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Oral-History:Andrew Corry

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About Andrew Corry

Andrew F. Corry was born October 28, 1922 in Lynn Massachusetts. After winning a scholarship to MIT in 1940, he studied to become an electrical engineer. He took a job with the Boston Edison Company in 1947. Corry's work with Boston Edison included both technical work on such things as underground cables and atomic power, but also professional duties as a member of CIGRE, IEEE, and the Electric Research Council.

Corry discusses his training at MIT and his association with senior engineers like Charles Avila. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was very involved with the troubled nuclear power industry, working to reconcile corporate and technical problems with government regulations. In the latter part of the interview he describes his work with various international professional organizations and the way policy and engineering activity interacted.


About the Interview

ANDREW CORRY: An Interview Conducted by Loren Butler, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, February 1, 1994

Interview #185 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Andrew Corry, an oral history conducted in 1994 by Loren Butler, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

Interview: Andrew Corry
Interviewer: Loren Butler
Place: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Date: February 1, 1994

Early Years and World War II

Butler:

Why don't we begin by hearing about your student days and growing up in Massachusetts?

Corry:

Yes. I grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts. My father worked for the General Electric Company. I went to Lynn Classical High School, got lucky, and won a scholarship. I went to MIT in 1940. My career at MIT was interrupted by World War II. Practically my entire class went into either the Army or the Navy, and we served at various times. In my case it was from 1943 to 1946, and I did some traveling around the world.

Butler:

I very much want to hear about the war experiences, but before you go into that, I'd like to hear a little bit more about your family. You said your father worked for GE.

Corry:

Right.

Butler:

Did that influence your decision about what to study, or what profession to take up?

Corry:

Yes, I think so. When I was growing up, it was in Depression times. The important thing was to get a steady job. First to get a job; then, if possible, to get a steady job. Places like the General Electric Company were quite good employers. They were a big employer in Lynn.

Butler:

And what did he do there?

Corry:

He wound small motors. My father was an immigrant from Ireland, as was my mother. I think that it certainly was a push in the direction of being an electrical engineer for the General Electric Company. So at any rate, I went to school. As I said, I got lucky. I went to MIT. I came back from the war in 1946. This, by the way, is my 50th reunion. We were supposed to graduate, I believe, on June 6, 1944, which happens to be D-Day. We did not graduate on that date. At any rate, we came back, and I finished up.

Butler:

Did you do engineering work during the war?

Corry:

Yes. I was in the Signal Corps.

Butler:

Oh!

Corry:

I was trained as a fixed-station radio officer, and I had a team of people. Most of my class was in the advanced ROTC, which at MIT had five branches — the Corps of Engineers, the Coast Artillery Corps, the Signal Corps, the Chemical Warfare Service, and I forget what the fifth was. Actually I was trained in the States, both as an enlisted man and as an officer.

Butler:

At MIT?

Corry:

No, no. At various camps throughout the United States, in radio-related work of one kind or another. Then when I got overseas in the Pacific, they decided I should be a cryptographer.

Butler:

How fascinating!

MIT Cooperative Course

Corry:

So after all the training I became a cryptographer in charge of a signal center. Which, by the way, was a fascinating assignment. Be that as it may, most of my class scattered pretty widely around the world. Anyhow, we got back, and I graduated in February 1947. While I was a student at MIT, I was lucky enough to get into the cooperative course. MIT had a cooperative course for electrical engineers called Course 6A, and for mechanical engineers, called Course 2A. Once you got accepted into that course, one semester to school and one semester at work. But in contrast to some other cooperative courses, while you were at work, you went to school nights with the MIT staff, generally speaking. In some cases, if they had staff at the company who were expert in some particular thing, you could use them. For example, some of our people went to Bell Labs. The people at Bell Labs were the equal to or superior to anybody on the staff at MIT. It was convenient. MIT people didn't have to get out to Murray Hill. I was also lucky that I worked with the Boston Edison Company and bumped into a brilliant engineer whose name was Charles Avila. He was a Harvard graduate. I worked with him one and a half terms. Then I worked all around the company, got quite a feel for it, and thought it looked like a very good career. At any rate, I graduated in '47, and those were good times to graduate. Most of us had all kinds of offers. I had perhaps seven or eight. I decided to go to work for Boston Edison, so I went as an engineer and started working, as was customary, in the laboratory. Tested things. More importantly, the laboratory there had the duty of testing all of our systems. One of the advantages was that you got all around the system. Furthermore, you got to see and touch all the equipment, especially all the things like circuit breakers and protective relay systems, that sort of thing. Along with the heavy equipment, generators, transformers, and the like. Very, very, first-rate training program.

Butler:

Did you feel that your experience during the cooperative program gave you a smoother transition into it?

Corry:

No question about it. You got credit working in the cooperative course. It was a credit course. It counted just as much as some other academic courses, and you got graded. It was important. The staff at MIT got fussy with companies on this grading, because it indeed had an effect on your cumulative average. I was very lucky I bumped into Avila, and I did quite well. But, yes. I would say very definitely it helped.

