How Vulnerable Is Our Power Grid?
A newly declassified report from the National Research Council analyzes the vulnerabilities of America’s electric-power system. Douglas Birch of Foreign Policy explains:
[T]he formerly secret report to the Department of Homeland Security focuses more on the U.S. electric power system’s older technology and lack of spare capacity, saying the “physical capabilities of much of the transmission network have not kept pace with the increasing burden that is being placed on it.” As a result, it found, sophisticated physical assaults against key facilities could damage difficult-to-replace hardware and cause multiple cascading failures with catastrophic results.
Hurricane Sandy wasn’t a “sophisticated physical assault,” but it still did the job. The study was written in 2007 and classified by the Department of Homeland Security, but, in a new foreword, scientists say that its findings are still relevant:
We believe that we have a responsibility to make this report available to the public. Major cascading blackouts in the U.S. southwest in 2011, and in India in 2012, underscore the need for the measures discussed in this report. The nation’s power grid is in urgent need of expansion and upgrading. Incorporating the technologies discussed in the report can greatly reduce the grid’s vulnerability to cascading failures, whether initiated by terrorists, nature, or malfunctions.