Press release
Paris, 27 October 1998

The millenium bug and the nuclear industry

As a contribution to the efforts of its Members to anticipate and minimise the potential impact of the millennium bug (Y2K) on the safe operation of the nuclear industry, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has launched a comprehensive plan of action which includes the systematic collection of information on the status of preparedness of its member countries to deal with this issue; the setting-up of an international network of national co-ordinators, using an e-mail to facilitate regulatory exchanges of information; and the organisation of an international workshop which will take place in February 1999. This plan is fully co-ordinated with – and complementary to – those being carried out by other international organisations.

It is well recognised that the change in dates from 31 December 1999 to 1 January 2000 (and possible other dates) will present many challenges to government and industry as well as to private individuals on a world-wide basis. While much focus has been placed on areas in the public domain such as the financial and medical sectors, this issue also impacts the nuclear industry. Computers have been integrated into nearly all aspects of nuclear installations, which means that Y2K problems could potentially affect activities, such as maintenance schedules, control and monitoring systems, security systems, etc. Both nuclear regulators and industry in the NEA member countries have been pro-active on this issue for several years. Licensees' programmes are varied in both scope and content but most are currently expected to be satisfactorily complete by the end of 1999.

The main objective of the workshop, which will be hosted by the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) of Canada in Ottawa from 8 to 10 February 1999, is to provide an international forum to exchange information on the impact of the year 2000 on the nuclear industry. Specific objectives are to discuss regulatory and industry strategies on the issues involved; to discuss lessons learned and corrective actions taken and planned; to assess what still needs to be done in terms of contingency planning; and to review other international and global implications.

The workshop will deal with actual problems found and how they are being handled to allow attendees insights on where they may need to concentrate their remaining efforts. Issues covered will include the identification of the nature of the problem, time of occurrence and safety importance; the identification of systems/equipment/expert systems to be tested; and test methods and procedures. The workshop will also look at examples of specific contingencies developed in response to individual plant issues and actions which need to be taken, as well as general precautionary contingencies. A report on lessons learnt will be produced in 1999.

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