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Power facilities cite few glitches

With less than an hour remaining before the first New Year celebrations begin in the United States, government officials say there have been a handful of Year 2000 glitches at power facilities.

With less than an hour remaining before the first New Year celebrations begin in the United States, government officials say there have been a handful of Year 2000 glitches at power utility facilities, although they caused no power outages.

Reminding the Millennium countdownpublic that it is too early to declare victory, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson reported that the U.S. power supply has experienced no significant disruptions caused by the Year 2000 technology problem.

A Wisconsin power plant experienced a date-related glitch when a calendar clock coordinating generation and transmission systems jumped ahead 35 days at the plant, but it was corrected in a few minutes and did not affect customers or disrupt power.

Richardson said that his agency also is looking into a glitch at a nuclear power facility in North Carolina that occurred yesterday and caused the plant to temporarily shut down. Because it occurred yesterday, Richardson said it is unlikely that it is Y2K related, although he said that couldn't be ruled out until after the investigation.

"Even though there have been some glitches, the news is good," said Richardson. "But it's still way too early to declare victory."

Government officials said the news also is good so far from the transportation sector.

Transportation Secretary Rodney Slader said there have been no disruptions in aviation or in railway transportation.

He said earlier Back to Year 2000 Index Pagereports that U.S. seaports would shut down just prior to the New Year and remain closed over New Year's weekend on both coasts were false.

"Ports will voluntarily stand down right before the rollover and then continue after" systems are checked, he said.

As earlier reported, Amtrak and freight trains will also shut down at midnight to make sure computers make the transition successfully before trains continue along their travels.

Positive news continues to come in from overseas as the New Year marches on. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering said Europe and Asia are reporting no significant Y2K difficulties.

"We must remain mindful that we continue to expect Y2K glitches to hit on the first business day. It's still early on," he said.

He also defended the U.S. State Department's decision to lean heavily on other nations--for instance, by issuing special Y2K travel advisories--to find, fix and test billions of lines of their computer code. Particular emphasis is being put on those in the former Soviet Union, where earlier expectations had forecast major power outages and aviation disruptions related to Y2K.

"The vast majority of electric utilities rolled through the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) time zone with no problems at 7 p.m. EST," according to a statement from the North American Electric Reliability Council, a not-for-profit group that promotes the reliability of the electricity supply for North America.

"Eight utilities, however, reported "hiccups" with clocks that synchronize utility time to GMT time. The clocks, which are linked to satellites, were reset. The electric systems were not affected, and the utilities are operating normally. Service to customers was not affected in any of these events."

News.com's Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.