Boston Edison and Charles Avila

Corry:

I moved out of the laboratory after a year or so, and Avila had a position open by then, so I went to work for him. The second day I was there, he called me in, and he said, "I want you for the next six months on one day per week not to come in here. I want you somewhere out in the field." I said, "Well, what should I do?" He said, "That's up to you. You make the arrangements. But I want you to get a lot of experience, and I want you out there one day a week." That, again, was a marvelous experience. You'd get out and work with all the cable crews, the installers, the electricians, the testers, the salesmen. It was great.

Butler:

How did you decide what to do?

Corry:

Well, I was strongly influenced by this fellow. I would have to say I've met a lot of darned good engineers, super engineers, in my life. But Avila was a breed apart. He was the smartest fellow I've ever met, engineering-wise. We were starting at that time in the company to move into very high voltage, underground cable. Boston's like New York. Much of the system is underground, as opposed to the wires and poles and stuff that you see in a lot of other places. Public Service in Newark has some of that, too, you know. But we were starting. Avila was the reigning guru of underground cable. He had established a reputation in the industry. He was on the Insulated Conductors Committee, which had just started right after the war, '46 or '47, somewhere around there. Avila was widely respected. He decided he should bring me along. He had gotten his toe caught in the escalator, too. So he was on his way up. When he took over as a cable person, he got me into the Insulated Conductors Committee. So on that side of the house, I worked my way up. I became Chairman of the Insulated Conductors Committee in the late 1950s, early 1960s, I guess. I was Chairman of one of the subcommittees called the Cable Characteristics Subcommittee. There I got to meet a great many people. Contemporaneously, Edison was still going forth with a major program of getting some high-voltage underground cables. At that time we're talking 115 kV, along with all kinds of other things, those were the days of growth.

Butler:

The 1950s and 1960s?

Corry:

When you were afraid you weren't going to be able to meet the load. We were always catching up. It was an exciting time in that you could get some of the more conservative brethren to — if I could use the expression — "take some chances," because you had to. You couldn't keep doing it the old way. You had to start thinking of new things. I remember some of those which were exciting. We tried a lot of new things: Putting in aluminum conductor cable, aluminum sheath cable. We even a little bit later on put in some sodium conductor cable. Some of these are wins, and some of these are losses. This is a little aside if you're going to be in the research business. Avila was in that direction, and he moved me, and I enjoyed being in the research side of the business. But if you're going to be in the research business, you've got to make up your mind that you're going to have some losses. You don't search losers out, but you've got to be prepared that some of the things for which you think have great promise won't work. So be it. It was an exciting time in the cable part, along with the rest of the business there. We were moving on the distribution field, transformers and switches and getting new kinds of ways to do things. The group I was with then at Edison went through periodic reorganizations. We kept on doing the same thing, but we moved around a lot. One of the names we had at one point was a Technical Methods Division. We had a lot to do with distribution of transmission equipment. The company was, in my view, well organized at that time. Or at least there was a real feeling of working together. We didn't fuss, for example, as you sometimes find engineers fussing with the purchasing department. We had a modus vivendi that worked just fine. The purchasing department deferred to the engineering department on technical matters; that always makes it a little bit easier. Along the way, Avila started moving up. I never thought much about this, by the way. Nobody did. You didn't think about, "What am I going to be doing?" Or, "Am I going to get promoted?" Most of my friends didn't think that way.

Butler:

Really?

Corry:

We all knew that if you did a good job, you'd be rewarded in all kinds of different ways.

Butler:

So you could just concentrate on the work and not think about the long view.

Arrival of Nuclear Energy & Pilgrim Units

Corry:

It was a great time to be in the business — at least in this business in that company. I think there were elements of that throughout the industry, because I had a lot of contact with a lot of people through all this committee work I mentioned to you. Anyhow, Avila got to be Assistant to the President right around that time — this is in the Eisenhower years. Eisenhower had announced Atoms for Peace. That was a time for utilities to be very, very interested in the nuclear business, which we called the "atomic business" to start with. Because that had a negative connotation, it got changed to the "nuclear business." The then-president of the company and chief executive was a lawyer, and he wanted an engineer up there to help him in deciding, "Do we jump in, don't we jump in? What does this mean to us?" All those kinds of questions when there's a new technology showing up. They picked the smartest guy in the company, and that was Charlie Avila. Fine choice. He wasn't a physicist, but he was an extraordinarily fast learner. He went off somewhere for a few months and learned all about nuclear physics. I had been lucky at MIT, had always been on the cutting edge on their courses, anyhow. We had had quantum mechanics when I came back from the war my third year, I was up to date. Well, you weren't up to date because in that business in a year you could get behind. But my interest had been piqued to the extent that I followed it up in journals, although we didn't have anything to do at Edison in quantum mechanics. But I was interested. At any rate, Avila got that. I got to be the division head, and I had a great bunch of young engineers. All of them were out of school from 1950 on. Bright. One MIT lad, and a couple from Tufts were bright. They didn't know that you couldn't do something, so they went ahead and did it. It was a great group. The times were right for that kind of stuff.

