Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What To Do with Your Windows 95 Licenses

Run a nuclear power plant:


Yes, this is alarming – from Iran’s Bushehr plant – at least on sight. First, that they’d use Windows for this purpose – no ding meant on Microsoft, but it’s a job that requires a real time system like QNX or Wind River or even real time Linux, which doesn’t have export concerns. Second, that error message looks an awful lot like Windows 95, which is an antique.

Well, it’s possible that this is a real time system that simply has error messages that resemble those of Windows 95 or a Windows front end is being used to make the programming easier. And the IAEA is puttering around the plant, too, so international standards do apply at Bushehr.

But you really don’t want error messages popping up on a control room screen – you want a logging system that is closely monitored by trained eyes. Things like error messages can create doubt where none need exist. Bushehr needs a better IT department, we think.

Note: Read the comments on this post. Being on the interwebs and all, this could be a hoax, but we don’t think Bushehr is all that vulnerable to a hoax. Its existence alarms people of many perspectives, though IAEA involvement mitigates alarm by a fair degree. But take a look at the comments – lots of good pushback.

From UPI via Gizmodo


Adam Gott said...

It's not really that big of a deal if the system was properly engineered. We use Win 3.11 (for workrgroups) as the graphical interface for our distributed control systems. As long as you have backup display systems and you aren't using these things to actually control anything (we have distributed control systems in the field manufactured by L&N/METSO) it's just not that alarming.

When I say 'we' I mean at my place of employement, the Advanced Test Reactor in Idaho.

Jason Ribeiro said...

It could also be WIN2K with the older interface chosen. But, you're right, Linux or some other rock solid variety like BSD unix would be a better choice.

John Wheeler said...

This story & photo contribute unnecessarily to the negative hype surrounding the Bushehr nuclear plant...adding fuel to the political fire that is already virtually out of control.

It is highly unlikely that Bushehr has PC based control systems. While the photo could be from inside the plant, there is no evidence that the image is from a control or protection system.

My guess is we are looking at a display screen of a non-safety related process monitoring tool, or of a simulation. If I am correct then the version of the operating system on the computer generating the display is not in any way related to plant operation or reactor safety.

Let's not spread misinformation about nuclear plants - there is already enough of that going on!

Joffan said...

Hear, hear, John.

And in any case, folks, these are the internets, where nothing should be taken as what it claims to be. My guess on this picture is that it's referring to a chemical plant, not a nuclear reactor, controlling (or simulating) streams like "Sulphuric Acid", "Polyacryl", "Coagulant", "Lime", etc. Read the labels.

Be alert. The world needs more lerts.

anony-mouse said...

Joffan> good point! I looked in detail and this is obviously not a nuclear plant. It seems all media including NEI fell for a Greenpeace prank :-D

NEI please clarify this in the post. THnks.

anony-mouse (not Anonymous!!!)

Pamela said...

This picture may or may not be legit, but the Taiwan Lungmen ABWR is running on Windows (well, not running yet, still under construction). When I walked in the control room there was one of those window error messages popped up in the corner of one of the screens control panel touch screens. I don't know what it said because it was in chinese, but the bubble is unmistakable.

Windows doesn't run their plant process computer or safe shutdown systems, but I still found it hilarious.

Anonymous said...

What's the basis for attributing the posting of this image to Greenpeace?

Joffan said...

Incidentally, responding to the article update, I don't think it's Bushehr that's being hoaxed here, but the world media and thus the rest of us. Obviously I don't know "who" or "why" (and hoaxes generally need no "why").

Jason Ribeiro said...

I have to agree with John and others, looks like someone pulled a fast one. I'd say time for an update on the post - whoops :)

Robert Synnott said...

As long as it's a front-end, it's no problem. One occasionally sees ATMs running Windows 95 or 98; in this case the Windows element is simply a user interface which talks to a secure and safe black box (actually a separate computer in an ATM, usually, I believe). I'm sure this is a similar case.

Joseph Somsel said...

Sorry, but Pamela is incorrect about Lungmen. The plant operator interface screens are either a dedicated safety-related system or a non-safety Invensys platform.

The Lungmen simulator is run off a Dell multiprocessor with a Windows OS.

However, at least one reactor vendor is offering a nuke with Windows OS for the operator interface.

Anonymous said...

That's a water treatment system, definitely not safety related..

Mohammad Kheirkhah said...

I am the photographer of this picture and just found this post accidentally. I took this picture in Bushehr Power Plant. You may see more here:



Chat said...

This is a standard Siemens WinCC or PCS7 message. Don't be worried. Doesn't give problems and is simple to fix.
This system runs under Windows XP or under Windows 2003 server.