Alternatives To Mandatory Rules For The Electric Grid?

Michael Giberson

One of the things that “everyone recognizes,” at least if you accept the conclusions of numerous government statements on the blackout, is that reliability rules for the grid must be made mandatory. An alternative approach is suggested in an editorial piece appearing in Power Engineering (Free registration required):

The investigation into [the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident] showed the nuclear industry it had fundamental problems not limited to one company or one valve design and that it needed to make some serious changes. To its credit, the nuclear power community honestly acknowledged those problems and took action. A lot of things changed. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission got a lot tougher with operating reactors. Many utilities cleaned up their own houses.

The most interesting development, and the most applicable to today’s transmission problems, was the creation of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. INPO was created to be a utility self-policing operation aimed at improving reactor performance. Still in operaton today, it sets performance criteria, evaluates individual plant performance, and judges the results. These ratings are not publicized, but the insiders know who’s letting down the industry and they don’t tolerate it. The financial stakes are too large. In a few cases critical INPO ratings have been leaked to the public to the extreme embarrassment of utility managements.