The 'Year 2000' or Y2K problem had the potential of causing malfunctions in the operation of computer systems, microprocessor-based control systems and software or databases relied upon at nuclear power plants and so was a serious potential nuclear safety issue.
The problem could potentially affect software that uses a two-digit date field to represent the year. Computer algorithms in such software could associate "00" to the year 1900 instead of the year 2000. Other algorithms might not correctly recognise the year 2000 as a leap year and risk failure on February 29, 2000 or December 31, 2000 (day 366). These problems could result in the inability of computer systems to function properly or failure to operate at all, having potential impact on nuclear installation safety. The Y2K problem had a fixed deadline and required priority attention due to the technical challenges and limited time remaining for corrective actions and contingency planning.
Reviews of the susceptibility of Soviet-designed reactors to Y2K problems revealed that the ex-Soviet countries lacked the expertise and financial resources to conduct detailed, systematic evaluation alone.
Programmes supporting Y2K readiness at Russian and Ukrainian NPPs had been established and were managed, respectively, by the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) and the Science and Technology Centre in Ukraine (STCU) – see note **.
These programmes coordinated the work of several hundred Russian and Ukrainian specialists, mostly from the NPPs and technical support organisations, to develop and implement the remediation plan.
Two specific contracts were placed by the European Commission, through the TACIS nuclear safety programme, with the ISTC (Contract 26409) and the STCU (Contract 26410), to allow them to engage Russian and Ukrainian specialists and to purchase equipment and software for the final stage of post-Y2K remedial actions.
The European Commission had placed an earlier, related contract, to review the status of ongoing Y2K readiness activities in Ukraine and Russia prior to the turn of the century (see Contract 25987).
** The ISTC and the STCU were established in Moscow in 1992 and Kiev in 1993, respectively, by international agreement as part of a non-proliferation initiative following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Both centres provide former nuclear, chemical and biological weapons scientists from Russia, Ukraine and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with new opportunities for sustainable, peaceful employment in order to assist their transition from military to civilian careers in their fields of expertise. The funding parties to ISTC are the United States, the European Union, Japan, Norway and South Korea. The funding parties to STCU are the United States, the European Union (succeeding Sweden from 1997) and Canada.
The complete programmes supporting Y2K readiness at Russian and Ukrainian NPPs were carried out in three phases having a short deadline:
During the Initial Assessment (preliminary inventory) phase, all date-sensitive items were identified and documented using standard forms. The Initial Assessment Inventory list was completed in September 1999. It included the items to be addressed at the next stage, Detailed Assessment.
Detailed Assessment was initiated in parallel with Initial Assessment. Personnel at the NPPs filled out special forms for the Detailed Assessment and contributed to the required databases. Detailed Assessment was completed in November 1999 and resulted in prioritised lists of items for the Remediation phase, which was initiated in parallel with the Detailed Assessment. The remediation was then carried out in three stages according to the prioritised lists, which were divided into three parts:
- List 1 included items for the first stage of remediation, which required completion by December 31, 1999. The work was specified in detail by October 1999 and the related activities were successfully completed by December 31.
- List 2 included items important for long term safe operation, but for which work could continue into the year 2000. The list was sub-divided into two parts:
- List 2A: The list included the priority items selected in accordance with the funding available at the start of the year 2000. The related activities were completed by summer 2000.
- List 2B included the remaining items from the prioritized list of items identified for the second stage of remediation. The present contract contributed to the implementation of the List 2B remediation measures.
The scope of work included the supply and installation of various items of IT hardware and software such as servers, network equipment, workstations of various NPP operational personnel.