WASHINGTON—With the new millennium six months away, U.S. nuclear power plants are on the verge of achieving complete Year 2000 readiness.
The electric utilities that own and operate nuclear power plants have only 58, non-safety computer items left to remediate industrywide. Because all of these items have firm completion schedules, the industry is confident that plants will continue generating electricity as reliably on Jan. 1, 2000, as they do today.
Sixty-eight of the nation's 103 operating reactors have completed all remediation—encompassing safety, operating and site support systems—and are Y2K ready.
The other 35 reactors have a total of 58 computer items left to remediate. Of the 35 reactors with remediation work remaining, none has outstanding items that affect plant safety. Only 21 are remediating plant operating or support systems, and the other 14 are remediating site support systems that do not affect plant operations.
Examples of systems that will be remediated include plant operating systems that directly control electricity production, such as the digital feedwater system; plant support systems that perform monitoring or backup functions, such as the condensate polisher system; and site support systems that are not tied directly to power plant operations, such as work management systems.
Many of these outstanding items are scheduled for remediation during reactor refuelings, which routinely are scheduled in the fall so that the plants' ability to provide electricity at the most economical rates during hot summer months is not impeded.
"The nuclear energy industry has taken early and thorough action on its Y2K readiness program, and is on track to achieve full Y2K readiness well before the Year 2000 rollover," said Ralph Beedle, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute.
"Most importantly, safety functions will not be affected by Y2K issues. Because of the breadth of plant readiness efforts, we are resolving the last remaining items that would in any way affect general plant operations and site support systems. We will continue in the weeks and months ahead to review and refine contingency plans and to participate in industrywide drills. Our goal is to achieve operations-as-usual across the industry at midnight, Dec. 31."
During the past two years, the industry has tested approximately 200,000 items potentially susceptible to Y2K issues. Approximately five percent of these, or 10,000 items, needed remediation. As electric utilities wrap up internal remediation activity, they are devoting resources to working with vendors that provide services to the facilities to ensure a problem-free rollover.
The Year 2000 problem, commonly described as the "millennium bug," results from programming that allows years to be recorded as only two digits. Because four digits are required to make the change from 1999 to 2000, concern exists that operations in a host of businesses, industries, governments and other institutions will be disrupted by computer systems that erroneously read the year 2000 as 1900.
The electric utilities that operate nuclear power plants in 31 states reported their Y2K readiness status to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) on July 1. NERC is the coordinating group for regional and national electric reliability issues.
The NRC, in testimony before Congress and in other forums, has said that no Y2K problems have been identified that directly affect the proper functioning of safety systems at nuclear power plants. Additionally, the NRC has voiced its commitment to do what is necessary in its oversight of nuclear power plant readiness efforts for the facilities to safely operate through Jan. 1, 2000, and beyond.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.