Pentagon confident Russian nuclear plants will withstand Y2K

The Defense Department this week delivered thousands of fire extinguishers and dozens of fire trucks, computers, printers, fax machines and mobile radios to Russia, where they will be used to bolster the safety of that country's nuclear storage facilities during the Year 2000 date change.

Responding to a request by the Russian Ministry of Defense for help in preparing for potential widespread Year 2000 failures, the Pentagon established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Y2K Outreach Support program under the guidance of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

The $6 million effort, funded by DOD, provides Russian-manufactured heavy equipment, as well as communications gear, that can be used if Year 2000-induced power failures affect security and safety systems at Russia's nuclear weapons storage facilities.

The Pentagon has been focusing on the safety of Russia's nuclear operational forces, such as nuclear missiles, but another main concerns has been the status of Russia's stockpiled weapons, said Dave Oliver, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology. "DTRA convinced the Russians that we were not there to try to take advantage of them," said Oliver, adding that it is "extraordinary" how much they were able to get for $6 million.

DOD has delivered 35 fire trucks, 6,500 fire extinguishers, 15 lifting trucks, 22 portable generators and 700 uninterrupted power supply replacement batteries. The department also contracted with Raytheon-Hughes to buy $500,000 worth of computers and office automation equipment that will be used at Russia's 50 Y2K Watch Centers and is negotiating for the delivery of 350 mobile radios.

Although Oliver said DOD is "very satisfied [and] completely comfortable with all of the preparations" being made by the Pentagon's counterparts in Russia, officials said there were significant educational barriers that had to be overcome before Russian officials were able to grasp the seriousness of the problem.

"We finally convinced them that they did have a problem," said Ken Hong Fong, DTRA's Year 2000 program manager. "We actually tested one of their premier security systems and showed that it wasn't Y2K-compliant," he said.

Equipment not yet delivered is scheduled to arrive in Moscow before Dec. 31, Oliver said. Defense contractors Raytheon-Hughes and Bechtel Corp. are handling the logistics of delivering the equipment and have personnel stationed in Moscow.

Now that DOD has done its part in helping the Russians prepare nuclear storage sites for the Year 2000, "it's in their hands, and we think they are capable of handling it," Oliver said.

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