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Power system stabilizers (PSSs) are used to generate supplementary control signals for the excitation system in order to damp the low-frequency power system oscillations. To overcome the drawbacks of a conventional PSS (CPSS), numerous techniques have been proposed in the literature. Based on the analysis of existing techniques, a novel design based on heuristic dynamic programming (HDP) is presented in this paper. HDP, combining the concepts of dynamic programming and reinforcement learning, is used in the design of a nonlinear optimal power system stabilizer. Results show the effectiveness of this new technique. The performance of the HDP-based PSS is compared with the CPSS and the indirect-adaptive-neurocontrol-based PSS under small and large disturbances. In addition, the impact of different discount factors in the HDP PSS's performance is presented.