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Thread: NAP: Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System

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    NAP: Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System

    This report was completed in 2007, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided to classify it until August, 2112. Now it is available online for free from the National Academies Press (NAP).

    Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System
    (here is a link)

    Size: 164 pages
    Publication Year:2012


    Protecting the Electric Grid from Terrorism -- Nobody is in Charge

    Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Contributor
    Forbes | Energy | 11/16/2012 11:14AM

    This week, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its study Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System, a work prepared at the request of the Department of Homeland Security. This report has been kept under wraps as classified information since 2007. The entire report was recently approved for publication, with the exception of a few pages for those with security clearance. The NAS had pressed for publication, indicating that the 2011 US Southwest blackout, and the 600-million person event in India “underscore the need for the measures discussed in this report. “ The timing could not be better, now that we have seen yet again what can happen in the event of a severe grid event.

    The problem is this: we have a highly complicated electricity grid with approximately 3,500 utilities, thousands of power plants, 200,000 miles of lines, and tens of thousands of transformers. It is exposed to the weather, under constant stress, and deteriorates a little bit every day. Investments are needed just to keep the current infrastructure in decent shape. But since 1995, we have been investing less in the system than it would cost to maintain it. In part, the NAS suggests that this has to do with ambiguities resulting from the restructuring of power markets, and cost pressures from customers and regulators. We don’t want to pay for upgrades, and the Public Utilities Commissions are not forcing the issue. The ability to move power from one region to another for competitive markets further exacerbates the issue and stresses the grid. So even without terrorism, the grid is highly vulnerable. Add in the element of a malicious and intentionally designed attack, and the problem could be catastrophic.

    But the problem also has to do with a remarkable lack of planning for a worst-case scenario. Or even understanding what a worst case scenario could be. Unfortunately, Superstorm Sandy was by no means close to a worst case scenario. With Sandy, there was advance warning and time to prepare. It wasn’t an attack focused on the most vulnerable underbelly of the grid. It didn’t hit in the dead of winter – an event which would have severely diminished the ability of crews to respond, and would have killed many people by exposure. We have a total failure to imagine for the worst, even for weather events: Before Connecticut lost power to over 800,000 people in each of its two outages last year to Irene and the October snow, Connecticut Light and Power’s worst case scenario envisioned loss of power to 100,000 people. That type of thinking has to change.

    Unlike an event such as a hurricane, the calamity from a very large-scale coordinated grid failure brought about by terrorism would probably play out in slow motion. As the NAS states “It would not immediately kill many people or make for spectacular television footage…” But a carefully planned attack on the grid “could deny large regions of the country access to bulk system power for weeks or even months.” Combined with extreme weather “they could also result in hundreds or even thousands of deaths due to heat stress or extended exposure to extreme cold.” (italics in original report). There is a precedent for that level of mortality: the extreme Paris heat wave of 2003 resulted in 14,800 “excess deaths” according to the National Institute of Health.

    The dramatic 2003 US blackout caused an estimated $6 bn in economic damage. The NAS stresses that the potential in a terrorist attack could be significantly higher: “Considering that a systematically designed and executed terrorist attack could cause disruptions that were even more widespread and of longer duration, it is no stretch of the imagination to think that such attacks could entail costs of hundreds of billions of dollars - that is, perhaps as much as a few percent of the US gross domestic product.” The result? “Turmoil, widespread public fear, and an image of helplessness.” The areas of greatest vulnerability are our SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition – communications systems for monitoring, control, and alarms) and transformers (the devices used to “transform” higher voltage to lower voltage – for example, from high voltage transmission to local distribution lines).

    That picture is pretty clear and it is pretty grim, indeed. Now let’s look at where we are today. We have poor contingency plans. We have the underinvestment discussed above, and deteriorating systems. But it seems we are willing to put up with this: the average years sees interruptions in electric supply that cost an estimated $150bn. The average age of a transformer is 42 years, despite a design life of only 40. Yet there has been no public outcry or serious move to shore up the grid for the basic stuff, not even taking terrorism into account.


    Why is solving this problem, and preparing for the worst so difficult? The problems are three-fold:

    1) regulatory issues are complex. The grid makes the former Yugoslavia look simple: local municipalities, the individual state utility commissions, the North America Electric Reliability Council, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other agencies all have a say. The grid is overseen by a patchwork of rules and officials who have the ability to approve, deny, or delay (and the latter often wins, when anything contentious is involved). Just look at electric restructuring and the competitive market structure. Half the country has it. Half doesn’t. And Texas has competition, but because it’s power system doesn’t cross state lines, it does everything its own way and is not subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority (well, it IS Texas).

