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SCOOP LINK: UN Sponsored Y2k Readiness Center

Commencing December 29 (US time), the UN/World Bank sponsored International Y2K Cooperation Centre will provide updates on y2k preparedness of 190 countries. John Howard reports.

190 countries will provide updates to an Internet-based reporting system called the Global Status Watch where national coordinators from each government will input information from eight sectors in real time.

The website, accessible to the general public, will rate each sector based on that country's level of capacity: Green for all systems go, yellow to indicate a reduced capacity and red for serious problems.

The IY2KCC has prepared backup phone and fax systems of reporting, in case the problem a given country is supposed to be monitoring and reporting affects their ability to do so.

In the event that a country experiences problems it cannot locally correct, regional sector networks will enable the sharing of common problems and solution approaches.

In a joint effort between the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, officials have also developed a y2k early warning system. This will allow nuclear regulators to share information over the New Year weekend. Thus far 33 of the 34 nuclear power countries have joined the initiative.

There are 430 operating nuclear power plants in the 34 countries and the IY2KCC says they should operate normally during the rollover. But performance problems could pop-up in the weeks immediately following the New Year.

"Unless Y2K work continues, errors in operation management and monitoring systems will degrade overall plant performance in the weeks following the date change," IY2KCC director, Bruce McConnel, said.

" Over time, such a degradation in performance would reduce the margins of safety and efficiency in these plants," he added.

To guard against the possibility of a temporary disruption in electric power grids, many nations - specifically those in the former Soviet Union states, India and Eastern Europe - have stockpiled at least three weeks of diesel fuel to power the reactor cooling systems after a shutdown.

The IY2KCC advises against nuclear plant shutdowns, however, because they create their own risks. Keeping plants online increases the stability of the power grid with no net safety benefit from a general shutdown.

The IY2KCC says that most nations should expect a multitude of inconvenient but not life-threatening y2k problems starting New Years Eve.

Data for the IY2KCC can be viewed from 29 December at http://www.iy2kcc.org

The Y2K Nuclear Early Warning System is at http://www.nrc.gov/IP/Y2K/yewsfaq.htm


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