Nuclear Power Plants

Case Study: Managing “Critical Assets” for a Nuclear Power Plant

All electricity generators and transmitters in the US and Canada need to comply with strict government regulations. These rules are perpetuated by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or “NERC” for short. NERC’s goal is a “highly reliable and secure North American bulk power system”, which we all certainly appreciate when we use our computers, televisions, power tools, or any of the many devices using electricity.

In order to maintain this level of reliability, NERC has generated a large number of rules, or “Standards”, that each power generator must comply with. A portion of these are the “Critical Infrastructure Protection” standards, or CIP. Anyone in the industry is quite familiar with CIP and related standards. A full list of the standards is a 28 MB PDF and goes on for 2,303 pages!

Meeting NERC and CIP Standards

One of the largest nuclear power plants in North America contacted Crow Canyon Software for assistance with building a system to manage what are known as “Critical Assets” in the NERC world. These assets need regular maintenance, replacement, upgrades, etc., in order to meet the CIP standards. All work on them needs to be recorded in detail – Who did what when? What precisely was done? How long did it take? What parts were replaced? Was the person doing the work properly certified? And so on.

Crow Canyon took its Asset Management for SharePoint and enhanced it to meet the needs of this nuclear power plant. We added connections to databases, personnel records, parts inventories, supplier chains, and more. The goal was to meet the NERC CIP standards with proactive and preventative maintenance while keeping a thorough record of all activity.

In addition to the asset management element, we added access controls. Part of the NERC regulations require that only certain certified personnel have access to particular assets. Our system needed to record who requested access, who granted it, at what permission level, for what length of time, etc. Access to critical assets is of course a very important part of maintaining control and preventing asset malfunctions from operator errors.

With this system in place, the power provider can now select an asset and know its full lifecycle history as well as upcoming maintenance. Each record of work done can be opened for in-depth analysis. Managers can know which assets have required the most maintenance as well as predict upcoming costs for replacements. Reports and dashboards give a visual insight into asset performance.

Making Audits Easier and Preventing Fines

The system also allows compliance officers to produce accurate and detailed audits when the NERC auditors come knocking. Just having a system in place is already a big plus for auditors and the ability to drill down where needed makes audits much easier to manage. Such audits are no trivial matter, as inaccurate records along with improperly maintained assets can result in large fines.

Not only valuable for NERC and CIP compliance, the asset management system helps the nuclear power plant run more efficiently with properly maintained equipment, which is most certainly what is needed for such a large, complex facility.

Not Only For Nuclear Facilities

The nuclear power plant required a particularly high-level asset management system to meet the compliance regulations that are part of that sector, and Crow Canyon was able to provide that. For other electricity generators, such as natural gas-fired plants, solar panel arrays, and wind farms, the NERC regulations are still thorough, though not quite as complex as for a nuclear facility.

Crow Canyon has adapted its asset management to meet the requirements of other electricity generators, applying the same principles of asset and access management to these facilities. With the NERC and CIP standards being complex and involved, an asset management system like Crow Canyon’s goes a long way to meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, while helping to keep the lights turned on!

See also our WhitePaper on “Electricity Regulatory Compliance” and videos on NERC compliance.


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