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Showing posts with label power grid vulerability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label power grid vulerability. Show all posts

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The EMP Issue

It's no surprise to reader of that I am a big fan of the International Forecaster and especially Bob Rinear. This article reminds us of the potential Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) threat. This was brought home to me two days ago after a hellacious thunder storm left us without power and even the cellular system was messed up. An EMP event would make this basically permanent. So hopefully, part of your survival plan address a no warning and immediate grid outage. What are you doing to do?

The EMP Issue, by Bob Rinear, The International Forecaster, Wednesday 5 August 2015

On Sunday I wrote a piece called “Fear Porn”, and it was the first of two articles I wanted to write for a long time, but “things” got in the way. The first article was about the concept of our entire lives now revolving around “the Internet”, and yet the net isn’t as stable as you might think. As I pointed out, your life would be massively disrupted if indeed a terrorist (foreign or domestic) did a massive hack which brought down the routers and pointers of the nets infrastructure.

Not because you couldn’t look at photo’s of your “BFF” showing you his or her breakfast, not  because you couldn’t tweet about some terribly unimportant topic…but because we are now at a point where no net…means no transactions. No credit cards, no ATM’s, no phones, no hotel reservations, no “a lot of things”. Given enough time, a nationwide Internet shut down, could very well cause social unrest, deaths, food supply problems, you name it. But the fact is, that’s just the warm up for the real issue. What if our power grid goes down?

I laid out the nightmares we saw during the NYC blackout of 1977 and the Ohio/Northeast blackout of 2004. Robberies, fires, arson, break in’s, looting, shootings, you name it. Ugly stuff, and that was just 1 and 2 day outages. What if something took the grid down for months?

Over the years I’ve looked at different situations wherein the “grid” as we call it (electrical generation and distribution) could be compromised on a wide scale. There’s several things that come to mind, such as network hacking. But the two that get the big attention are Solar burst of energy, and EMP’s. So what’s the real deal here? Can these things do what we’ve been told or not? Let’s look…

EMP stands for Electro-magnetic Pulse. An EMP is a short burst of electromagnetic energy.

Such a pulse may occur in the form of a radiated electric or magnetic field or conducted electric current depending on the source, and may be natural or man-made. Okay, so what’s the big deal?

Well, if the EMP is big enough, it will follow power lines, long cables, grounding straps, and burn up things with a power surge. Anything not “hardened’ against a massive short term burst, simply burns out. Be it computers, TV, phones, hospital equipment, power generators, high voltage lines, etc. Bad stuff.

We have been aware of the “natural” EMP’s that come from the Sun ( and even severe lightening storms) because the sun caused such a “burst” of electro-magnetism in 1859 that telegraph operators were singed around the country as sparks lit up their transmission lines.

Aurorae were seen around the world, those in the northern hemisphere as far south as the Caribbean; those over the Rocky Mountains were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning. People in the northeastern US could read a newspaper by theaurora's light. It was named the Carrington Event.

It was (and still is) the largest recorded geomagnetic storm. If something of that magnitude were to hit today, with the incredible amount of electronics we use each and every day, it would fry tens of millions of devices and plunge us into the dark for MONTHS. In fact, in Ontario Canada on March 13th 1989 a solar storm impacted their area. At 2 am on the 13th the Ontario grid went dark, plunging millions of folks into the dark. No power, no phones, no water pumping (electrical pumps) No Natural gas (electrical pumps) etc.

They found the fried equipment and things were up and running in about 12 hours. But think about that for a second. A solar “Coronal mass ejection” knocked out the power to millions. Yet it was “tiny” compared to the Carrinton event. So problem one with EMP’s is that they can indeed be natural, and another like the 1859 version would indeed take down huge parts of our entire countries power grid.

But we found out in 1962 just how dangerous Man made EMP’s could be. During that year, the US Government decided to test a high altitude nuclear blast. The test was named starfish and took place about a thousand miles from Hawaii on a deserted island. When the bomb went off some 250 miles up in the atmosphere, something quite strange happened. Electrical components on the Islands of Hawaii were blowing up. To quote one of the researchers….

The effects were bizarre and almost entirely unanticipated. One effect was an electromagnetic pulse, but nobody knew it was going to be anywhere nearly as large it proved to be. They had all this data and they didn’t understand very much of it, including the EMPs that had been observed and the effects produced…all kinds of electrical disturbances were seen over 1000 kilometers away in Oahu.