Butler:

This is still the Eisenhower period, the late 1950s?

Corry:

Yes. Well, it just went on from there. We developed the system. The company was growing, the industry was growing.

Butler:

Did Boston Edison get into nuclear power?

Corry:

Yes. We did. We got in very early. The New England utilities put together a consortium, and they called it the Yankee Atomic Power Company. Each one of them bought a piece of it. Not every single one, but most of them did. We had a piece, and we built Rowe Yankee, which was the second one built. We call it the second. It depends on how you count, whether you count demonstration reactors. This was a real commercial reactor. Yankee Rowe. It was a pressurized water reactor. The engineering was done by Stone and Webster. We built it out there in Deerfield on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts. All of the companies shared in the output. Then Yankee built several other reactors, some of which the same companies bought into and some not. Connecticut Yankee got built around that time, Maine Yankee. Each of those different groups of companies would be the consortium. We were not in anything after Yankee. At some point — this is not strictly chronological — Mr. Dignan, who was the chief executive, the lawyer I mentioned before, died suddenly. By now Avila got to be a vice-president. So when Mr. Dignan died, they put Avila in as the boss.

Burler:

And that was when?

Corry:

1963 perhaps, '62. Early in the 1960s. The company did a lot of thinking and decided we could go it by ourselves with a nuclear plant. These were the days when uranium fuel, you know, was selling for seven dollars a pound. It was starting to go up as all the utilities started to go after uranium and the people who owned the uranium mines caught on. But nevertheless, even when it went all the way up to $35 a pound, it was dirt cheap. New England is the place where you should have nuclear power, at least in our view, because we were far away from coal fields. All the little hydro we had had been long since used up. We don't have much anyhow; all we've really got is the Connecticut River. We're thus heavily dependent on foreign oil. Nuclear would make you not dependent on the whims of the oil companies. We're also somewhat affected by the weather we've been having recently. You can't get oil tankers in. All that sort of thing. At any rate, there were strong economic urges to go forth with nuclear power, and we launched. We got a site down at Plymouth. We originally planned to put three units down there, beginning with Pilgrim 1, which is 670 MW, and Pilgrim 2 is going to be 1100 MW. Pilgrim 3 was going to be a twin of Pilgrim 2. We got a couple of other utilities to become joint owners. No, not joint owners on Pilgrim 1. They contracted to — what do you call those contracts? — "take or pay." One was Commonwealth Electric Company and the other was Eastern Utilities. They got seventy MW apiece of the 670. That gave us enough funding to go ahead and went ahead, and we built it.

Butler:

And you built it.

Corry:

Yes. Pilgrim went commercial. Let's see now if I've got this right. In 1972, 1 think, Pilgrim went commercial. At that time some of the seeds of the problems with nuclear were starting to surface, but not badly enough to make us stop planning for Pilgrim 2, and we went ahead with planning for Pilgrim 2.

Nuclear Power Problems & Opposition

Butler:

What kind of problems came to your attention first?

Corry:

The very first one with Pilgrim 1 was a fuel problem. We had leaking fuel bundles. This is a boiling water reactor. There were defects in the cladding, the sodium oxide cladding. The radiation, the number of curies coming out of the stack, were getting up to where the limits were. These were way below any danger point. But nevertheless, they weren't supposed to be up that high. We went through a lot of pain and strain to get that thing worked out. That gave a couple of people a chance to start to intervene. As it happened, they had other reasons for intervention. But they used this among other things. What we wanted to do was pull all those leakers out, and put in a whole new fuel system. That required a change to the license, which required hearings, and that gave entre to these people. We battled back.

Butler:

So this became political? Or were these environmentalists?

Corry:

Yes, political. They were the Union of Concerned Scientists. That's when it started. Henry Kendall, who was a professor of physics at MIT, founded this group. I don't know Henry's complete motivation. But he was very active early on. He'd worked on the atomic bomb, I think. But he was an authority, no question about it. He, as a matter of fact, won the Nobel Prize in physics, and it was for this kind of work. I'm going to say he won it a few years ago; it seems to me it was the late 1980s. But at any rate, it was for his work in physics. But at any rate, it got to be completely political, the issue had. I must say, we weren't ready for that. We looked on it as a technical problem. We attacked it and we battled it on a technical basis. That was a mistake because it wasn't going to be decided that way. At any rate, we got through, and got the new bundles in, and Pilgrim 1 went back to work.

Butler:

By this time had the other two been constructed?

Corry:

Oh, no. We had started on doing the work for Pilgrim 2. Then we eventually cancelled Pilgrim 3 before we did much with it. But with Pilgrim 2 we bought the generator, and bought the boiler — the nuclear furnace. That was a pressurized water reactor. We were in it, out of it, working hard on it. Again, we looked on it pretty much from a technical point of view. There were warnings that we should have worried more about the political side of things. We had a meeting I well recall, in 1975 with the whole board. I by now had something to do with nuclear. My staff had put together a story, laying it out for the board with pluses and minuses: Should we go forward? Should we not? The costs had now escalated. We were now getting to where you were betting a significant fraction of the company's assets on this particular plant. We had a big board meeting. We brought in a whole lot of experts, talked it all over. The decision was made to go ahead. By the way, Avila had retired in 1971. He was still on the board. He didn't vote against it in '75, but he wrote a letter, and he was worried about it.

