Computer Problems Hit Three Japan Nuclear Plants

TOKYO (01/02/2000) - Only a handful of computer problems have been reported in Japan in the new year to date, however at least three hit systems associated with nuclear power plants, according to the government and power generating companies.

The potentially most serious problem occurred not at midnight but at 8:58 a.m. local time on Jan. 1 at the Fukushima Number 2 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Ltd. (TEPCO). The system that shows the position of the control rods in the reactor core failed, leaving operators unable to gauge the rod's positions using the system.

TEPCO said a plant-processing computer enabled operators to make sure of the position of the rods until the problem was located. Engineers confirmed the power supply and central processor associated with the system were fine and, at 11:15 a.m., found the problem to be in a clock used in the board that controls the display screen. The clock was set to Feb. 6, 2036. After being reset to Jan. 1, 2000, the system returned to normal operation at 2:12 p.m., TEPCO said.

The cause of the failure is still under investigation.

Minor problems were found at other nuclear plants, including problems in a meeting-room booking program and office work-processing system that is responsible for saving business data, TEPCO said.

At two other Japanese nuclear plants, problems associated with monitoring systems were recorded, said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

The first hit the Ishikawa Prefecture Monitoring System, a network of radiation monitors in the area surrounding the Shiga nuclear power plant of Hokuriku Electric Co. Ltd. Data from the network stopped being received at local government monitoring stations shortly after midnight on Jan. 1. Engineers confirmed the system is continuing to collect data and the fault appears to be in the data transmission function. Officials have not yet attributed the problem to Y2K-related glitches.

The final problem occurred at 12:02 a.m. when an alarm sounded at the Onagawa nuclear power plant of Tohoku Electric Power Co. Ltd. The alarm sounded after data from monitoring stations, transmitted to the system every 10 minutes, was not received. The problem cleared itself 10 minutes later when the next set of data was successfully received. Whether the problem was Y2K related is still under investigation, said MITI.

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