As the U.S. electric power industry unbundles, the industry and its regulators grapple with two big questions concerning the degree to which distribution services should be unbundled. First, what...
Utility R&D: The Cutting Edge of Competition
members are very different in terms of size, customer composition and system configuration, many of the EPRI products simply don't match up well with individual utilities needs. In addition, EPRI's and GRI's product delivery schedules don't always aligned well with actual need dates. Lastly, utility personnel are not able to keep updated on what the research groups have produced.
But despite the fact that Con Ed uses only 20 percent of the products produced by the consortiums, analysis results show that the realized cost savings and cost avoidance were well in excess of the cost of all the research and the ratio of benefits to cost have consistently grown.
Year R&D cost)
1984 1.6 to 1
1987 2.0 to 1
1991 3.7 to 1
R&D staff realized that the way to increase the return on EPRI investments they needed to focus their attention on areas of EPRI R&D that were closely aligned with Con Ed's own strategic interests. To generate real value, they also targeted only projects that were likely to solve major
technical problems relevant to Con Ed and that required resources beyond the company's capability. The following are cases in point.
Indian Point 2
As nuclear power plants age, their internal components become coated with radioactive metal oxides. This occurs when metal particles, the products of corrosion and wear, are bombarded by neutrons as they circulate through the plants primary system. Although these radio-isotopes are mostly
removed through filtration and demineralization, a small volume is deposited on coolant system surfaces. In a typical pressurized water reactor (PWR) plant, the radiation fields created by these radio-isotopes gradually increase over the first several years and then level off. Even so, personnel who perform maintenance on the primary system are quickly exposed to heavy doses of radiation.
Con Ed's Indian Point 2 Plant is one of the country's earliest large PWRs. Since the mid-1970s the company's plant, engineering, and R&D personnel have studied and implemented methods of removing metal oxide coatings from the primary system to reduce radiation fields. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, company personnel worked with EPRI, Empire State Electric Energy Research Corp. (Eseerco), and others to research different chemical processes that might remove the deposits without damaging vital reactor and primary cooling systems. In 1989, Con Ed successfully tested a chemical process called the AP/ Can-DeremTM on three major component subsystems, dramatically reducing workers' exposure by over 110 man-rem.
In 1987, Con Ed spearheaded a program to determine whether a similar process could be used to decontaminate the full primary system. A group (em consisting of EPRI, Eseerco, 10 other utilities that own PWRs, and Westinghouse (em was formed to investigate the potential of several dilute chemical solvent processes (including AP/Can-Derem). Based on cost and waste disposal consideration, Con Ed ultimately chose to employ the AP/Can-DermaTM process. The demonstration served as the first full system chemical decontamination of an operational PWR, and reduced radiation levels by about 13 percent. Assuming that levels increase only at projected rates, the anticipated savings from reduced