russian Nuclear Power Plants
13-Apr-98   Deregulation: Problems for the Grid
16-Apr-98   Hackers Can Shut Down Power Grid, Military Admits
23-Apr-98   Ontario Hydro: 40% Finished With Code Repair
24-Apr-98   Emergency Power Ends When the Generators Run Out of Fuel
29-Apr-98   Southern Company: 50 Million Lines of Code
29-Apr-98   Florida Power & Light: Barely to Code Remediation
30-Apr-98   Vicious Circle: Coal - Trains - Electrical Train Switching
02-May-98   Lonely Natural Gas Company Reveals Y2K Plans
03-May-98   Natural Gas in Reno: Vague, Vague, Vague
04-May-98   U.S. Nuclear Power Industry Is at the Chips Inventory Stage
05-May-98   CIA Specialist Warns of the Threat
06-May-98   Utility Insider Voices Doubts
07-May-98   Dallas in the Dark: Not Much Time Remaining
12-May-98   Deadline for Nuclear Power Plants' Compliance: July 1, 1999
13-May-98   Y2K Tests Crash Power Companies Every Time
15-May-98   Monitors That Are Not Compliant: Shut-Downs Assured
15-May-98   We Just Don't Know Says Senior Government Bureaucrat
15-May-98   Largest Utilities in Texas: $300,000 Budgeted Per Utility
15-May-98   NRC Is Tightening the Screws
15-May-98   Nuclear Energy Industry Will Be Compliant, Says Industry Official
15-May-98   U.S. Capitol: Local Company Hasn't Yet Assessed Embedded Chips
15-May-98   The Stakes Are Very High, Says Cong. Morella
16-May-98   EPRI Meeting Report: Barely at Assessment, Test Failures
16-May-98   Rebooting Takes Six Times Normal Power
16-May-98   Noncompliant Firms, 7,800; Compliant Firms, 0
19-May-98   Smaller Utilities Could Bring Down the Grid
19-May-98   Natural Gas: A Vital But Noncompliant Industry
22-May-98   Australia's Power Supplies May Not All Make It
26-May-98   Embedded Chips: The Big Problem, Says Florida Power Official
26-May-98   Florida Power & Light: Halfway There (1995-98)
31-May-98   Ontario Hydro Is Working on Its Business Systems
02-Jun-98   Sgroi #1: The Nature of the Problem
02-Jun-98   Sgroi #2: A Possible Solution
08-Jun-98   Cambridge University Specialist Issues Warning
12-Jun-98   Industry Executives Admit: Some Systems Will Fail
12-Jun-98   Map of All U.S. Nuclear Power Plants
12-Jun-98   Senate Hearings on Grid: Bordering on Gloom and Doom
12-Jun-98   Natural Gas Industry Decides to Skip Full Testing
13-Jun-98   Senate Hearings on the Grid: Media Coverage Is High
15-Jun-98   Yardeni Reports: The Utilities Aren't Talking


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