Since then we’ve learned that a large nuclear device that gets detonated in the upper atmosphere could easily wipe out the electrical grid, and darned near anything connected to it. Which instantly brought up the question of its use as a military weapon. In fact there’s no question at all as to whether the US and Russia have experimented with EMP as a weapon and we’re also worried about North Korea ( and some say Iran) Here’s why…

Let’s suppose some rogue nation takes an old scud missile and tips it with a nuclear bomb. They get the thing near our coast on a container ship or what have you and fire it. The next thing you know an entire area of the nation sees its grid go down, and the resulting surges and brownout’s spread through the network. It is not inconceivable that the whole country could go dark. Here is the statement from the 2008 committee on researching EMP attacks…

A single EMP attack may seriously degrade or shut down a large part of the electric power grid in the geographic area of EMP exposure effective instantaneously. There is also the possibility of functional collapse of grids beyond the exposed one, as electrical effects propagate from one region to another…Should significant parts of the electric power infrastructure be lost for any substantial period of time, the Commission believes that the consequences are likely to be catastrophic, and many people may ultimately die for lack of the basic elements necessary to sustain life in dense urban and suburban communities.

Now, depending on whom you wish to listen to, the effects of a well coordinated EMP attack on the US could last for 18 months of “dark” (no electricity) and MILLIONS dead. I could EASILY see that.

As you probably know, my biggest “big picture” scare is that we are 100% reliant on the electrical grid for EVERYTHING. We just expect it to be there because it’s “always there”. Yet what if it wasn’t? Then yes, there would be mass starvation, mass riots, bands of roaming hungry thieves. No question.

I try and keep the “wacko stuff” and the real Fear Porn out of the letters. I’m not a “shock jock” like Howard Stern who gets his listeners from being outrageous. But in this instance, I am not just trying to scare the hell out of you all, I’m trying to expose something that seems to be all-too real. Consider this…

As late as the 1940’s once you got out of town, just about every rural household had a couple chickens in the yard for fresh eggs. They usually had a hand driven well pump and a few minutes of pumping that handle would bring good clean water up from the depths. They probably had a nice veggie garden, and “mom” probably knew how to can their produce for use in the winter months.

Dad and the boys most definitely had a few small game rifles, and knew how to hunt rabbit, squirrel, and deer. They generally had a coal or wood furnace, and knew how to cook over wood instead of electricity or Natgas. Oil lamps and candles made at home were frequent. In a lot of homes in rural America 1940 if the power went down, no one noticed for half the day.

Today that very situation would be called a “prepper family”. You’d be looked upon as “one of them people”. But the fact is that for about 80% of our citizens, they have NONE of those skills or resources. A chicken coop in modern America? Horror the thought! People get run out of Home owner associations for parking a vehicle in their driveway let alone a chicken coop. A personal water well on your own property? Not today, it’s all about “city water”. Grabbing a .22 and shooting a squirrel for dinner? Perish the thought! The fact is that the typical American is absolutely and totally dependent on the “grid” for survival.

So if you ask me - Bob, what’s your two biggest fears right now? My answer would be a take down of the Electrical Grid first, and a take down of the Internet second. Now do we have any “proof” that either one is coming? Nope, not really. But sometimes you see things that make you think about it.

For example, the Military is moving a lot of its command nodes back into the depths of Cheyenne mountain, a fortified bunker complex deep beneath the granite rocks. Why? Could they be anticipating something like an EMP attack and want to make sure their command and control center is “hardened” against suck a thing? Could be.

I’d like to say I only have two fears about the big picture, but that wouldn’t be truthful. Others on my list are a global monetary reset which I totally believe is coming. A devaluation of our currency which I think is coming. I think were going to get rocked a bit over that when it happens, and frankly it has to happen. Even the wicked Central bankers know that our present system isn’t working.

So “yeah” there’s things that get my attention.

No one wants to live in fear, and I don’t either. But there’s some things that we have very little control over, that have a lot of control over our lives. Power, Internet and global finances come to mind. All 3 of them have the ability to rock our world.

Urban Man

Friday, December 14, 2012

US Power Grid Vulnerable to Attack, Disaster and Collapse

US Power Grid Vulnerable to Just About Everything by Jen Alic of

As Washington hunts ill-defined al-Qaeda groups in the Middle East and Africa, and concerns itself with Iran’s eventual nuclear potential, it has a much more pressing problem at home: Its energy grid is vulnerable to anyone with basic weapons and know-how.

Forget about cyber warfare and highly organized terrorist attacks, a lack of basic physical security on the US power grid means that anyone with a gun—like disgruntled Michigan Militia types, for instance--could do serious damage.

For the past two months, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been tasked with creating a security strategy for the electric grid and hydrocarbon facilities through its newly created Office of Energy Infrastructure Security. So far, it’s not good news.

