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SMOOTH TRANSITIONS IN U.S., ELSEWHERE SUGGEST Y2K BUG HAS BEEN SQUASHED

With guarded revelry, Americans greeted the dawn of the 21st century with growing confidence that a computer glitch that once threatened to disrupt every aspect of everyday life had been subdued. Airlines, satellites and bank machines passed early tests.

An hour deemed to be a major early test came and went uneventfully at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time -- midnight Greenwich Mean Time -- as computers that control airline traffic, some electric power grids and military operations rolled into the new year.

"The nation's air-space system is up and running safely," Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey declared from a jet traveling across the country at the moment air traffic computers went to "00:00" -- tracking 2,415 U.S. flights.

Government and business officials took comfort in early reports that the rest of world was making an easy transition, even in countries like Russia, where Y2K problems were expected. Older computers and software without a Y2K fix can mistake the year 2000 for 1900.

"I have never felt there was any significant chance the United States would have any problem in its infrastructure, either nationally or regionally. I continue to believe that," John Koskinen, the nation's Y2K chief, said Friday.

President Clinton celebrated the new millennium at a glamorous party on the National Mall in Washington. His Y2K troubleshooters monitored events across the world from a $50 million, high-tech control center a few blocks away. They looked for any last-minute problems -- no matter how small.

As the sun went down, they had only a few to report.

An electrical utility in the Midwest, which officials didn't identify, suffered a Y2K-related glitch when its clocks inexplicably jumped ahead 35 days. There was no interruption in power, and no customers were affected.

Also, 800 slot machines at three Delaware race tracks shut down from the Y2K glitch.

The nation's power grid -- another system keyed to Greenwich Mean Time -- seemed to be faring well.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said he was receiving trouble-free reports through the evening from power companies around the country showing that computers operating the nation's interconnecting electricity grid were functioning properly.

But officials were watching three nuclear power plants that unexpectedly shut down in South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania as the new year approached, though none of the shutdowns was found to be Y2K-related.

Two of the three nuclear reactors were shut down Thursday evening -- one in Georgia and another in Pennsylvania. The third in South Carolina was reduced to 40 percent power at 1:11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Friday, officials said.

Commercial satellite operators reported no major problems. And all National Aeronautics and Space Administration spacecraft and facilities were pronounced fully functional.

"We're green across the board, no problems at all," said Mark Hess, a spokesman for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The industry association that represents the nation's major automated teller machines declared ATMs had passed their key Y2K test, which occurred at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time when many started posting consumers' transactions to Jan. 1. The Electronic Funds Transfer Association said late Friday transactions had gone smoothly since that hour.

In fact, things were so smooth at the government's Y2K command center Friday that some television technicians popped in a video -- "Apocalypse Now."

After being ratted out in a CNN news broadcast, the TV crews were forced to turn off the movie.

In New York City, the story was much the same. Scores of top officials from the police department, electric companies, the Department of Transportation and virtually every other agency under the sun gathered in a 23rd-floor emergency operations center to coordinate solutions to Y2K chaos. Only there wasn't any.

Meanwhile, Paris entered the new millennium today with a glittering show of fireworks at the Eiffel Tower and giant Ferris wheels along the Champs-Elysees, but the panel meant to count down the minutes to midnightfailed.

The panel on the Eiffel Tower blacked out early in the evening and could not be repaired before midnight.

Officials said the failure of the panel, which had been working fine since April 1997, was due to recent storms and not connected to the Y2K computer bug.

The Y2K bug struck a Japanese nuclear plant early this morning, shutting down its radiation alarm system but not the plant itself.

There were no actual leaks or safety problems, but Japan's first significant Y2K glitch came just three months after the nation's worst nuclear accident ever.

The radiation detector itself was unaffected. But the computer at the government office that receives information from Shika Nuclear Power Station, 170 miles northwest of Tokyo, went dead shortly after midnight, said Kohei Fukamoto, spokesman for Hokuriku Electric Power Co., the company that runs the plant.

The problem was detected about 10 minutes past midnight. It was unclear when the malfunction could be corrected, but there were no plans to shut down the plant.

And in Moscow, the lights stayed on, nuclear missiles stayed in their silos, and atomic reactors stayed under control as Russia entered the year 2000 with no immediate problems reported.

The electricity stayed on even in Vladivostok, the Russian Far East's major port city, where the power supply is unreliable at best.

Russian officials repeatedly stated that the country's critical systems were ready for Y2K -- either because computers had been modified or, as in the case of the electricity grid, some automatic operations would be turned over to human control.

Initially, at least, their reassurances appeared right. The far eastern tip of Russia entered 2000 at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time with a lack of drama, as all four units of the Bilibino nuclear power plant stayed functioning and there were no service disruptions reported.

Eleven hours later, as western Russia ticked over into 2000, the Sosnoviy Bor and Kola nuclear power plants were working normally, said monitors from the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

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