Skip to comments.Lights out: House plan would protect nation's electricity from solar flare, nuclear bomb
Posted on 06/20/2013 7:49:53 AM PDT by LSUfan
Amid growing fears of a massive electromagnetic pulse hit from either a solar flare or a terrorist nuclear bomb, House Republicans on Tuesday will unveil a plan to save the nation's electric grid from an attack that could mean lights out for 300 million Americans.
Dubbed the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act, the legislation would push the federal government to install grid-saving devices such as surge protectors to protect against an attack.
"It is critical that we protect our major transformers from cascading destruction. The Shield Act encourages industry to develop standards necessary to protect our electric infrastructure against both natural and man-made EMP events," said Rep. Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican who is offering up the bipartisan bill.
Electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, has come into focus because of fears the sun is pushing out unusually big solar flares that can disrupt the electric grid. Defense officials are also worried about a terrorist attack, possibly in the form of a small nuclear bomb exploded overhead.
"This is serious stuff," said former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney, who heads the Center for Security Policy. But, he added, there is a growing bipartisan consensus to protect the electric grid.
Any EMP attack could be damaging, said Gaffney. He cited a new Lloyds of London report that determined that the area from Washington, D.C., to New York could be without electricity for up to two years in a major solar flare-up.
The legislation will be introduced Tuesday by Franks and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a meeting of the House EMP Caucus. Officials said that the legislation, provided in advance to Secrets, will include information from a recent EMP commission report that "contemporary U.S. society is not structured, nor does it have the means, to provide for the needs of nearly 300 million Americans without electricity.''
Gaffney told Secrets that there are some 300 huge electric transformers around the nation that control the grid and that have to be protected. "You are basically talking about surge protectors, of a somewhat exotic kind, but it is a means of interrupting the pulse," he said.
False. I have bought, inspected and done start up on US manufactured transforms in Medium Voltage Systems in the past year (and the past couple decades). There are multiple US factories building these, larger and smaller transformers.
They are not all built in the US, but there is a significant amount built here.
Let me know when you have done that. And what you consider critical devices in your home. Air Conditioner? Spare PC?
Once you have done it personally, we can move on to business: Internet Data Centers, Medium Voltage Switchgear for most refineries, 15,000 Hp motors on pipelines...
Yep. They just need to be a bit more robust for a large EMP event.
Were also need to add more surge suppression to the lower voltage local lines and for individual equipment and end users.
No need to upgrade existing consumer stuff, just make new stuff with intrinsic protection, product life cycles will insure that within a decade or so essentially everything will be protected.
Really? Is that the recommendation for the North American Reliability Council? How does that address the ground current surge that occurs is those events? There is more than a voltage spike on energized lines that occurs. Spending money to hope to protect against a portion of the problem doesn't keep the grid up.
This is not going to be the case in industry. And when was the last time you replaced your power distribution system in your home and place of business. This is not just about end devices and high voltage lines.
S.H.I.E.L.D., huh? Isn’t cute how every bill has to be named so that a descriptive acronym can be made.
>> its my understanding that a celestial EMP event like a directed X-class flare would decimate anything electrical <<
I think you’re confusing the effects of a “Carrington-like” solar flare with the effects of a nuclear EMP. Different animals, but both terrible to contemplate.
A big enough solar flare, a la Carrington, could knock out the electrical systems of every country on earth, unless adequate protection should be installed. But such a flare wouldn’t necessarily destroy electronic equipment that’s not connected to the electrical grid — even though one might question how useful the said equipment would be without a ready electrical supply!
On the other hand, a big enough nuclear EMP should destroy the electric grid WITHIN ITS FIELD, plus just about any solid state devices within its field that aren’t properly shielded and hardened. In the meantime, electrical and electronic equipment in the parts of the world outside the radiation field should escape damage.
seriously? that’s good to know, for the longest time the only stories i’ve seen are that all the large and midrange tramsformers are made’,overseas now. who makes them here still? i’d like to know so i can remember it the next time this comes up, as i think a lot of other folks have the same info i did.
i don’t discuss my personal preparations with anyone outside my immediate family.
I bought and factory inspected a 20 MVA 34.5kV/13.8kV transformer from ABB in South Boston, Virgina last year. That was the top end of their small transformer factory. Right next door is their large transformer factory.
There are quite a few others.
Right, but an EMP would actually “hyper-electrify” anything in its path/radius. This was evident from the Carrington event where even disconnected telegraphy equipment continued to transmit. If capacitors overload in computing equipment despite being disconnected, you’re talking about the loss of almost every piece of computing hardware in the affected area. In the case of a sufficiently large enough X-class flare directed right at us, anything capable of conducting electricity would do so.
Manmade EMP from nuclear/atomic detonation is terrifying to be sure, but the sun is not something we can control, sanction, or mold outside of monitoring and being prepared for when it does happen.
An old microwave oven functions as an expedient Faraday cage.
yup. probably wouldn’t want it plugged in though.
What are the ratings? That also may keep a direct strike or very near by strike from drawing damage down from the antenna, but it does not preclude an EMF from inducing a current into the system through house wiring after the SP that will damage electronics. SPs are good but I only used them to protect from downstream surges (e.g., power line.)
THE EMF doesn’t always ONLY go for the SP.
Path of least resistance. The system will always damage itself to protect the fuse. Been there done that.
well this is good news. glad to know this. do you believe that the various us companies here have the ability and capacity to replace a large number of large and’mid-size transformers within a couple’months if we have a major emp incident?
There are quite a few others...
also can the us replace’all the small neighborhood transformers that will probably go during such an event? they have generally been undersized, as they count on less usage at night and cooler night temperatures to offset daytime use, so is there concern we won’t have these in needed numbers from such an event? do we have the manufacturing ability to replace’large numbers of the neighborhood sized transformers? were talking millions of small ones.
For a few years, most of these are working full time with lead times growing. If they had spare production capacity, it would already be building transformers.
Very few industries are going to invest in and maintain the shop, equipment and supplies to suddenly increase production by a couple orders of magnitude.
And you cannot get a single transformer of significant size built in a couple months unless you start with and old decent condition transformer. 6 months to over a year are common on a decent substation sized transformer (15~45 MVA with HV primary)
There is something wrong about this number. Only 300 transformers??? There are thousands of power plants. Is the only protection they intend for major urban transmission lines? This has the appearance of a closet Agenda 21/Smart Grid emphasis upon major cities only, especially with Gingrich's energetic participation.
EMP is our Achilles heel in this country. Legislation on this matter, although badly needed, demands serious scrutiny.
All? Nope. Neither could any other country in the world.