From Nuclear to Solar
By 153 Utilities Committee

The birth of the Utilities Committee is hidden in the archives of the NCSL newsletters and evidence shows it was not the result of a cataclysmic event as much as a difficult emergence and evolutionary development. Hillary Taff, VP of Industrial Technology, speaking on behalf of section three coordinator Marlin Johnson in June 1984, reported that several people desired to start a Utilities Committee within NCSL. This incubation group included Thomas Short of the BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) and Ray Lindsey of Duke Power. Hillary and Ray had already participated in a panel discussion at an initial meeting of the Power Industry Laboratory Conference. Utility laboratory managers were invited to attend a scoping meeting during the October 1984 NCSL conference held in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The December 1984 NCSL Newsletter noted that eight utilities attended the meeting and supported the development of the fledgling Electric Utilities Committee as it was initially titled. It was also noted by the newsletter that fifty percent of the attendees were “nuclear people.” The participating utilities pledged their commitment to accept tasks in support of the committee and the committee goal. The NCSL 
Board of Directors was informed that the Electric Utilities Committee goal was to get agreement on the procurement of nuclear products and instrumentation.

A lot has changed since our humble 1984 beginnings with a group of “nuclear people” and 2009 marks our 25th anniversary as an NCSLI Committee. It became obvious during my research that the Utilities Committee embraces every aspect of metrology in one form or another.We currently have 148 listed members within our database who represent utilities, those “nuclear people,” as well as owners of wind, solar, fossil, geothermal, pumped storage and hydro facilities. Several of our members represent the classical city and state municipal utility.We have representation from suppliers, calibration laboratories, certification bodies, quality assurance and quality control, licensing and regulatory compliance, regulators, test equipment distributors and even a few retirees. The single and possibly the most important aspect of the Utilities Committee is the fact that we operate as a community. We share, communicate, network, collaborate and brainstorm on issues that affect committee members and share successful resolutions and process improvements as well as those efforts and processes that do not work well. Sharing lessons learned by committee members improve the chance for success and hopefully preclude travel down a path that is expensive, unfruitful or poses a difficult recovery.

The economic situation today demands online reliability of the utility while maximizing the return on investment to the stakeholders. This requirement for reliability manifests itself in a more critical manner when test equipment is used in the calibration of systems, structures and components in a nuclear facility where the safety of the general public is the primary factor. The control of measuring and test equipment in these facilities is mandated by federal law and documented in Title 10 Code of Federal Regulation, Part 50 Appendix ‘B’ – “Measures shall be established to assure that tools, gages, instruments, and other measuring and testing devices used in activities affecting quality are properly controlled, calibrated, and adjusted at specified periods tomaintain accuracy within necessary limits.” Our contribution to the successful attainment of these goals is addressed through process improvement within the laboratory as well as improvements in the operation and reliability of the test equipment we provide to the field and our customers. Our members are actively involved in the development and revision of recommended practices and guiding NCSLI documents that heavily influence our laboratory functions.

We participate with the RP-1 “Establishment and Adjustment of Calibration Intervals” 173.1 Committee chaired by Mark Kuster, RP-5 “Preparations of Specifications” Development Committee 155.1 chaired by Dr. Charles Motzko, and RP-12, “Determining and Reporting Measurement Uncertainty” 173.5 Committee chaired by Suzanne Castrup. The Utilities Committee also resurrected RP-10, “Establishment and Operation of Electrical Utility Metrology Laboratory” and had several members on the Z540.3 “Requirements for the Calibration of Measuring and Test Equipment” 174 Writing Committee chaired by Robert Fritzsche.

Committee members currently sponsor and manage two concurrent ILC’s, 153-2 with an RTD artifact and 153-3with a 20 SLPM gas flow artifact. Richard Brenia – Edison ESI and Greg Cenker – Edison ESI manage ILC 153-2. Cory Peters – Exelon Power Labs and james Reid – Duke Energymanage ILC 153-3.Our initial ILC 153-1 employed a solid state digital pressure gauge and was completed some time ago with some participating members identifying areas for improvement. We also participated in an ad hoc ILC using a 100 Amp DC shunt artifact sponsored by the 142.3 One Gohm Resistance ILC Committee chaired by Jay Klevens. The valuable data gained fromthe ILC’s and insight into our laboratory processes has stimulated additional volunteers with the desire to sponsor more industry related ILC’s.