“There are ways that a very few number of actors with very rudimentary equipment could take down large portions of our grid,” warns FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. This, he says, “is an equal if not greater issue” than cyber security.

FERC’s gloom-and-doom risk assessment comes on the heels of the recent declassification of a 2007 report by the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Sciences on 14 November warned that a terrorist attack on the US power grid could wreak more damage than Hurricane Sandy. It could cause massive blackouts for weeks or months at a time. But this would only be the beginning, the Academy warns, spelling out an “end of days” scenario in which blackouts lead to widespread fear, panic and instability.

What they are hinting at is revolution—and it wouldn’t take much.

UrbanMan's comment:So what would happen if the grid went down starting widespread fear, panic and instability,....and as the article says, possible revolution?

Several immediate effects come to mind: lack of power for heating in cold winter months could potenially create tens of thousands of casualties - mostly elderly as well as create angry groups of rioters and looters, mainly youths and young adults to begin with.

The combined Army and National Guard could not control these mainly urban population centers as well as food supply depots, lines of comunciations and existing working power stations or protect the workers attempting to repair  the problem.  It would be a huge problem to provide power to run the plants that produce, package and ship the nations food supply. Look around your community and imagine no food for four or five days, about ten to fourteen days? What would your community look like?

So what is being done to mitigate risk? According to FERC, utility companies aren’t doing enough. Unfortunately, FERC does not have the power to order utilities to act in the name of protecting the country’s energy infrastructure. Security is expensive, and more than 90% of the country’s grid is privately owned and regulated by state governments. Private utilities are not likely to feel responsible for footing the bill for security, and states may not be able to afford it.

One key problem is theoretically a simple one to resolve: a lack of spare parts. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the grid is particularly vulnerable because it is spread out across hundreds of miles with key equipment not sufficiently guarded or antiquated and unable to prevent outages from cascading.

We are talking about some 170,000 miles of voltage transmission line miles fed by 2,100 high-voltage transformers delivering power to 125 million households.

"We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don't have many spare transformers,” according to the Academy.

High-voltage transformers are vulnerable both from within and from outside the substations in which they are housed. Complicating matters, these transformers are huge and difficult to remove. They are also difficult to replace, as they are custom built primarily outside the US. So what is the solution? Perhaps, says the Academy, to design smaller portable transformers that could be used temporarily in an emergency situation.

Why was the Academy’s 2007 report only just declassified? Well, its authors were worried that it would be tantamount to providing terrorists with a detailed recipe for attacking and destabilizing America, or perhaps for starting a revolution.

The military at least is preparing to protect its own power supplies. Recently, the US Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $7 million contract for research that demonstrates the integration of electric vehicles, generators and solar arrays to supply emergency power for Fort Carson, Colorado. This is the SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security), and the Army hopes it will be the answer to more efficient and secure energy.

Back in the civilian world, however, things are moving rather slowly, and the focus remains on the sexier idea of an energy-crippling cyberattack.

Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) urged House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to pass a bill—the GRID Act--which would secure the grid against cyberattacks.

"As the widespread and, in some cases, still ongoing power outages from Superstorm Sandy have shown us, our electric grid is too fragile and its disruption is too devastating for us to fail to act," Markey wrote. "Given this urgency, it is critical that the House act immediately in a bipartisan manner to ensure our electrical infrastructure is secure."

This bill was passed by the House, but has failed to gain any traction in the Senate.

FERC, of course, is all for the bill, which would give it the authority to issue orders and regulations to boost the security of the electric grid's computer systems from a cyberattack. But it’s only a small piece of the security puzzle, and FERC remains concerned that authorities are overlooking the myriad simpler threats to the electricity grid. These don’t make for the easy headlines, especially since they are not necessarily foreign in nature.

UrbanMan's comment:  Survialists have to consider developing some type of power solutions. A minimum level would probably be small solar panels to charge batteries for FRS or other radios, flashlights, small lanterns, etc. Beware of some of the cheap solar panels kits. Most are made in China.

I have several small wattage ridig solar panel kits, all but one still in the box, and I will use for barter or I may rig into my Bug In location grid. Right now they are boxed in order to trade or to pack for Bug Out. 

And I have some individual solar powered motion detection lights that I have installed on the sides of my house for perimeter security, and if necessary can use for lights at night inside buildings as they are portable if you install these, with wing nuts rather than lock washers and bolts.

Solutions from Science offers some higher end solar systems that are still portable. This is solidly constructed kit. Getting what is advertised. Click on Solutions from Science to get more information on this solar generator.