Butler:

From what point of view?

Corry:

He said if there was an accident anywhere in the world, certainly in the United States, we would not be able to go forward with this plant. Prophetic words.

Butler:

Yes.

Corry:

1979, Three Mile Island. That was the end of the nuclear business. Avila pointed that out in '75. Then he retired from the board, he resigned from the board. Not in protest. I don't want to give that connotation.

Butler:

No, I understand.

Corry:

He would not have gone forward. At any rate, things were getting so slow now because you had to do so much — that's one reason the costs were going up. I mean the time was dragging. We built Pilgrim 1, as I recall, in four years. With Pilgrim 2, and we were into that for four years, we didn't even have all the permits.

Butler:

Did you personally get involved in this process, or with the process of negotiating the politics? Did you find it was taking more of your time?

Corry:

Well, I got involved to this extent: In the late 1960s I had become Assistant to the Executive VP. Actually the job was Assistant to the Executive Office. There were three people in the Executive office: the chief executive, who was Avila; a fellow by the name of Tom Galligan, an accountant; and Frank Staszesky, who was an engineer (MIT engineer; Course 2A, mechanical). I came up there to help with a lot of this. Pilgrim 1 hadn't quite come to fruition yet. One of the problems was that the costs kept going up, and we would have to go to the board every so often, every six months perhaps, to tell the board we needed more money. It is never a pleasant task to ask for more money. Nevertheless, we had a very supportive board. One of my jobs was to put together those stories and so on. So I got quite in with the nuclear business. I was in that job for three or four years, I guess. I became the Director of Engineering and Nuclear, and I got very deeply into the nuclear business. To finish with the Pilgrim 2 story; we forgot about Pilgrim 3, and we finally abandoned Pilgrim 2 in, perhaps, '81. We abandoned it before Three Mile Island, and had to work out a very expensive winding-out scheme. It always costs you money when you do those things. Then we had to work hard with the regulator on how much we could recover and over what period, how much we weren't going to recover. All that sort of thing.

From an engineering point of view it's always sad. Here we had a superbly crafted electrical generator, an 1100 MW generator. General Electric Company had made it. We had to abandon it, essentially. We had to try and sell the thing. Nobody would buy it. A giant turbine like that is not appreciated, I think, certainly by lay people, for what it is. It is a finely crafted piece of machinery. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. It's put together with precision that would make a Swiss watchmaker envious. And it was for no purpose. At any rate, we did abandon that. Then we concentrated hard on Pilgrim 1 and its operation. It had difficulties of many sorts, which many other companies had as well. We really had underestimated the training that was required. We had underestimated the resources that would be needed to go on with these plants in terms of people and money and skills. Those were trying times for Pilgrim 1. We eventually got it up. The last year I was there we did very well with it. We stubbed our toe with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We had not notified them sufficiently of a problem we had. So they came down on us and handed us a huge fine.

Butler:

And that was in — ?

Corry:

I left in '83; it was '82. They fined us $500,000. That did not sit well with anybody. That has to come from the shareholders when you get fined. That doesn't come out of the ratepayers.

Butler:

So the plant had been on line at that point about fifteen years?

Blackout of 1965

Corry:

Yes. At any rate, I left Edison in '83. Since then they've had to do a great many things. They pulled it out of service for a long time, and they hired a lot more people, and did a lot more things. The unit's running now pretty well. So that was the nuclear side. In the meantime, we still were in boom times. The thing we worried about the most was meeting the load. After the big blackout in November 1965, when the East Coast blacked out —

Butler:

Can you talk a little bit about the blackout?

Corry:

Yes, a little bit. I wasn't around. I was attending a cable engineering section meeting in Minneapolis when this happened. I called the office, checked with my boss who was then the Senior VP, and said, "Should I come back?" He said, "If you've got lights and you can see the television, why don't you stay where you are?" So I did. Edison was blacked out, as was the entire East Coast. It was caused by a faulty setting — faulty operation, really — of a relay in Canada. The root cause of this whole problem was a relay in a foreign country. It resulted in a great furor. President Johnson appointed the head of the Federal Power Commission to make a big study, so they did. I wasn't on the group. Some of our people contributed to that study. Out of it came reliability councils that we now have, which are a good thing. The National Electric Reliability Council with all its subsidiary councils. NPCC, which is the Northeast Power Coordinating Council, which includes part of Canada, as it should. We learned some other things out of that. We learned we couldn't always rely on units that were remote. The concept of local security was born, which meant you had to have some of your own generation running, even if it was expensive, in the cities especially. We do that now. We made arrangements so that we could what we call "island" one unit. You could cut all the connections so it wouldn't go down. You would have it still spinning. You could gradually pick everything up. In Boston at the time of the blackout, we lost everything. We used wood — wood! — to start a furnace in South Boston. That's how we started back and got back. Every other utility, I'm sure, has similar stories. The thing that helped Boston politically better than New York, for example, was that at that time the subway system generated its own power. It wasn't really tied to us.

