United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 99-25: Year 2000 Contingency Planning Activities

UNITED STATES
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555-0001

August 10, 1999

NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 99-25: YEAR 2000 CONTINGENCY PLANNING ACTIVITIES

Addressees

All holders of operating licenses for nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information notice (IN) to inform addressees about contingency planning activities being undertaken by the NRC in response to potential disruptions of telecommunications and electrical distribution systems that could occur during the Year 2000 (Y2K) transition period (December 31, 1999, through the first few days of 2000). It is expected that recipients will review the information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate. However, suggestions contained in this information notice are not NRC requirements; IN 99-25

Background

The Y2K issue involves potential date-related errors with computer systems, embedded software devices, and software applications. An example of a date-related problem is a software application or digital device that interprets the digits "00" to represent the year 1900 rather than the year 2000. Date-related errors can result in malfunctions of computer systems by producing erroneous data or failing to operate at all. These failures, if they were to occur, could potentially lead to the loss of electrical distribution or telecommunications systems.

The NRC has been working with licensees and numerous industry groups and government agencies to determine the possible extent of telecommunications and electrical distribution system disruptions that could occur during the Y2K transition, and their potential effects on nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities. The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and the representatives of the telecommunications industry have concluded, after extensive research, that no widespread disruptions to the telecommunications or electrical distribution systems are expected. Although we believe that any such disruptions would most likely not have a significant impact on any nuclear power plant or fuel cycle facility, the NRC staff has developed a Y2K contingency plan to (1) provide an alternate means of communication with NRC licensees and certificate holders in the event of a telecommunications disruption and (2) provide for rapid NRC response to unexpected events during the Y2K transition, including licensee requests for enforcement discretion. The final version of the NRC Contingency Plan for the Year 2000 Issue in the Nuclear Industry is publicly available, and can be accessed from the NRC web site at http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/Y2K/Y2KCP.html.

Discussion

Telephone service to the NRC Headquarters Operations Center (HOC) is provided by several diverse and redundant routes. A local telephone outage in the metropolitan Washington, DC area could affect one of the routes, but would not be likely to cause a complete loss of telephone service to the HOC. Licensees and certificate holders wishing to contact the HOC should use the following numbers, in the priority listed:

301-816-5100
301-951-0550
301-415-0550
301-415-0553

The NRC Region IV Incident Response Center (IRC) in Arlington, Texas has been designated as the backup center for the HOC during the Y2K transition period. Callers unable to contact the HOC should contact the Region IV IRC at 817-860-8100.

The NRC is currently purchasing Iridium brand satellite telephones to be distributed to the resident inspectors' offices of every operating nuclear power plant, and to the Portsmouth and Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plants (GDPs). Additionally, the HOC and each regional IRC will be equipped with similar satellite telephones. Nuclear power plant licensees and GDP certificate holders will be permitted to use the NRC satellite telephone for emergency response purposes, including immediate event notifications to the NRC. Satellite telephone numbers will be provided to each resident inspector's office.

The Office of the Manager, National Communication System (OMNCS) is the White House agency charged with coordinating and planning for communications to support national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) requirements. The NRC is a member organization of the National Communication System (NCS). Among the NS/EP programs sponsored by OMNCS is the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS). The major features of GETS are enhanced routing and priority treatment in the use of long-distance and local telephone networks to ensure a high probability of completing a call even if the public telephone network is highly congested. OMNCS makes GETS available to utility services that are sponsored by NCS member organizations. The NRC will sponsor all nuclear power plants and gaseous diffusion plants for participation in the GETS program. Information about the GETS program and instructions on how to apply for GETS calling cards are presented in Attachment 1. Licensees should follow the instructions on page 6 (State and local government user application instructions).

The NRC has assisted the Nuclear Energy Agency in developing a prototype of a Y2K early warning system (YEWS) that would be used by the NRC and other regulators to share information concerning Y2K problems that affect plant operations, telecommunications, or grid reliability. YEWS is an internet-based system that will be placed on a secure server. A number of countries have already agreed to use this system as their primary means of disseminating information during the Y2K transition period. Licensees interested in accessing international Y2K event information from the YEWS should send the name of the single point of contact per site with the authority to access the YEWS, in writing, to Mr. Clarence Breskovic, Office of International Programs, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555, Mail Stop T 04E9. Mr. Breskovic may be contacted at 301-415-2364, or by e-mail at cpb@nrc.gov, for further information concerning YEWS.

Nuclear power plant licensees will be contacted by the HOC for plant status beginning at approximately 15 minutes past midnight in the particular facility's time zone. The information that will be collected at that time will be similar to that gathered during the daily plant status call, except that the NRC will also be collecting data regarding any major Y2K transition anomalies noted by the facility, such as grid stability problems. This information will immediately be entered into the YEWS and will be shared will all users.

The NRC staff is proposing interim staff guidance on the process for the NRC to exercise enforcement discretion in certain situations in which power reactor licensees encounter Y2K-associated compliance problems in the Y2K transition period or in other key rollover periods. The exercise of enforcement discretion may support a licensee's decision to keep the plant in operation, if the licensee has determined that safety will not be unacceptably affected, in order to help maintain electrical grid stability and reliability. This proposed interim enforcement policy would provide for the exercise of enforcement discretion to address noncompliance with license conditions, including technical specifications (TSs), because of Y2K transition or rollover issues. The interim enforcement policy would apply to situations in which plant operation is needed to help maintain the stability and reliability of the electrical power supply system, even when license conditions, including TSs, would require a plant shutdown. If such situations occur, licensees would be expected to follow the existing guidance in NRC Inspection Manual Part 9900 for Notices of Enforcement Discretion, which is available at http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/IM/noed.html, to the maximum extent practicable, particularly regarding a safety determination and notification of NRC. The staff's interim enforcement discretion policy is available at http://www.nrc.gov/NRC/COMMISSION/SECYS/1999-135scy.html.

If you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact one of the technical contacts listed below.

  /s/'d by

Ledyard B. Marsh, Chief
Events Assessment, Generic Communications and Non-Power Reactors Branch
Division of Regulatory Improvement Programs
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

Technical Contacts: Joseph Giitter, IRO
301-415-7485
E-mail: jgg@nrc.gov
John Jolicoeur, IRO
301-415-6383
E-mail: jrj1@nrc.gov
Attachments: 1. GETS Information Package  [ MS PowerPoint   |   Adobe PDF PDF Icon]
2. List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices

(NUDOCS Accession Number 9908050024)
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