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.
One of the few times in recent years that I can recall the government planning to do something useful.
Hope they don’t screw it up, like they usually do.
The other question is how many of the more exotic solutions (read total techno boondogles) will go to Obama cronies who throw our money away?
yeah...show me a surge protector that can protect against a few mega billion EVs of instantaneous surge.
So....I’ll be dead, but my toaster will still function?
Umm... it’s my understanding that a celestial EMP event like a directed X-class flare would decimate anything electrical. We’re talking about a surge that would destroy anything with a current attached to it. Short of physically disconnecting the entire grid and shutting down the plants for the duration, I don’t know of any way to effectively prevent the destruction associated with something like this.
And let’s not forget the bigger problem we’d have: out of control satellites in orbit likely falling out of orbit and back to Earth.
The finger of God from Sol would be devastating in ways that we can’t possibly understand.
hussein would veto any such proposal.
This something they should definitely do and it does not really cost that much but watch it not pass both houses.
I believe the federal government is:
Basically Unable to Limit Losses by Shielding Highvoltage Infrastructure Transformers
(it’s gonna take more than that...once an EMP burst disrupts the computer-controlled SCADA systems and various parts of the grid start collapsing in an unpredictable random way, the damage is impossible to predict. It’s like putting surge protectors and good UPSs on your home computer won’t help if a meteor hits your house).
Solar panels and windmills for everyone so we can charge our Obama phones and listen to Dear Leader. /s
No the grid might function if they actually followed useful recommendations (they aren’t), but none of your devices in your home will work anymore.
Yep, they said the same about ObamaCare...
I'm very suspicious of a bill with the initials HEIL-D.
Sounds more like something to show that the senator is being useful than to show him actually accomplishing anything.
Do we have surge protectors that good? What would the cost of installing them be?
Follow the money to Gaffney and the senators bank account.
Like the ones Hams use to protect their radios from lighting strikes on the antenna?
Like those, for example?
doesn’t matter if you don’t protect the mid-range transformers too, as they are not built here in the usa.
Lightning Surge Suppressors already exist on essentially every high voltage line and significant transformers in the US.
get backups of your most critical devices, put in box, then put that box in a box covered in aluminum foil, sealed, no holes in the foil, and protect the foil with aplastic sheet. try to use paper to make sure inner box is not touching any side of the outer box, try to center it in the inner box.
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.
I’ve got a couple of non functional units that I use for this purpose.
well do we have the ability to replace them within a month or two with new ones we build here?
I'd start with business first. Virtually every industrial motor 5hp+ has an electronic VFD on it (variable frequency drive). Electronic controls pump gas, supply well water, run refrigeration, sewerage treatment plants... Without food, water, and transportation with sewers backing up, dealing with personal computers seems rather trivial.
Not that hard.
The solution has been around for ten years now. Still expensive.
I suppose the government could deny the patent renewal in a few years to nosedive the cost.
The development in this field has been steady, despite the costs.
This has not been my experience. While I have installed 20,000 HP VFD's, they are extremely rare.
I would estimate more than 90% of the pumps and fans in chemical plants, pipeline pump/compressor stations and refineries do not have VFD's.
No. We could not replace every small transformer in 5 years. Every being key.
Why all the concern? Won’t FEMA be along with a flashlight, MRE, a bottle of cold water a warm blanket and a Obamaphone withing 48 hours of such an event? Thats what many even on FR seem to think.
Besides, it's like a border fence; if you despair that erecting a fence at the highest traffic point won't stop all crossings instantly, if you pee and moan that it will take years to protect the border, the default is no fence, no control, and ultimately, no country.
I think we should have transformers (and other essential eq, of course) stored in Faraday cages around the country. It takes a long time to get one built and it will certainly be a longer time if a large part of the world was affected.
Keep in mind, the groups like the Reliability Council are have been making upgrade recommendations and utilities have been upgrading towards those for decades.
I’m not recommending nothing be done, I’m recommending congress isn’t the one to do it.
I compare their efforts to upgrading your 4x4 truck to become a swamp buggy. Spending a lot of dollars on only one tire, regardless of how great that tire is, will accomplish absolutely nothing expect spend your money and enrich the tire seller. No additional function was gained.