Butler:

I see.

Corry:

So the subways stayed running. That was helpful. People in New York got stuck on the subways.

Butler:

But it sounds like in the aftermath of the blackout the utilities really changed the way they did business.

Corry:

Oh, absolutely. In that kind of an atmosphere, we were very concerned that the government would run the place. We felt we could probably do it as well, but we had to do some things differently, and we had to coordinate a lot better. We had to stop some of the free-wheeling, free-booting people who always wanted to go their own way. We had to think a lot more about the effects we had on our neighbors. We had to think a lot more about interconnections, so that started a whole program. Plus the load-shedding thing. We had never done that before. We had to rig up relays and systems to dump people when the frequency started down, either the rate of decline of the frequency or the absolute value of the frequency. That resulted in quite a lot of changes in the electric system. It was an exciting time.

Butler:

Did anyone that you knew sort of see this coming? Or did it really take people by surprise? Did the blackout seem inevitable given things that had developed in the industry?

Corry:

Well, in hindsight it did. But in foresight, I can't say... There may have been a voice or two. There were always some folks who didn't want to buy the total economy that comes with interchange. There were always people who said, "Supposing something happens? We really should have a unit running somewhere close by." But not very many, and not very loudly. There was nobody that I knew.

Butler:

That's interesting.

Corry:

So that started a whole chain of events.

Butler:

How long did it take for most of these changes to be implemented?

Corry:

Oh, years ... years. The reliability councils started quickly. This industry is always very good at moving quickly when something happens. Some people fault them for that because they say they should have seen it coming. Well, who knows? But they're darned good...

Crises and Industry Action

Butler:

There, we've turned the tape over. We can begin again.

Corry:

You miss the gestures, though.

Butler:

That's true. Soon we'll have videotape. [Laughter]

Corry:

I have to tell myself to sit on my hands on occasions. At any rate, that took years. We had to develop the relays, you know. Manufacturers had to make them. Then we had to put them in the systems. We had some auxiliary systems. It took years, five years maybe, 1970 perhaps. A long time. I by then was in various other jobs. I became Vice-President in '75. March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island happened. That changed the whole nuclear business, and there hasn't been a nuclear plant ordered since. I'm sure you're well aware of everything that happened in that. Every nuclear utility got busy putting together a plan to submit to the NRC on how you could prevent what happened at Three Mile Island from happening at your utility. That took a lot of people and time and worry, and the deadlines were strict. It was an interesting time. As it happened, I think they had made me Senior Vice-President just around that time. It was a great time to get this job. I had been away from the nuclear business for a little while. I'd been doing some other things. I got thrown back in a big hurry, working on the Three Mile Island thing. We eventually got some things put together, and then we had the Kemeny Report, and we had to address that. There was a lot of activity, some of which I would have to say was the spinning of wheels type. A lot of things got done.

I was going to make the comment with respect to how fast the industry can move. In the case of the blackout, they got these reliability councils. They got NERC up and running in a very short time. I don't know the dates, but a very short time. We were up and running with NPCC. Then after Three Mile Island, we had INPO in operation by July, I think. Bill Lee down at Duke had pushed hard for that. He understood that if the industry didn't do something to get its house in order, someone would come along and put the house in order their way, and you might not like their way. So that was the birth of INPO. I wasn't there too long; I left in '83. But I think INPO has served a very useful purpose, from what I've seen. We sent some people down there, and they were good people. If the other people from other utilities were of the caliber of the people we sent down, it was a top-notch outfit. They were smart enough to pick a hard-driving admiral, Wilkinson, to be the boss, and he knew a lot about nuclear. It worked. But those are two examples of how this industry, when it wants to, can move. Prior to the big blackout, we had a federal power commissioner whose name was Joe Swidlam. He was Chairman of the Federal Power Commission. He chastised the utilities for not doing enough on R&D. The utilities moved to that challenge because it looked like somebody else might tell you what you should do for R&D. They started ERC, the Electric Research Council. We banded together there, both investor-owned utilities and publicly-owned enterprises, including some of the then Department of Interior. As it turned out, Avila was the first boss of that. He at the time, I think, had become president of EEI. Then he got to be the boss of ERC. I was active in one part of it.

