Year 2000 Call to Shut-down & Dismantle

By the Nukewatch Staff

Nukewatch, along with individuals and organizations around the world, is calling for a complete shut-down of all nuclear reactors and an unplugging of all nuclear weapons in preparation for possible Y2K computer problems.

Of all potential Y2K failures, the worst scenario involves the nuclear industry. One nuclear reactor or H-bomb accident is unthinkable and the risk of any nuclear catastrophe is completely unnecessary. With nuclear reactors and weapons, there is no margin for error.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) in Washington gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Y2K program failing grades, based on the agency's admission that 35 nuclear reactors still haven't resolved their problems with the Y2K bug. Several of the reactors aren't even scheduled to complete their fixes until November 1999, or later, and no reactor operator claims to be "Y2K compliant."

In July, the NRC claimed that all 103 U.S. reactors are free of Y2K software problems that could cause radiation leaks on Jan. 1st. However, the NRC conducted only 12 utility audits! In New Hampshire, the Seabrook reactor alone contains 1,304 separate software items and embedded chips that may be affected by the Y2K bug.

Backup power systems for U.S. reactors are not up to the task of keeping cool the storage pools filled with irradiated fuel rods. "The NRC does not even require that these fuel pools have backup power," says Mary Olson of NIRS. Some of the rods are so hot that without cooling it would take less than 48 hours for them to melt down.

Unplugging the Nuclear Arsenal

A "De-Alerting Coalition" of over 250 groups led by Physicians for Social Responsibility, is working to get nuclear weapons off line before December 31, and has urged the Clinton White House to assure that missiles do not accidentally launch. Removing the warheads would eliminate the danger of detonation in a Y2K-related accident.

The Defense Special Weapons Agency (DSWA), responsible for managing the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, claimed last Nov. it had no Y2K problems. But a Defense Department inspector-general's audit found that no testing had been done at all, nor had the agency bothered to develop contingency plans in case of a mission-critical nuclear launch system failure. The DSWA said it was not required under Pentagon rules to do so.

Robert J. Lieberman, Assistant Inspector General for the Pentagon said six months ago, "By waiting so long to really get into high gear, we have made this a much higher-risk proposition…Right now it's difficult to say whether we have managed to make the problem unmanageable or not." He divulged that his agency accepted assurances from software vendors about their products, rather than conducting direct tests.

Military early warning systems may fail and lead to false alarms of missile attacks. In fact, the U.S. military has the largest computer network in the world, with 1.5 million computers, 28,000 automated systems, 70 different computer languages (some so obscure no one can read them), and the whole network is riddled with date-sensitive computer chips.

A report by the British American Security Information Council says, "The Pentagon has already announced the existence of 'high risk' systems that may not be repaired or tested in time, and for which repairs may ultimately be impossible."

The Navy Department says Y2K problems are likely to cause total failure of some utilities in approximately 1/3 of the 500 cities it studied. Expected failures involve water, sewer, electric and gas utilities. A June, 1999 Navy report, entitled "Master Utility List" rates metropolitan areas according to their ability to survive the millennium date change. The once secret Navy report states that more than 26 million American citizens in 125 cities can expect to be without electricity, water, gas or sewer services in January. President Clinton's top Y2K adviser, John Koskinen, confirmed the authenticity of the Navy report -- an assessment more dire than any other made by the government. This is a complete contradiction to the government's August 1999 conclusion that, "It is highly unlikely that there will be national disruptions in electric power service on Jan. 1, 2000." The government said that any gas disruptions that occur will have minimal impact on consumers and it is increasingly unlikely that the date change will create disruption in water service.

While individual oil and gas companies are confronting possible problems, there is no national approach to deal with shortages or disruption in the nation's oil and gas supplies, according to a May 25 New York Times article.

The Navy isn't the only agency worried though. Many municipalities are conducting drills to prepare for worst-case scenarios. The nation's health care system lags significantly, as do millions of small businesses and state and local governments. Global communications, nursing homes, schools, banks, hospitals and airlines are all likely to experience problems.

The State Department is focused on foreign failures since many Americans will be abroad. The Department's Inspector General Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers says she expects "varying degrees of Y2K-related failures in every sector, in every region and at every economic level." In assessing foreign preparedness she said, "there is a clear risk that electricity, communications and other key systems will fail, perhaps creating economic havoc and social unrest."

Major corporations, some foreign countries and even the U.S. Treasury have begun to raise enormous amounts of cash just in case something goes wrong somewhere as computer calendars flip to 2000.

The American Banking Association issued a five-page manual for Y2K that reads, "So in preparing for Jan. 1, 2000, do what you can. Trust God. Trust those you love. Be informed. And take a few practical steps. Save copies of your financial records. Keep a few days worth of cash on you. Have a little extra food and water around the house if that makes you feel better. Keep an adequate supply of medicines and over-the-counter drugs on hand. If it's a prescription medicine that you're required to take, put aside enough for a few weeks. Make sure there are fresh batteries in your flashlights. Keep some candles on hand. If you have a fireplace, put some dry wood aside."

Y2K preparations are boosting U.S. interest rates across the board according to analysts. Lloyd's of London predicts worldwide legal costs could reach $1 trillion and the House and Senate passed legislation limiting litigation, attorney fees and damage awards.

In poll results distributed by CIO Communications, Inc., 56% of high-tech company executives said millennium bugs will not be fixed by Dec. 31; 60% said they would not fly on a commercial airline on January 1, and 80% are documenting financial records.

Call the White House (202) 456-1111, and your Representatives and demand they shut-down the reactors and un-plug the nuclear weapons. Not only is it the socially responsible thing to do, but quite simply, our future may depend on it.