Y2K Computing Challenge:

Nuclear Power Industry Reported Nearly Ready; More Risk Reduction Measures Can Be Taken

T-AIMD-00-27: Published: Oct 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the year 2000 readiness of the nation's nuclear power industry, focusing on: (1) the year 2000 status of the nation's nuclear power industry; (2) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) oversight of the industry's year 2000 readiness; (3) an overview of the industry's contingency planning; and (4) the international readiness of nuclear power plants.

GAO noted that: (1) NRC reported that 75 of the 103 nuclear power plants were year 2000 ready, and that all of the 103 operational nuclear power plants had resolved year 2000-related problems that could affect the performance of systems needed to safely shut down the plants; (2) the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) updated the industry's year 2000 readiness status and reported that 101 of the 103 nuclear power plants were year 2000 ready; (3) 6 of the 10 nuclear fuel facilities reported to NRC that they were year 2000 ready by September 1, 1999; (4) all of the nuclear fuel facilities, with the exception of two gaseous diffusion plants, have informed NRC that they plan to be shut down during the year 2000 rollover period; (5) since 1996, NRC has been working with the nuclear power industry--and NEI--to address year 2000 in the nuclear power industry; (6) regarding reporting of year 2000 readiness, in 1998 NRC required all plants to report by July 1, 1999, to confirm if their facility was year 2000 ready or would be by January 1, 2000; (7) in January 1999 NRC completed audits of 12 year 2000 programs involving 42 of the 103 operating nuclear power plants; (8) between May and June 1999, NRC reviewed the contingency planning activities of 12 operating nuclear powerplants, looking at the implementation of NEI's guidance; (9) all 12 plants' planning activities were found to be consistent with the guidance, and appropriate management and oversight was being provided; (10) in light of these results and follow-up visits, NRC concluded that plants were acceptably implementing industry guidance, and therefore determined that such detailed reviews focusing specifically on contingency planning were not necessary at additional plants; (11) little current data are available on the year 2000 readiness of the 331 nuclear power plants operating outside the United States; (12) the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has been working with its 27 member countries--representing 85 percent of the world's nuclear power capacity--to ensure awareness of nuclear safety during the transition to 2000; and (13) it should be noted that NRC--with cooperation from NEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency--is developing a prototype of an international year 2000 early warning system.

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