>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 14:36:20 -0500
>Reply-To: Electronic Democracy in Nova Scotia <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
>Subject: Chernobyling
>Originally To: comp.software.year-2000  newsgroup
>Driving home one recent night I heard a CBC radio program on Three Mile
>Island. I was surprised to learn how out-of-control the plant was. Personnel
>who retrieved test samples and worked to control the reactor spent hours in
>showers scrubbing their skin raw even though they wore state-of-the-art
>protective suits. A meltdown can occur around 5000 degrees. Three Mile
>Island passed 4000 degrees before it was brought down. It was disturbing to
>hear that the same problem had occurred shortly before at another American
>reactor but management types had suppressed information about the occurrence
>and how to avoid it at other sites.
>Before hearing the program I thought that the worse the year 2000 mess might
>bring could be a bit worse than what folks had suffered between 1929 and
>1950. I read about power problems but most mentioned shutdowns and
>blackouts. The radio program made me think hard about nuclear reactors.
>I searched the Internet for how nuclear reactors and nuclear workers might
>behave in the year 2000. I found lots of information on reactor problems;
>waste and unplanned environmental releases that remain dangerous
>for thousands of years,  terrorist threats, weaknesses, disasters and near
>disasters, cancer increases, etc.  The Virtual Nuclear Tourist site even
>told me that 'Chernobyl was not a meltdown in the traditional sense..'
>Perhaps we should call it Chernobyling. Comp.software.year-2000 e-mails
>turned up on the issue.  However, I found few solid answers to my questions
>on what might happen in the year 2000 at hundreds of nuclear reactors
>around the world.
>Rick Cowles, wrote to comp.software.year-2000  in October 97:
>[The folks running the Y2K effort at this particular nuke facility are in a
>stage 5  panic.  They haven't even finished inventorying their software yet.
>Risk assessment?  Ha!  Embedded controls?  Ha! I laugh in your general
>direction.  They don't  have an inkling of a clue (that's the pre-clueless
>stage) as to how to approach the embedded controls issue. They can get
>absolutely no upper level management support or funding.]
>Rick's words ring true. Nuclear workers and managers are probably much like
>ordinary human beings. A Statistics Canada survey released Dec. 97 found
>that 9% of Canadian companies had formal plans, 36% had 'informal plans',
>46% knew about the problem but had done nothing, and 9% were ignorant of the
>problem. If about 10% of the world has taken the problem seriously, the same
>probably applies to nuclear reactor staffing, management and officials.
>Rick's friends would probably fit into the 'informal plans' group. Should we
>have a high level of confidence in their systems when the clock rolls around
>to 2000? Considering that some of the 9% with formal plans will fail…
>Many comp.software.year-2000 e-mails argued that nuclear reactor designs
>have a kind of built in graceful degradation. Most e-mails avoided details.
>moose outside a Canadian reactor might be a lovely picture but it does not
>mean that the moose is safe. We should try not to be as dumb as a moose
>about technologies that can kill millions of us as well as moose, birds,
>pets, etc.
>Daniel P. B. Smith wrote about graceful nuclear degradation. He came closer
>to giving details than most and he even wrote with grace.
>    [ Speaking as a pinko left-wing peace creep, member of the Union of
>Concerned Scientists, etc:  I hope and believe that nuclear power plants
>ultimately rely for their safety on nice, big, simple low-tech things like
>big heavy containnment buildings.
>   Nuclear power plants are supposed not to irradiate state-sized chunks
>of real estate merely because the pipe burst and the control rod stuck and
>the pump failed. Now, maybe they won't act exactly the way they're supposed
>to. But I do tend to credit those that think that the most likely scenario
>is that if the nuclear plants have Y2K problems they'll shut down, more or
>less safely. And it may then be days/months/years/eternity before they ever
>generate any more power.']
>I would love to have faith in Daniel’s arguments but I have doubts. I doubt
>an intelligent and well-trained auditor would accept these arguments as
>proof of safety, let alone a scientist. Chernobyl was not supposed to spread
>highly toxic radioactivity over the 100,000 square kilometers that surround
>it but it did. Russians were not supposed to eat radioactive food, but they
>are eating radioactive food. Fins were not supposed to dispose of
>radioactive reindeer, Brits were not supposed to dispose of radioactive
>sheep, but they have had to because of Chernobyl which is miles away. (I
>believe the sheep and reindeer had less radioactivity than the food the
>Russians are eating but when you contaminate the area that feeds your
>people, you have limited choices.) Three Mile Island was not supposed to
>heat to over 4/5th of it's meltdown temperature but it did. Technically
>speaking this could have been worse than Chernobyl, I suppose.
>These ‘accidents’ happened without y2k computer problems. Scientist
>don’t seem to have built y2k into their risk projections for nuclear so
>risk analysis is meaningless. One risk book predicted a slim chance of
>one major accident at an American reactor in the next 100 years. Y2k was
>not mentioned. Y2k drives the needle off the dial. What chance do we have
>when hundreds of nuclear reactors around the world hit thousands of
>computer problems at the same time?
