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Energy Department powers up for Y2K testing

The Energy Department plans to start testing its computer systems for glitches related to the Year 2000 technology problem.

With the new century just more than 100 days away, the Energy Department plans tomorrow to start testing its computer systems for glitches related to the Year 2000 technology problem.

On September 8, electric power plants across the country will prepare for and monitor the date rollover at midnight. September 9, or 9/9/99, is Back to Year 2000 Index Page a key date for Y2K testing because computer users have used nines to mean end of input, which could shut down computers programs on this date. The drill is intended to simulate as realistically as possible the exercise of operation, communications, administration, and contingency plans for the Y2K transition.

U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is slated to take part in the dress rehearsal for the Year 2000 technology glitch beginning tomorrow at the Energy Department's Bonneville Power Administration in Vancouver, Washington.

Some experts believe September 9, 1999--written as 9/9/99--could create widespread computer problems similar to those that the Year 2000 date-change problem could cause. Experts said 9/9/99 could be read as "9999," the code that many computers use to stop a program.

But Federal officials are confident the upcoming date change will come and go without any problems.

"This industry-wide drill is yet another way to test whether local utility companies will have power after the clock strikes midnight at the end of the year," Secretary Richardson said in a statement. "The nation's 3,200 electric utility companies and cooperatives need to do everything they can to test their preparedness and ensure consumers a smooth transition into the year 2000."

The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year. Many computers now must be modified, or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900 and may not be able to function at all.