Y2K Moving Calmly Across Europe

BOSTON (12/31/99) - Companies and nations across the globe continue the rollover into the year 2000 with western Europe's computers passing peacefully into the new year.

U.S. officials are reporting minor technological problems and the shutdown of a nuclear power plant in North Carolina -- still not confirmed as the result of a computer glitch -- as the country edges toward midnight.

Spokespeople at telecommunications vendors, utilities and governments in the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and the U.S. reported no problems there as those countries approached and then entered 2000.

"We don't have any unusual incidents in any area," said Lutz Meyer-Bruns, spokesman for the German government's millennium center. Similarly, dozens of nations reported no trouble in every major industry and government sector.

As the date change rolled across the globe, one expected technological glitch did occur systematically -- telecommunications networks were clogged with callers on the phone to offer well wishes to loved ones.

But telecommunications vendors and service operators in Europe confirmed smooth sailing, with systems running fine at Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and Telecom Italia. France Telecom saw the normal New Year's Eve upsurge in traffic but noted that by 12:45 AM local time it began to subside. Equipment vendor Alcatel has a command center in Paris to which 150 other centers around the world report, and as of a half hour past midnight Paris time, no problems had been reported.

Optimistic news about the rollover has come with admonitions that the full effects of the date rollover on computers and business processes will not be known for days to come. Still, U.S. officials, including various cabinet secretaries, reported positively about the date change thus far during the final press briefing of the President's Council on Y2K Conversion, while President Bill Clinton and his family threw a huge "Millennium Dinner" gala at the White House.

Worries were soothed when Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) reached midnight, Jan. 1, (at 7 p.m. EST) and the lights stayed on. The passage of that time with but minor glitches left U.S. officials feeling confident, they said tonight.

Airplanes globally operate on GMT, or universal time, because they all must be coordinated.

In the U.S., there were 2,200 airplanes in the air when GMT hit 12 a.m. and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported no problems, said James Lee Witt, chairman of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the last ' 99 news briefing by the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

In Russia, nuclear power plants in the Ukraine that had been of concern for possible "Chernobyl problems" made the date rollover with no hitches, said U.S.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson during the press briefing broadcast on TV from Washington, D.C. Oil pumps also continue to work properly in Russia. The energy sector there had been viewed as potentially at risk for computer problems, and so good news so far from that sector further eased officials' concerns.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the shutdown of the Catawba nuclear power plant yesterday in North Carolina had not been officially labeled a year-2000 computer problem by this evening, said Richardson, who reported that problems at nuclear plants in Pennsylvania and Georgia were not related to the date change. A minor date-caused glitch linked to a clock problem at Wisconsin Power (no one lost electricity) occurred, but otherwise the U.S. energy sector has been working without hitch.

U.S. officials said they expect that to continue, with problems easily identifiable and fixable popping up in the weeks to come.

(Margret Johnston and Marc Ferranti contributed to this story.)

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More about Alcatel-LucentDeutsche TelekomFAAFederal Aviation AdministrationFederal Emergency Management AgencyFEMAFrance TelecomGreenwich Mean TimeTelecom Italia

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