NRC lauds ComEd’s Y2K effort

28 February 1999

Commonwealth Edison has won plaudits from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for progress in certifying that its 10 nuclear plants are prepared for the “millennium bug”.

A NRC audit team that inspected ComEd’s two-unit Braidwood NPP reported that the station is on track to be Y2K-compliant by June. The number of items requiring remediation is lower than expected, the utility said.

ComEd noted that since it is taking a company-wide approach to the Y2K problem, the same conclusion can be drawn about its other nuclear plants, too. ComEd has employed more than 300 people on the project, which involves reviewing more than 15 million lines of computer code and checking 30,000 embedded systems for date-sensitive information.

ComEd estimates the project will cost between $40-$60 million.

NEA Y2K workshop results

An OECD Nuclear Energy Agency workshop to assess the Y2K issues for the safety of nuclear facilities concluded that nuclear installations should be Y2K compliant by mid-year 1999. The meeting, which was hosted by the Atomic Energy Control Board in Ottawa from 8 - 10 February, brought together nuclear regulators and operators, including several from Eastern Europe, with software specialists.

The participants noted that Y2K issues have been addressed in a consistent and comprehensive manner for several years and that the methodologies being used (eg inventory of components, assessment and analysis, test and verification etc) are fairly common among all countries. However, nuclear operators and regulators must continue to be vigilant to ensure confidence in Y2K readiness. In particular, experts identified the need to move contingency planning to the forefront of the Y2K strategies being implemented in the various countries. The major focus is on external risks to the electrical grid, communication systems and other related concerns.

Contingency planning exercise

It was announced during the meeting that, at the initiative of the NRC, the NEA Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities (CNRA) will organise an international exercise to assist in world-wide contingency planning. This exercise would provide a unique opportunity to co-ordinate planning, communication and response systems relevant to nuclear power plants The CNRA has established a network of Y2K co-ordinators to share information and facilitate activities.

Russia aims for August solution

MINATOM experts are planning to finish checking all their computer systems by August to ensure that they are Year 2000 compliant. Checking has been under way since 1997. Priority is being given to the systems which control the safety of working power reactors and enterprises that manufacture and test nuclear arms and fuel. Experts will have time to fix whatever failings the commission may find by August 1999. Programs designed by Russian experts are used in checking and testing. International experience is also taken into account. Each nuclear power station is using its own money to carry out this work. However, a total of $3 billion is needed for the work – six times the original estimate and Russia is looking for help from the US and NATO with respect to computer systems controlling nuclear arms.

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