Underground Power Transmission

Corry:

By now, in my non-nuclear side, I had been working continually on underground transmission. We had funded projects in that field. We'd been able to get research money out of EEI when there was no research money around. Most people, at least in the big urban utilities, understood that there was a need for underground transmission research because we certainly were going to have to put a lot of power underground somehow, and we'd better do it with a lot better means than we had. So we started some projects there, and they went along. We had one loser. We wanted to develop the magic molecule. This is a real dream. We thought that organic chemistry was at that point where you could specify what you wanted, what properties, and that we could make the molecule. It turns out you can't do that. But it was valuable. Another part you have to learn in research, in my view, is that it's good research if you show to somebody who comes behind, "Don't go down that road. That one's a dead end. Of all the roads that are there, at least we can cancel out two of them. That leaves four, or five, or six more to go down and look at." So that's one I don't think anybody's gone down since. But we were very active in that. I was Chairman of the Underground Transmission Research Group. There we had started to work with government entities. In particular, the government had set up a group called ERDA, the Energy Research and Development Association. They had picked a fellow to run that by the name of Fox Parry who was an ex-Marine and not an engineer at all. He was a Naval Academy graduate. He was a great guy, and we worked together, even though they came from the government and some of our people had been trained to look down their noses at the government. It turns out their engineers are good engineers, too. We worked together, and we put together a program. We got it funded, we battled for it. Fox battled for it on the government side, and we battled for it on the industry side.

Avila wasn't as successful as he wanted to be, but he did get something done. He got to work very closely with the head of TVA, who was on this Electric Research Council, and came away with a very high opinion of him as well. His name was Gabe Wessenauer. He was a damned good engineer. One of the things we worked on with them that Avila had always been interested in was the concept of magnetohydrodynamics, which is a way of generating power by using seed coal — you have coal for what you're going to burn. The electricity is generated by the action of what they called magnetohydrodynamics which, without getting into a sketch, is difficult to explain. At any rate, it was a very advanced idea, and it was put forth by a fellow by the name of Kantrowitz, Arthur Kantrowitz. And we pushed that for a while. It did not come to fruition. But there again, we learned a lot. Arthur Kantrowitz was an interesting fellow. His brother was a heart surgeon, and Arthur had devised some heart machines, too, I believe. I'm not clear on that completely. But they were very, very interesting allied people. That's one of the things I look back with fondness on. I was lucky, and it's always better to be lucky than good. I was lucky. I had the chance to rub shoulders with all these people: Avila, Wessenauer, Kantrowitz, Halperin, Wiseman, Schifreen, and Brooks. I could name them, but all really wonderful, smart, great people. Always concerned with the positives. Always concerned with "How can we do it?" "Can we do it?" That doesn't mean to say we always all agreed. We had discussions, etc. But out of that is where truth comes. Yes, I just thought of that. I was lucky. Those were great people to have been associated with.

At any rate, back to underground transmission. We now thought that the ERC wasn't quite a strong enough group. They put together what they called the R&D Goals Task Force, and then out of that was born EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute. We were active in that. That was in the 1960s before Avila retired. Avila left in '71. I remember he asked me to write a job description of who should be the first boss of EPRI. What kind of a person it should be, and so on. I don't know what happened to that piece of paper. I'd be interested to see it. At any rate, they picked Chauncey Starr, who was the Dean of Engineering at UCLA. One of the problems was: where to put it? There were several strong candidates. The two strongest were the East Coast versus the West Coast. Should you put it near Cambridge, MIT, etc.? Or should you put it near Stanford, Palo Alto? And so on. Some interesting words went back and forth on that. Since Chauncey was out in California, it went to California. Probably a good decision. They wanted it to be somewhere near where there were a lot of scientific types. Either one of those would have worked.

Regional Differences in Power Transmission

Butler:

Do regional differences come up a lot in these organizations?

Corry:

They come up.

Butler:

You spoke earlier about how New England had special requirements, and I'm sure every region does.

Corry:

Yes, they do. When it came into the research business, when EPRI really started to go, they had what they called a Research Advisory Council, the RAC. That was composed of utility executives at a high level; it would be your chief. I served on the RAC for quite a while. There you would see some differences appear, about where the emphasis should be. You see, it's interesting how things turn out. There was scant emphasis on DC on the Eastern part, and it was big with the Westerners because they had to put the big intertie in. They had big distances to travel. We're very tight. This shows how all of us are afflicted with nearsightedness, I guess, from time to time. One of the big DC connections now is, of course, the New England connection to Canada. I'm glad they did some work. I wouldn't say these differences are serious, but they come up. Because they are different. New York is so heavily underground, that it's a completely different country than most of the utilities. The only one that's close to it is Boston, which is why we can relate pretty well to them. Highly charged political atmosphere. The one thing New York has got going for it, which I think they appreciate from time to time, is that the capital is up the river in Albany. Boston is also the capital. Boston's the largest city in New England and the capital of Massachusetts. Biggest port. But they have more commonalities than differences. We relate a lot to New York.