The Utilities Committee is currently working in conjunction with the NCSLI Industrial Programs VP, Peter Buzzard as members of a recently chartered group – the NESCC (Nuclear Energy Standards Coordination Collaborative). This collaboration is a joint venture headed by NIST and ANSI and consists of all the major standards and code development bodies and regulators in the nuclear industry, including the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute), DOE (Department of Energy) and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). The group currently meets twice a year at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Recent favorable public response to the nuclear industry option in the United States has resulted in several large utilities planning the construction of new, advanced design power reactors. Technology development over the last 30 years in the areas of construction techniques, metallurgy, instrumentation and controls and fuel processing now demand revisions and improvements to the codes and standards applicable to the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants. The Utilities Committee is participating in this change and provides liaison functions between the NESCC and the utilities owners, specifically in the area of metrology. This function again relies on networking within our group and the broad range of committee member backgrounds and experience.

One of the nuclear utilities’ perennial problems has been qualifying vendors for external calibrations. Until recently, the only choice was a NUPIC (Nuclear Issues Procurement Committee) audit. NUPIC is an accreditation body unique to the nuclear world that builds its audit teams from multiple utilities. Clearly this can be an expensive prospect for the utilities as well as for the suppliers. Eventually, our industry realized that there was not that much difference between a 17025 accreditation, and the NUPIC checklist.

A core group of Utilities Committee members in conjunction with the NRC and A2LA performed a comparison between the requirements of a NUPIC audit and an ISO 17025 accreditation. The project included the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant as the pilo
t plant who requested a “reduction in commitment” from the NRC to allow the utility to use vendors accredited to ISO 17025. This request was eventually approved by the NRC with stipulations. Additional utilities have subsequently petitioned and received relief as a result of the groundwork provided in the Palo Verde petition.

                                                                       

Two emerging issues are affecting theUtilities Committeemembers and their parent owners. The graying of the workforce and the potential
demand for qualified individuals as new projects and infrastructure improvements move from the drawing boards to construction/operation. The Learning and Development subcommittee has stated that by 2010 more than half of the qualified individuals in our industry will be eligible for retirement. The demand for the remaining individuals will further draw down the available staff and training our replacements must start now. There are initiatives and engagement of the education community by several of our member utilities including Florida Power and Light,Next Era Energy Resources in Florida and New Hampshire, Duke Energy in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the South Texas Project in Texas. These organizations are engaging the education community through grants, guarantees of enrollment and donations of equipment, services and technical expertise. Edison ESI also provides “Back to Basics” tutorials at the Measurement Science Conference and the annual NCSLI Workshop & Symposium.

Communication among our members is very likely and far reaching. The Utilities Committee forum enjoys worldwide visibility due to its placement in Google search engine results and committee members have been approached by people from other committees and internationally from utilities within the European Union and former Soviet Bloc countries. The activity numbers for the Utilities Committee Forum at press time are staggering with 225 unique topics, 899 postings in response to these topics and more than a half million readings of these topics and responses. INPO, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, established by the nuclear industry in response to the Kemeny Commission findings following the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, provides and directs that operating experience be made available and shared with other nuclear power plants. The Utilities Committee forum has been viewed as a strength in the area of industry engagement regarding measuring and test equipment and metrology related to plant operations.

Engagement is not limited to the internal functions of the Utilities Committee. Currently Pete Buzzard, a Utilities Committee member serves as the VP of Industrial Programs and on the NCSLI Board of Directors. Several of our members volunteer as section coordinators and chair or co-chair related committees and subcommittees. Most members have concurrent membership in other committees or RP writing and rewrite subcommittees or the NCSLI Conference Committee. The recent change in the global economic situation has required us to adopt alternative methods to remain active within our committee. Travel and training appear to be easy fiscal targets and participation from the utilities often shows the effects of an economic downturn ahead of other aspects of our metrology industry. Leveraging technology and internet communication tools through virtual meetings more than doubled our committee meeting attendance. Virtual meetings are also being used to support e-learning with customers, training from vendors and collaborative meetings with other committees.

The Utilities Committee embraces the small “one man band” charged with keeping dimensional tooling available on the factory floor to the multi-plant commercial enterprise operating as a commercial laboratory with dozens of metrology specialists and engineers. Saint-Exupery stated in The Wisdom of the Sands, “One man may hit the mark, another blunder; but heed not these distinctions. Only from the alliance of the one, working with and through the other, are great things born.” Within our committee our goals are the same, our difficulties are similar and our successes are shared cooperation.