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U.S., Russia open nuclear command centers to prevent Y2K mishaps


December 2, 1999
Web posted at: 8:19 a.m. EST (1319 GMT)

From Producer Ted Barrett

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and Russia Wednesday unveiled joint video-linked command centers to oversee both countries' 132 atomic reactors in an effort to prevent a nuclear mishap during the Y2K rollover.

"While we don't expect major problems, major accidents, there may be glitches and we have to be ready on both sides, in the United States and Russia," U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson cautioned.

"What this facility will do is keep us in constant communication with Russia on potential Y2K problems as well as any other nuclear emergencies or any other types of emergencies between the two countries," he said.

Year 2000 bug

Richardson spoke from a room in the basement of the Energy Department's headquarters, surrounded by dozens of video monitors showing live pictures of nuclear reactors from across the United States.

He said the relative crudeness of the Russian reactors may help Russia avoid a Y2K problem because they have less reliance on digital technology, which is susceptible to the so-called "millennium bug."

Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov, speaking via videoconference from the MinAtom Situation and Crisis Center in Moscow, said his country recently conducted two safety drills and a third is scheduled December 8. He described the response to the drills as "proficient and professional."

Richardson said, "The emphasis of this facility is on the joint monitoring of Russian power plants and American power plants. In addition, at these joint command centers we will have American specialists in Russia and Russian specialists here in case there are some emergencies."

Of greater concern to Richardson is the sole remaining reactor at the ill-fated Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine.

"The Ukraine has experienced some computer problems. And we have joint programs to work with the Ukraine on the Chernobyl reactor. We had hoped the Chernobyl reactor could be closed soon. But the Ukrainians have decided to hold off on that," Richardson said.

The United States budgeted about $6 million over the past two years to assist the countries of the former Soviet Union make their plants Y2K compliant.

Much of that money has been spent upgrading the computer systems that monitor plant activity at the 65 operating Soviet-designed nuclear power reactors in nine countries.

Feds receive 'above average' grade on Y2K
November 29, 1999
Y2K report: Some social services may be at risk
November 23, 1999
NRC says power plants are Y2K-ready
November 19, 1999
U.S. Embassy in Moscow allows some staff to leave to avoid Y2K problems
November 8, 1999
U.S.- Russian hot lines need fixing for Y2K
September 29, 1999
Russian officers to visit U.S. nuclear command center for Y2K joint program
September 22, 1999

U.S. Department of Energy Home Page
Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy

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