For example, when it came to money in the RAC, we always were strong supporters of underground transmission research, whereas some of the others weren't so interested in that. But out of this process there comes a balancing. It works out pretty well. Other people had differing ideas on fusion versus fission versus more work on nuclear. Those were regional to an extent. Most of the other really interesting debates in the RAC were the division of near-term versus long-term: What is near-term, what is long-term? The way we left it when I left was that the government would do the very high payoff/low probability — this is how you work things out. Magnetohydrodynamics was in that category. The chances of it working weren't so great. But if it worked, it would pay off big. Pretty sure shots are getting down towards the development area. Pretty sure shots have not such a high payoff. That's where all the interesting debates come: how you're going to split that up. This goes back now to the 1950s when I was on the AEIC Cable Engineering Section. Philadelphia and Detroit pushed very, very hard to get funding for a project which would demonstrate that 345 kV underground transmission was possible, practical, and would give us some idea of cost. We finally got that project going. The chairman of the Cable Engineering Section at that time was a fellow by the name of Allan Kidder. He was from Philadelphia. Con Ed came, but reluctantly, to that party. Con Ed didn't see the need. As things turned out, the first 345 kV cable in the country was put in by Con Ed. Philadelphia to this day hasn't put a foot in. Nor has Detroit.

Butler:

How interesting.

Cornell Project & Underground Advances

Corry:

But we started the Cornell Project. There was research money available for underground transmission more easily than for other things. I'll point something else out in a little while. Anyhow, the Cornell Project went through, and we built an underground cable out there. We got some very good data, and got all the manufacturers to work with it. That had some problems from the anti-trust point of view, and they were knotty problems. They were not easily solved, but they got solved. Again, the reason they got solved is because there were people who wanted to go ahead and not hide behind some rule or other. These were not easy problems. At any rate, Cornell was a success.

Butler:

And this happened in the early 1960s?

Corry:

Well, I'll tell you. I was at Cornell at a steering committee meeting on the day the Russians launched Sputnik.

Butler:

Oh, so earlier.

Corry:

Yes. We were hosting an international meeting at Cornell, and we had two Russians there. It was an unpleasant afternoon. Although they were very nice fellows, they were lording it over us.

Butler:

I see.

Corry:

I'm sure one of them, because that's how they used to do things in those days, was a KGB guy. They lorded it over us. That was unfortunate. But at any rate, Cornell was a success; it attained its objectives. Then we decided we needed to prove that we could put in a 500 kV underground cable. See, all of these were following behind the overhead cables. The TEF project is what made 345 kV overhead by American Electric Power. That was the fundamental demonstration project for that. Then they had to move up progressively to 750, along with the Canadians who got up to 735. Every time you go overhead, it's almost always a question of time before you go underground. 500 kV would be a huge step for us because the existing methods and insulation systems we had we weren't sure they would work at 500 kV.

So we set about putting together a project for that, and that's when we built Waltz Mill in Pennsylvania and installed cables there, made with the manufacturers. A totally new technique. Well, not totally new. We still made it with paper and oil, but with paper that was made with deionized water. Very, very careful quality control. White room techniques which we had learned from the electronics industry and others in nuclear. It was new to the cable people, who were more of a rough-and-ready type in the factories. We worked on it. Also you had to run at much higher voltage stresses in the insulation because you couldn't get the insulation too big. At any rate, that was successful, and in September of '71 I announced at a meeting in Leningrad that the United States had indeed made a 500 kV cable, and we wrote a paper on that, as I recall. So that was a success. Waltz Mill still is in being. We still test things there. Westinghouse runs it, but it's funded by EPRI. Simultaneously EPRI had also run an overhead transmission demonstration station in Lenox, Massachusetts. That had been run by General Electric Company. That's still in being. That's now run by EPRI as well. I didn't have much to do with that. There again, our interests really were underground. We indeed did put in 345 kV while I was with Edison. We put in a lot of 115 kV pipe cable, too, in my earlier days. We put in our first 115kV cable, pipe cable, in '53 or '54. None of my cables have since failed — none!

Butler:

That's very impressive.

Corry:

We've had holes in the pipe, but the cable hasn't failed. The reason was that we took extraordinary care in the installation. We also took a lot of care to get anything out that might have gotten in. But the key is don't let it get in in the first place. Work hard. That's not an easy thing to do because construction crews are not used to that kind of care. You had to bring almost white-glove care to the field, and they're just not used to it. But we managed to do it. I left Edison in '83. None of my cables have failed, I think. They did have a 345 kV cable failure, but it was an installation. That was after I left; this happened three years ago or something of that sort. We've also never had a joint failure. But you have to be fussy. You have to fight off the people who want to trim the last few dollars off the project. You have to fight them, and you have to fight the people that are putting it in. But it's worth it when you get done. It's the backbone of your system. Transmission is what the name of this game is all about. Without transmission you don't have a power system; you've got something else. If you're going to have transmission, you'd better know that it's going to be reliable. Especially when it's underground, because it takes so long to fix it. That's the underground transmission story. I was very active in underground transmission. I was chairman of all the requisite committees. I was chairman of the research committees.

CIGRE and IEEE

Butler:

You've mentioned casually a couple of times various international contacts.

Corry:

Yes.

Butler:

Did you have a lot of international contacts?

Corry:

Oh, yes. In '71 1 was asked to become the U.S. representative to the Cable Committee of CIGRE. Do you know CIGRE?

Butler:

I know the name only.

