U.S. Citizens Join Call for International Nuclear Holiday

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Advocating 'zero tolerance' of the possibility that Y2K computer problems could create a nuclear emergency, a group called World Atomic Safety Holiday is calling on governments around the world to declare an atomic safety period from December onward.

WASH urges that all nuclear systems be shut down from Dec. 1 until testing has been completed with third-party verification. Chapters have been formed in California and Oregon, as well as London and several cities in Japan.

The campaign began in Tokyo on July 3 with a Y2K forum that attracted about 400 people. One of the forum?s organizers, Yumi Kikuchi of Japan-based Plutonium Free Future, teamed up with Mary Olsen of Washington D.C.-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service to start the international crusade.

Worldwide, there are approximately 431 nuclear power reactors in operation, according to Mindy Landau, public affairs officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

WASH organizers want all nuclear reactors and nuclear processing facilities shut down, nuclear weapons de-alerted and shipments of nuclear material suspended. They are also calling for nuclear facilities and waste storage sites to be equipped with backup generators.

In response to the call that nuclear reactors be shut down, Landau said: 'We don?t see any need for that. That?s just not necessary, and it could be very disruptive.'

According to the NRC, 73 of the 103 nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. had successfully completed Y2K testing as of August and are prepared for the date change. Thirty plants require additional testing of computer systems or components not directly linked to plant safety. Most of these expect to be ready by Sept. 30. The NRC will decide at the end of September what to do about plants that have not reached total compliance by that time.