The U.S. electric grid is vulnerable to terrorist attacks that could cause much more damage to the system than natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, according to a recently declassified report prepared for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by a National Academy of Sciences committee in 2007.
The report addresses improvements that could reduce power delivery vulnerabilities; methods to restore power more quickly after an attack; and ways to make critical services less vulnerable should conventional power delivery be disrupted.
“Electric systems are not designed to withstand or quickly recover from damage inflicted simultaneously on multiple components,” the report said. “The system is inherently vulnerable because transmission lines may span hundreds of miles, and many key facilities are unguarded.”
Technological upgrades to the grid could increase security. As an example, the report suggested smaller, universal transformers, which could be deployed as temporary spares while system repairs are made. Further research is needed, however, before such options become widely available and cost-effective.
“The level of actual investment in power system research is currently much smaller than it should be as measured according to a variety of societal metrics,” the report said. “The committee was unable to reach a unanimous view on how best to resolve this problem.”
The declassified report, “Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System,” is available at www.nationalacademies.org.
The source of the content in this post is CFC’s Newsletter “CFC Solutions,” December 10, 2012, Vol. 14, No. 46.