Corry:

Oh. CIGRE is the Conference Internationale des Grands Reseaux Electriques á Haute Tension, which in English is the International Conference of Large High Voltage Electric Systems. That's an organization that was founded in 1921, just after World War I, by an American and a Frenchman. The purpose was to start to rebuild the electric system in France, which had been absolutely devastated by all the trench warfare. CIGRE has grown. It does its work through what they call study committees, and there are fifteen of those. They range from generating equipment up through interference, protective systems. One of them is high-voltage cables, Study Committee 21. Phil Sporn was chairman of the U.S. part of CIGRE for some years. Then a friend of mine, Sid Brooks, who was an outstanding cable engineer with Public Service Electric & Gas, had been U.S. representative, and the international people asked him to become the international chairman of our study committee, which is quite an honor. We have never had more than two Americans at any one time as international study committee chairmen, and that's probably good. I think that's sound. At any rate, they asked Sid, and that left a vacancy. So Sporn wrote my boss a letter and said that they wanted me for the U.S. rep. It required a couple, at least one trip a year, maybe two. Unfortunately, they were almost all abroad because the people come from all over the world. Anyhow, they said okay. So I went. By the way, this request came in the spring of 1971 when Edison was in the throes of a strike. But we acted on it.

The first meeting I went to was in Leningrad in September of '71. I'd really been associated with CIGRE prior to that in the research part of their work. In 1968 we were going to go to a CIGRE meeting in Paris, and we had tacked on visits to a lot of laboratories and cable factories in Europe. This was part of a group that did the research for the underground research transmission project. We started in England. We wanted to look at the CERL — Central Electricity Research Labs — which were very active in all sorts of research at the time. Sure enough, we got to London, and we were going to go to Paris for the opening of the meeting. June of '68 is when they had the riots in Paris, so they cancelled CIGRE. But we were going on to these other places anyhow. So we went to cable factories in Italy, Switzerland. Kiemer is a Dutch laboratory we went to. Berlin. And so on. We accomplished eighty percent of what we had set out to accomplish.

Boston Edison, by the way, particularly when Avila was in charge, was always supportive of CIGRE. Avila always believed that you couldn't look too far or too wide. Information came from all kinds of places, and you should be wide open to information. At any rate, I became U.S. rep., and that was an interesting time because you had to put together a group of expert advisors in the U.S. One of the things you had to try to do was put forth the U.S. position at these meetings, especially if it came to standards. We wanted to be sure that the U.S. voice was heard, and we wanted it to be one voice, not several voices. That doesn't take away other differences which are legitimate and should be aired. But in some areas you should speak with one voice, and we did. We still try that. I got active in CIGRE. I was asked then to become chairman of the U.S. Technical Committee of CIGRE, and I did that for a while. I still was chairman of the U.S. Technical Committee when I left Edison. There was a lot of the administrative work, and there's quite a lot to it, and this was done by a consulting company. They decided they didn't want to do it anymore, so CIGRE asked me if I would take over as General Manager, so I did, and that's what I am now. General manager of the U.S. National Committee of CIGRE. I've been that since 1985. We have a meeting twice a year of the National Committee, and we try to make them at the times of the Winter Power Meeting and the Summer Power Meeting. We had our meeting yesterday. General Membership Meeting. Then in the afternoon we had the Executive Committee Meeting. Every two years CIGRE has its meeting in Paris, in the even-numbered years. So we will have a meeting in Paris this year, at which there will be papers from all these study committees.

CIGRE runs a little bit differently than IEEE. In IEEE, if you write a paper, you present it at the meeting and answer the questions, if any, afterwards. At CIGRE you write the paper. In the first place the screening process is quite different. I'll tell you a little bit about that. But you write the paper. Then if you register to go to the meeting, they send you the papers, and it is assumed you will read the papers before you go. They don't present the paper; they just open it for discussion, which in some ways makes for a livelier and more productive meeting. I think perhaps a mix of the two systems is probably a good thing. The selection of the papers also is a little bit different. They have what they call preferential subjects for each study committee, usually three, sometimes less. They want the papers to address one of these preferential subjects. They go out with the Call for Papers. Then abstracts are sent in, in our case to the U.S. National Committee, and one of the functions of our Technical Committee is to pick the papers. I was the chairman of that committee for some time. It's now being done by a fellow by the name of Tom Sharp who's with Public Service Electric & Gas. They picked the papers for this year, and told the authors, and the authors will prepare themselves. When they send you the papers, they also have a fellow they call a reporter. His job is to read the papers before they go out, and he comments and raises questions, and that information goes out to you, too. That's a very helpful thing. It works really quite well. But that meeting is in the interim years. In the odd-numbered years, CIGRE runs study committee meetings and also symposiums on particular subjects. For example, I just got a Call for Papers for a symposium they're going to run in Japan in '95 on power electronics and power systems. I'm sure that will generate a great deal of interest. So that's CIGRE internationally. I don't know much else in the way of international contacts. I stay active in CIGRE. I'm active in IEEE, but I'm not on the Insulated Conductors Committee anymore; I just come now and then. I think that's all.