>Last week Ol'Timer wrote to the newsgroup last week :
>[NRC says no new nuclear plants built in over 20 years. 90% of sensors are
>analog, not digital. Very little reliance on digital technology for core
>reaction (Fission -> heat water -> steam -> electricity). The "ON/OFF"
>switch is not digital.
>   There is a risk of digitial Y2K problem in peripheral systems such as
>security, surveillence, testing, event reporting, etc. They claim to be
>taking appropriate measures.
>   This is good news.
>   For more info, see ITAA's Year 2000 Outlook, Jan 23, 1998, Vol. 3,No. 3
>   (I am on e-mail list. I do not have an URL)]
>Ol'Timer used a funny non-traceable e-mail address that would be perfect
>for a nuclear industry PR type but that's OK. Any dialogue or information
>could help. Thanks. I wanted to take this e-mail at face value and be
>reassured. Looking closer, I wondered what Ol'Timer was really saying. Are
>heat and pressure sensors not generally analog devices? Computer chips
>don't work at thousands of degrees. They are not likely to be embedded in
>heat sensors. Are analog sensors read manually at reactors? Is the data
>then used to control manual devices? Are fuel rods and reaction control
>substances inserted and extracted by hand? I doubt it. What reactor has an
>"ON/OFF" switch? Don’t the number of fuel rods inserted, how far they are
>inserted and the amount of graphite or heavy water in the reactor control
>the reactions? Don’t elevator computers make up way less than 1% of the
>elevator system? If you’re stuck on the 54th floor because of y2k code in
>the computer chip, it's still a significant exposure. ‘Year 2000 Outlook’
>doesn’t make a hit on this report using Altavista so it’s either not on the
>web, not indexed to Altavista, or under a different title.
>Roger Barnett or Elizabeth Veitch wrote (I had trouble figuring out the
>>Our nearest nuclear is Hartlepool - I've been told the keywords
>>here are "Ferranti Argus" and "assembler", but that is just hearsay.
>Dave Eastabrook replied:
>|Been there.  That's one of the few stations I had to do a couple of
>|days serious work as opposed to educating users in TSO or VM when
>|they were converting off VSPC in 1989.  As always with the CEGB
>|(now National Power etc), very pleasant, helpful and capable people.
>|As I recall, I wrote about 3 Assembler programs and the JCL for a
>|mini-suite to accomplish the task, as with MVS you always have an
>|assembler, whereas they might not have Fortran or Cobol etc. later on.
>Rick, Roger, Elizabeth, Dave, even Homer Simpson, indicate that nuclear
>reactors are computerized. I can't imagine that the worldwide nuclear
>industry conspired to place redundant and unnecessary computers in their
>plants. I'm cynical but not that cynical. The 360 type machines that run
>MVS and JCL were state of the art in 1964. Maintaining an unnecessarily
>JCL based machine with assembler programs at a nuclear plant would
>be a cruel and unusual practical joke.
>I expect that computers at nuclear plants have significant roles. The year
>2000 problems probably increase the risk of this dangerous technology
>enormously. Considering the lack of time remaining, it is probably the
>most serious threat that we face today. Rick indicates that managers and
>officials are not taking this seriously. Human actions and reactions figured
>into Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. How will nuclear plant operators react
>if y2k bugs give them false information? What happens if programs that
>control the movement of fuel rods or control substances don’t work? What
>are the odds that all operators in the decaying former Soviet Union will be
>Vodka free on New Years eve of the millenium? (Before you answer,
>remember that our highly trained Canadian operators have been found
>drinking and doing drugs on the job.) What exactly will happen in the
>hundreds of nuclear plants in all of these countries? (Argentina, Australia,
>Austria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic,
>Canada, China, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Democratic People's Republic of
>Korea, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary,
>Iceland, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Republic of
>Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Monaco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway,
>Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland,
>Thailand, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic)
>I believe, the U.S. alone has 108 nuclear reactors (maybe 108 sites with
>multiple reactors) mostly in the northeast quarter of the country - the
>former Soviet Union has about 100 sites with an average of three reactors
>per site - Canada has 11 reactors, mostly in Ontario, one in New Brunswick
>and one or two in Quebec. I don't have a clue on numbers in the rest of the
>world. I'm not an expert. I have just been looking at the situation
>If these technologies are safe, then we should all know the details. If you
>know any specifics that we can count on for safety, then please let us know.
>Doing whatever we can to stop widespread poisoning of our planet should
>be more important than accumulating a few dollars or being a hero with
>someone's fixed asset system. If a reactor within hundreds of miles of you
>starts Chernobyling you won't be able to hide under your Whole Earth
>Catalog. If several of the suckers start spewing radioactive material in
>different parts of the world then God help us all.
>David Woodill
>Orillia,  Ontario


Tom Walker
Know Ware Communications
Vancouver, B.C., CANADA
(604) 688-8296 
The TimeWork Web: http://www.vcn.bc.ca/timework/

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