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Power system operation is outlined and system security is defined. The need for security evaluation in power system operation is discussed, and the evaluation is presented as a pattern recognition problem. A suitable straightforward and quick procedure is used to select a small number of variables as features from a large set of variables which are normally available in power systems. Comparison is made on the security classification performances of a number of different types ot classifiers. The training of classifiers is carried out by a search algorithm which seeks to minimize the number of classification errors. The procedure to determine the security functions (classifiers) is illustrated by an example, and simulation results on the steady-state security of the CIGRE 225-kV system show that the pattern recognition approach to security evaluation is encouraging. Some uses of security functions in the control and operation of power systems are outlined. The effect of many of these uses cannot be achieved as easily by other existing methods. Finally, some of the problems associated with the application of pattern recognition to power system security evaluation are discussed.