A small coodinated attack on a vast minority of US Electric substations could leave the US in the dark for days or weeks. I thought this type of thing was a priority after 9-11.. I suppose spying on us was vastly more important. The findings in this article are disturbing to say the least.
The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country’s 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.
The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation’s three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.
The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out nine of the country’s electric-transmission substations on a summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis. National War College Professor Dr. Richard Andres discusses.
A small number of the country’s substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months.
With over 160,000 miles of transmission lines, the U.S. power grid is designed to handle natural and man-made disasters, as well as fluctuations in demand. How does the system work? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.
“This would be an event of unprecedented proportions,” said Ross Baldick, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
No federal rules require utilities to protect vital substations except those at nuclear power plants. Regulators recently said they would consider imposing security standards.
FERC last year used software to model the electric system’s performance under the stress of losing important substations. The substations use large power transformers to boost the voltage of electricity so it can move long distances and then to reduce the voltage to a usable level as the electricity nears homes and businesses.
The agency’s so-called power-flow analysis found that different sets of nine big substations produced similar results. The Wall Street Journal isn’t publishing the list of 30 critical substations studied by FERC. The commission declined to discuss the analysis or to release its contents.
Some federal officials said the conclusions might overstate the grid’s vulnerability.
Electric systems are designed to be resilient and it would be difficult for attackers to disable many locations, said David Ortiz, an Energy Department deputy assistant secretary who was briefed on the FERC study. The agency’s findings nevertheless had value “as a way of starting a conversation on physical security,” he said.
The study’s results have been known for months by people at federal agencies, Congress and the White House, who were briefed by then-FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and others at the commission. As reported by the Journal last month, Mr. Wellinghoff was concerned about a shooting attack on a California substation last April, which he said could be a dress rehearsal for additional assaults.
“There are probably less than 100 critical high voltage substations on our grid in this country that need to be protected from a physical attack,” he said by email this week. “It is neither a monumental task, nor is it an inordinate sum of money that would be required to do so.” Mr. Wellinghoff left FERC in November and is a partner at law firm Stoel Rives LLP in San Francisco.
FERC has given the industry until early June to propose new standards for the security of critical facilities, such as substations.
Executives at several big utilities declined to discuss the risks to substations but said they are increasing spending on security. Virginia-based Dominion Resources Inc., D +0.75%for example, said it planned to spend $300 million to $500 million within seven years to harden its facilities.
A memo prepared at FERC in late June for Mr. Wellinghoff before he briefed senior officials made several urgent points. “Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer,” said the memo, which was reviewed by the Journal. That lengthy outage is possible for several reasons, including that only a handful of U.S. factories build transformers.
The California attack “demonstrates that it does not require sophistication to do significant damage to the U.S. grid,” according to the memo, which was written by Leonard Tao, FERC’s director of external affairs. Mr. Tao said his function was to help Mr. Wellinghoff simplify his report on the analysis.
The memo reflected a belief by some people at the agency that an attack-related blackout could be extraordinarily long, in part because big transformers and other equipment are hard to replace. Also, each of the three regional electric systems—the West, the East and Texas—have limited interconnections, making it hard for them to help each other in an emergency.
Russian troops mass on border of Ukraine
The shaded areas are places where the troops are massing.. the country to the left is Ukraine.
MOSCOW — With a referendum on secession looming in Crimea, Russia massed troops and armored vehicles in at least three regions along Ukraine’s eastern border on Thursday, alarming the interim Ukraine government about a possible invasion and significantly escalating tensions in the crisis between the Kremlin and the West.
The announcement of the troop buildup by Russia’s Defense Ministry was met with an unusually sharp rebuke from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who warned that the Russian government must abandon what she called the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries or face diplomatic and economic retaliation from a united Europe.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine,” she said in a speech to the German Parliament. “We, also as neighbors of Russia, would not only see it as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia. No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”
Ms. Merkel’s words reflected the rapid evolution of the Ukraine crisis from a regional conflict to a full-blown East-West confrontation that threatens a deep rupture in relations between Moscow and an increasingly unified European Union and the United States. That a leader of Germany, which has traditionally sought to bridge the East-West divide, should speak so forcefully was a further indication of the seriousness and depth of the potential breach.
In a congressional appearance on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that Russia had not yet made the military preparations to undertake a full-scale invasion of all of Ukraine, though he stressed “that could change very quickly and we recognize that.”
Mr. Kerry said his hope was “not to create hysteria or excessive concern about that at this point of time.”
“Our hope is to be able to avoid that,” he added. “But there’s no telling that we can.”
Mr. Kerry will meet his counterpart from Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, on Friday in London, seeking a way to de-escalate the crisis.
As Russia turned up the heat, the United States was trying to tamp it down. An American official said that the Obama administration had deferred a request from Ukraine’s interim government for military assistance like arms and ammunition, although the administration was “still considering” it. The Ukrainian request and administration response were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.