Thursday, October 5, 2017

Post # 110: Electric Grid Resilience and resilient Nuclear Power Plants (rNPPs) – An Introduction

The interest in "resilient" critical infrastructure, and electric Grid resilience in particular, seems to be accelerating rapidly.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's recent publication of "Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation's Electricity System," the Trump Administration's focus on electric Grid reliability and resilience (Sec. Perry's Cover Letter and DOE Staff Report on Electricity Markets and Reliability), and this week's Congressional hearings on electric Grid resilience (Resiliency: the Electric Grid's Only Hope) and reliability (Powering America: Defining Reliability in a Transforming Electricity Industry), all suggest the time has finally come for a thoughtful and detailed examination of several closely related topics: Critical Infrastructure resilience, electric Grid resilience and reliability, and nuclear power plant resilience.

I've devoted much of my attention during the past two years to the study of electric Grid resilience and the role (current and future) nuclear power plants might play in enhancing Grid resilience.  During the next few weeks, I'll be sharing highlights here from a 110-page report I published in August [ATI-TR-2017-14, "Resilient Nuclear Power Plants (rNPPs) – Potential Building Blocks of U.S. Electric Grid and Critical Infrastructure Resilience"].  I will also be delivering a paper entitled, "Enhancing Electric Grid and Critical Infrastructure Resilience With Resilient Nuclear Power Plants (rNPPs)," at the upcoming American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting on November 1 in Washington, D. C. 

Resilient Nuclear Power Plants (rNPPs) are nuclear power plants that are intentionally designed, sited, and operated in a manner to enhance overall electric Grid and Critical Infrastructure resilience.

Thus the starting point for discussing rNPPs is the definitions of "Critical Infrastructure resilience" and "electric Grid resilience" – two concepts that are surprisingly difficult to define in a quantitative manner that is useful from the engineering perspective.

I will discuss the concepts of Critical Infrastructure resilience and electric Grid resilience in my next post.

Just Thinking,


  1. Sherrell,

    I'm excited by this prospective series and am really looking forward to it. Thanks for doing this - I know you're the right person to do it! -Will Davis

    1. Thanks for the comment Will. Let's hope your confidence in me isn't misplaced! – Sherrell

  2. Is "resilience" anywhere in any utility's objectives/goals/mission plan? If so, as you point out, defining what they think resilience means is challenging. How do they define resilience - is their focus on good routine maintenance, aging and aging management, weather or other natural events (including solar storms), attacks (physical or cyber) or is it possibly on managing changing issues within the system itself (how do you address large scale solar, wind, etc. that challenge system reliability. Does being regulated vs unregulated as a utility or grid operator make a difference? Do our laws make a difference (not incentivized to invest for the long term). Excellent topic - very complex.

    1. Thanks for your comment Bruce. You raise a covey of important issues and questions – most or all of which I hope to address in coming posts. Stay tuned! – Sherrell

  3. John R. Twitchell, PEOctober 16, 2017 at 10:11 AM

    I am looking forward to the maturation of the rNPP concept. Electric utility resilience in today's terms generally is focused on extreme weather events (ice, hurricane) and hardening components of the grid to resist these events. For example, utilities in hurricane prone locations may use more concrete and steel poles, and fewer wood poles. There are a number of forward looking utilities who are going beyond weather concerns and are considering larger, wider spread threats in their resilience planning. Ultimately, enhanced resilience will require regulatory buy in. I'm looking forward to Sherrell's development of this topic.