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European Union Worried About Y2K Hitting Nuclear Power Plants
2 June 1999
EU Worried About Y2K Hitting Nuclear Power Plants Full Coverage Year 2000 Problem
By Suzanne Perry
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission expressed alarm Wednesday about potential ``millennium bug'' disruptions in public services, saying it was especially worried about nuclear power plants in the former Soviet bloc.
The European Union executive said there was a lack of confidence that plants in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union had properly addressed safety and other concerns related to the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem.
But its report, which will be presented to EU leaders at their summit in Cologne this week, also cited a host of possible threats to public infrastructure within EU borders -- including electricity blackouts, breakdowns of wastewater pumping stations and overloading of telecoms networks with Y2K-related calls.
``There is a clear political responsibility of the public institutions at all levels to intensify work on the Y2K issue... and to pay particular attention to trans-border effects and contingency planning,'' it said.
The Commission's report examined whether Europe's public service suppliers were prepared to cope with the looming millennium bug -- the inability of some computers to process dates after December 31, 1999.
The EU executive, which sponsored a meeting of EU infrastructure providers in April, said reliable information was hard to get, but that some sectors in some countries were apparently not fully prepared for the date changeover.
``Every sector consistently reports that, in particular, smaller organizations continue to lag significantly behind large companies,'' it said. It did not name the countries it believed were less prepared.
The report expressed the most concern about nuclear installations in eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet states -- 50 power plants as well as research and other facilities.
It said the two main concerns were that the Y2K problem could cause on-site systems at power plants to fail, endangering safety, or create disruptions on electricity grids due to shutdowns of power stations or major users.
``The general view is there is a lack of confidence that the two main sources of concern have been appropriately checked (including contingency plans),'' it said.
The report noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency had already asked the Commission to support inspection missions to nuclear power plants in Kozloduy, Bulgaria; Zaporizhya, Ukraine; and a not-yet named location in Russia.
The Commission urged Bulgaria last month to close four Soviet-made nuclear reactors at Kozluduy earlier than planned, saying they posed a safety risk. The report said Y2K preparations by Western Europe's airline sector were well advanced, but risks connected to interactions with the EU's neighbors needed to more fully assessed.
It said the EU's financial sector was also generally well prepared but may have underestimated risks not directly associated with information system failures -- such as credit risks or liquidity problems.
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Link to main Y2K page.