Skip to main content

5th Anniversary of the 2003 Northeast Blackout

Some reflections from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC):
On August 14, 2003, the North American electric grid experienced the largest blackout in its history, leaving over 50 million people across Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern U.S. without power. On this, the event’s fifth anniversary, North American Electric Reliability Corporation President and CEO, Rick Sergel, highlights the progress that has been made and new challenges ahead for ensuring reliability:

“In the mid-afternoon of August 14, 2003, the electric system reached a breaking point: trees contacted four separate transmission lines in Ohio – quickly taking the lines out of service; automatic controls sensed the disturbance and unnecessarily took additional lines out of service; failed computer systems left operators with inaccurate system information for hours before being addressed; and grid monitoring tools were not able to assess conditions quickly enough for operators to react.

“With the support and oversight of its stakeholders in industry and government, NERC has worked to fundamentally change the situation that allowed this catastrophic event to occur by developing mandatory reliability standards, enforcing zero-tolerance policies, leading extensive reviews of electric system components, and developing new reliability tools. As a result of these efforts, I can confidently say that the events that led to the 2003 blackout are now much less likely to recur.”
You can read more of the upgrades to the grid here. Funny enough, if you go the Wikipedia page, you can read who was blaming who for the cause of the outage just after it happened. Canadians blamed Americans, New Yorkers blamed Canadians, and all the while it was several trees in Ohio that triggered the whole event.


John Wheeler said…
I was there. In fact, I was in the Emergency Operations Facility at Indian Point nuclear plant where the plant's staff was helping to restore power to the blacked-out grid. Things at the nuclear plant were pretty routine (for a loss of off-site power), and the plant had conservatively decided to activate the EOF, even though regulations did not require it.

While quickly and safely restarting the plant, the Indian Point team also facilitated communications between organizations around the region. Indian Point was one of the first major generating plants back on the grid. The nuclear-generated electricity helped to stabilize the grid in southern New York, and thus accelerated the recovery for the whole region.
Anonymous said…
That graph is not entirely correct. No where near all of NJ was impacted. I was in Cherry Hill, NJ buying a car when the blackout happened. We had no loss of power at the dealership. The Salem / Hope Creek plants were not impacted either. I do not know about Oyster Creek. I think that they were fine too.
Zane Blomgren said…
First, an announcement: Tripwire’s policies for NERC compliance are now available for download.

NERC has been instrumental in helping bring older, vulnerable systems into a secure, reliable state. Many customers still express concern – they are having to balance a reduction in significant existing vulnerabilities with the appropriate growth to handle the current growing demand for electricity. Planning for the power grid of the future is different from NERC compliance, but both are having an enormous impact on the industry. This is clearly a time of transition for power companies and it is more critical than ever to have a solution in place that can help ensure a secure, steady state for critical systems.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.

Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …