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Computer problems hit three nuclear plants in Japan

January 3, 2000
Web posted at: 12:03 p.m. EST (1703 GMT)

by Martyn Williams


Tokyo (IDG) -- 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. (TEPCO). The system that shows the position of the control rods in the reactor core failed, leaving operators unable to gauge the rods' positions using the system.
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TEPCO officials said a plant processing computer enabled operators verify 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 officials 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 representatives said.
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At two other Japanese nuclear plants, problems associated with monitoring systems were recorded, said officials at 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. 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.

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The final problem occurred at 12:02 a.m., when an alarm sounded at the Onagawa nuclear power plant of Tohoku Electric Power Co. 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, MITI officials said.

Japan's MPT reports four Y2K-related problems

Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) reported late today that the nation's information-communications industry has so far been hit by four problems that been confirmed to be year 2000-related. In all cases the problems have been resolved, said ministry officials.

In the telecommunications sector, three problems were reported so far.

At two minutes past midnight on Jan. 1, Osaka Media Port, a regional telecommunications carrier in the Osaka area, found errors in the date management part of the company's network observation system. The problem was fixed by 2:43 a.m. and no services were affected, said MPT representatives.

NTT Mobile Communications Network (NTT DoCoMo), the country's largest cellular operator, reported on Jan. 1 a problem users were encountering with some models of mobile telephones. In the case that too many short messages are received, the telephones start by deleting those received on Jan. 1 rather than older messages. NTT DoCoMo is advising users to clear their message memories of old messages.

The final telecommunications sector problem linked to year 2000 according to the report was with a fax-based information system provided by Recruit Co. The system encountered problems in the early hours of the new year and a check discovered an obstacle to year-data processing. The system was fixed and running as of 4:28 p.m. on January 1.

In the broadcasting sector, a single Y2K problem was reported. Tohaku Usen Hoso, which operates a cable-radio system in Tohaku town, Tottori prefecture, was unable to transmit agri-meteorological information due to unspecified year 2000-related problems. The system was returned to normal at 2:10 a.m.

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