On June 15, 2012, FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) held a joint meeting on grid reliability at FERC.  The meeting was in furtherance of a Memorandum of Agreement (“MOA”) (see September 11, 2009 edition of the  WER) between the two agencies to facilitate interactions about matters of mutual interest relating to the bulk power system.  Last week’s meeting consisted of presentations on: (1) Operations of Nuclear Plants; (2) Cyber Security Activities; and (3) Station Blackout Rulemaking and Grid Reliability Standards Activities.

The first panel provided an update on licensing issues and discussed policies and activities related to the operations of nuclear plants.  Currently, the NRC has 10 applications for new reactors and three design certificates under review.

The second panel focused on the guidance and implementation of current programs on cyber security.  With respect to oversight activities, NRC has been working to develop an inspection procedure, called a temporary instruction, in which the NRC instructs industry on the cyber security procedures it will use during its inspections.  NRC has also drafted a Significance Determination Process (“SDP”) framework, which is a tool used by the NRC to determine the significance of any finding NRC derives from inspection activities.  NRC intends to meet with industry in late August with the goal of issuing the final SDP before starting inspections in January 2013.  In addition, the panel highlighted FERC’s Order No. 761, issued in April 2012, which replaced a risk-based methodology with bright line criteria for critical asset identification.  Order No. 761 also issued a deadline for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) to issue version 5 of Critical Infrastructure Protection Standards by March 31, 2013.

The final panel focused on NRC’s station blackout rulemaking activities regarding Geomagnetic Disturbances (“GMDs”).  NERC is currently working with the Department of Energy to develop tools and standards to manage any GMDs.