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Ensuring nuclear safety as the electric industry deregulates

The electric-utility industry's economic deregulation and restructuring means some consumers will have their pick of companies from which to purchase electricity, similar to the way in which they choose a long-distance telephone-service provider. But deregulation also will effect mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, financial pressures and corporate uncertainty--and thus, potential safety compromises--in the nuclear power plants that generate some of that electricity.
Vicki Bier

Vicki Bier (29K JPG)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Regulatory Effectiveness Assessment Branch enlisted Associate Professor Vicki Bier to help determine if deregulation would affect nuclear-power safety, and if so, target areas of greatest risk. To identify those areas, Bier conducted historical studies of three previously deregulated high-tech, safety-critical industries--the U.S. air and rail industries and the electricity industry in the United Kingdom--which she chose because all were centrally managed, similar to the nuclear-power industry. With graduate student and nuclear-industry consultant James Joosten, and economists David Glyer, Jennifer Tracey and Michael Welsh from Madison-based consulting company Christensen Associates, Bier reviewed more than 250 published documents and interviewed 20 to 30 people in the three industries.

The group found that deregulation creates safety challenges associated with factors such as downsizing and mergers, among others, but that good management can help minimize those challenges. Although the group's final report doesn't make specific safety recommendations, it provides the NRC with the technical information on which it can base its policy decisions. The NRC currently is reviewing the study.

 

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Date last modified: Monday, 04-Dec-2000 12:28:00 CST