[Dshield] Re: CNN 'Explores Possibility that Power Outage is Relatedto Internet Worm'

John Stevenson master at ajby.com
Tue Aug 19 12:55:56 GMT 2003


OK Kenneth I won't fight you over 'regulation' - I suspect it is related to
differences in word use on opposite sizes of the water! I am out of touch
now but, at least at one time, UK had a 'nuclear safety authority' who had a
duty to examine any proposal from the plant operator with safety
connotations and independently consider the implications of the proposal for
the safety of the plant (and its individual elements). Hence two, hopefully
independent, groups of engineers had to consider any changes - those who
designed the change and those who (independently) reviewed the design
proposal for acceptability on safety grounds. (Three problems - designers
second guessing what the safety guys would accept; safety guys telling
designers what to do and the two groups not being truly independent -
getting too close). These safety 'regulators' could keep a plant shut-down
indefinitely if, as a result of new information or a plant modification,
they were not satisfied with future safety even if they had previously been
satisfied.
Not directly applicable to a power grid as a grid 'has to be operational'
but financial penalties/fines could be imposed if law were to permit. If you
don't want to use the word 'regulation' in this case then fine but it is not
a normal 'commercial profit' driver either!. Unfortunately power line
interconnections tend to be 'natural monopolies' so the normal commercial
competitive pressures tend not to apply!

I suspect the real problem may be 'interference' in the planning/licensing
process - Society doesn't wish to recognise the effects it 'may' have when
they turn down planning application after planning application aimed at
mitigating a possible risk of 'blackout'. I have a hazy memory of a
spy/adventure novel of  about 20 years ago on this very subject (electrical
power generating station planning) set in the US - The CTO was 'crucified'
at a planning enquiry for insisting they be allowed to build their horrible,
dirty, earth-spoiling coal fired power station, but then something went
horribly wrong (sabotage from memory) and he got the backing he needed from
the people. The US has had something go 'horribly wrong' - lets hope the
'investigators' look for the basic reasons, not some scapegoats, and can get
something done. I also hope that other countries will learn from the
experience and review their situation. Maybe both US and others then need to
take a look at the other 'basic services' (sewage, water, gas, telecoms etc
and possibly even the 'soft' services like police and fire - though the US
has been doing that, particularly since 9/11) for similar 'hidden' problems.




As for "BANANA"
I first saw it on CNN over the weekend - not sure if this was the only
reference but:
http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/08/17/power.outage/index.html
includes these two paragraphs:
Although Abraham said the administration was "not going to point fingers,"
House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said it was House
and Senate Democrats, the utility companies and "BANANA" -- Build Absolutely
Nothing Anywhere Near Anything -- environmentalists who were keeping the
country from updating its power system.

"This president along with the Republicans in the House have been trying to
wake people up for years," DeLay said on "Fox News Sunday."





Oh and I'm no longer resident in England! - my home these days is in Guyana
(South of you rather than well to the East!) where I 'work' as a volunteer
development worker unpaid - current interest hydraulic ram pumps for
supplying water to houses up-hill without using electricity or fossil fuel!
The fun of being retired and not having to worry any longer about earning my
pension!

John


----- Original Message -----
From: Kenneth Porter
To: General DShield Discussion List
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2003 6:18 PM
Subject: Re: [Dshield] Re: CNN 'Explores Possibility that Power Outage is
Relatedto Internet Worm'


--On Monday, August 18, 2003 5:38 PM -0400 John Stevenson <master at ajby.com>
wrote:

> Yes the system was old, and yes there had been too little money spent
> on it recently (a low level of legal/regulatory oversight verses
> commercial pressures) but that's the nature of a 'commercialised' monopoly
> service provision. (De-regulation in the US and privatisation in the UK)

I don't see regulation as some magic bullet here. The problem is a
distorted  incentive system. Both regulation and profit can provide
mechanisms for distributing incentive, but they don't guarantee what the
incentives are, and regulation is every bit as subject to distortion as
profit, if not more so due to unexpected sources of politicial pressure
(such as those who were supposed to be regulated twisting it to stop
competition).

> A "NIMBY" (UK expression - Not In My Back Yard) or "BANANA" (Apparently
> the US equivalent - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)
> attitude to carrying out public infrastructure upgrades always brings one
> closer to this sort of 'disaster' scenario.

I'm in the US, and NIMBY is a fairly common expression here as well. First
time I've seen BANANA, though. Alas, it's all too often practiced.











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