    2) we don’t want to pay. For years, the focus has been on little else but getting costs down, with the result that the system does not have up-to-date equipment, the spare parts, the cyber-security research, or other programs, processes, or institutional capabilities we need.

    3) most critically, in terms of overall coordinated grid security policy, nobody is in charge and has authority, either for security issues, or post-disaster response. Consider this comment from the NAS concerning the need to upgrade the nation’s transmission system: “The new operating standards being prepared by the electric utility industry and its reliability organization under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPASct) will help, but EPAct doesn’t directly grant authority to order upgrades in the physical system.This issue was highlighted as a policy seven years ago. But nobody had authority, so little gets done

    With respect to recovery, reports coming out right after Sandy’s impact describe a Tower of Babel in the first days, with multiple agencies trying to decide who had jurisdiction over what. Nobody had clear accountability for the whole thing, or a bird’s eye view of the issues. And that’s a huge problem.

    This is not an argument for a government take-over. The private sector can do a better job and more efficiently. But it probably makes sense for a single body to have oversight concerning these issues. If the Obama administration does one thing in its second term with respect to the electric power grid, it would be this: we must quickly develop – at the federal level – the responsibility and authority for oversight relating to power grid security, reliability, and resiliency. The good news is that the NAS outlines a number of solutions to address and mitigate these vulnerabilities, including stockpiling of strategic inventories, development of meaningful policies, building institutional capabilities, and critical research. There is much that can be done to minimize the danger. The bad news is, there is nobody yet in charge. That must change soon, and we cannot wait. There is too much at stake.


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    Last edited by JRT; 19 Nov 12, at 17:03.
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    Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack


    The EMP Commission was established pursuant to title XIV of the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (as enacted into law by Public Law 106-398; 114 Stat. 1654A-345). Duties of the EMP Commission include assessing:

    1.) the nature and magnitude of potential high-altitude EMP threats to the United States from all potentially hostile states or non-state actors that have or could acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles enabling them to perform a high-altitude EMP attack against the United States within the next 15 years;

    2.) the vulnerability of United States military and especially civilian systems to an EMP attack, giving special attention to vulnerability of the civilian infrastructure as a matter of emergency preparedness;

    3.) the capability of the United States to repair and recover from damage inflicted on United States military and civilian systems by an EMP attack; and

    4.) the feasibility and cost of hardening select military and civilian systems against EMP attack.
    The Commission is charged with identifying any steps it believes should be taken by the United States to better protect its military and civilian systems from EMP attack.

    Multiple reports and briefings associated with this effort have been produced by the EMP Commission including an Executive Report (PDF, 578KB) and a Critical National Infrastructures Report (PDF, 7MB) describing findings and recommendations.

    The EMP Commission was reestablished via the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 to continue its efforts to monitor, investigate, make recommendations, and report to Congress on the evolving threat to the United States from electromagnetic pulse attack resulting from the detonation of a nuclear weapon or weapons at high altitude.


    Commission Members:
    Dr. William R. Graham, Chair
    Dr. John S. Foster, Jr.
    Mr. Earl Gjelde
    Dr. Robert J. Hermann
    Mr. Henry (Hank) M. Kluepfel
    Gen Richard L. Lawson, USAF (Ret.)
    Dr. Gordon K. Soper
    Dr. Lowell L. Wood, Jr.
    Dr. Joan B. Woodard

    Commission Staff:
    Dr. Michael J. Frankel, Executive Director

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    A Cuban Missile Crisis for Today?

    By Hank Cooper | National Review Online
    October 22, 2012 4:00 A.M.

    Fifty years ago, I was a young Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer on the heels of celebrating with our development team the deployment of Telstar, the first telecommunications satellite — and also a grad student at New York University. I vividly remember the evening of October 22, 1962, watching a student-union black-and-white TV broadcast of President John F. Kennedy’s address to the nation. The president announced that the Soviet Union was deploying nuclear weapons in Cuba, only 90 miles from our Florida coast — and the actions that the United States was taking in response. (For the unedited broadcast, see this.)

    For the rest of the Cuban Missile Crisis’s fateful 13 days (which were already at midstream), we and all Americans reviewed our “duck and cover” preparations for what seemed to be a looming holocaust. Kennedy declared the highest nuclear alert short of launch, DEFCON 2, which, among other things, may have involved plans to deploy NATO aircraft (among others) to bomb Soviet targets. We now know from Soviet records of those fateful events, publicly released in the early 1990s, that we were even closer to that brink than we then realized.

    Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s promise to President Kennedy on October 28 that he would cease deploying nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba ended the crisis and the blockade. But unknown for decades was that 100 smaller Soviet nuclear warheads were already in Cuba, and Fidel Castro wanted to keep them. Had he prevailed, Cuba would have become a nuclear power. And if Kennedy had known that Khrushchev had all but lied on October 28, the U.S. might have undertaken an all-out invasion of the island, triggering a holocaust. Happily, these weapons were also removed by the end of 1962.

    Among the lessons of these events, which many consider the closest we came to a nuclear exchange during the Cold War, is that our intelligence community can be badly informed. Our technical capabilities for gathering information are much improved since a half-century ago, but this lesson remains true — even regarding the possibility of a renewed threat to the United States of a nuclear attack from the south, courtesy not of the Russians but of Iran.

    Indeed, even as Israel seems sure that Iran will not gain a nuclear-weapons capability in the next few months, others doubt that we really know Iran’s capabilities so precisely — and they warn that Iran could pose an imminent threat not only to Israel but also to the United States.

    For example, Reza Kahlili is a counterterrorism expert who served in the CIA’s directorate of operations as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and currently serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board authorized by Congress. He warns of an October surprise that could affect our upcoming election. Last year, he noted that when Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it will already have the tested ballistic-missile capability needed to launch it from a ship off our coasts, including from the Gulf of Mexico.

    So we potentially could again be rudely awakened by a nuclear attack from a few miles off our coasts. As I have previously argued, this is an existential threat, because the associated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a high-altitude nuclear burst could lead to the ultimate death of two-thirds or more of all Americans, as reported to Congress by the congressionally mandated EMP Commission.

    Thus, we could, in the near future, confront a modern Cuban Missile Crisis — produced by the threat of a nuclear attack either from a ship off our coasts or from Venezuela, which Iran is supporting with important technology and know-how. We are totally vulnerable to this threat.

    While our missile-defense site in Alaska provides a limited defense against long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) launched from Iran, it is totally ineffective against this threat from the sea or from Venezuela. An additional East Coast site, as advocated by some in Congress, is a worthy objective to improve our defense against Iranian ICBMs, but it would not end our total vulnerability to Iranian missiles launched from ships off our coasts.

    We should end this vulnerability by deploying the Navy’s Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptor and an associated radar and command-and-control system at several military bases around the Gulf of Mexico. This would be a homeland-defense version of the Aegis Ashore component of the U.S. program for building comparable capabilities in Central Europe. (Aegis Ashore is essentially a land-based version of the ballistic-missile-defense system currently based on 24 or so Aegis ships.)

    The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency is developing a prototype of the needed Aegis Ashore infrastructure — and, once developed, the capability probably can be deployed more quickly at Gulf of Mexico coastal sites than it can in Central Europe. Given the defense footprint of the current SM-3 interceptor, only three or four sites would be needed. Planned and funded improvements of the SM-3 will double the defensive footprint, so that as few as two sites may be sufficient to provide the same defensive coverage.

    Last summer, I briefed the Jackson County, Mississippi, board of supervisors on these issues, and I know they would welcome placement of the first site at Pascagoula, which is where our Aegis Cruisers are built. Other potential locations include Corpus Christi, Texas; Tyndall or Eglin Air Force Bases, in the Florida panhandle; and McDill Air Force Base, in Tampa. Congress would do well to initiate the planning for such an initiative at these and other potential military bases around the Gulf of Mexico, while debating the fate of “sequester.”

    This is an urgent matter.

    Whatever the uncertainties in 1962, President Kennedy knew he was dealing with an adversary that could be deterred from carrying out an existential threat to America. Today we confront an Iranian regime that is dedicated to destroying the “Great Satan,” America — and may even seek an “end times” catastrophe to hasten the “return of the Mahdi.”

    It is not at all clear that they can be deterred. Indeed, many of their actions — and words — suggest that they are quite prepared to commit suicide to kill a multitude of Americans and destroy all we hold dear. We dare not respond with defenses needed to protect America.

    A quick fix to our current vulnerability to this near-term threat is necessary, but not sufficient. Also needed is a comprehensive, increasingly robust missile-defense system to defend all Americans and our overseas troops, friends, and allies from the likely greater numbers of more capable future ballistic missiles.

    — Henry F. Cooper was ambassador and chief U.S. negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union (1985–89) and director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (1990–93).

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    CNN Fact Check: Iran and the Bomb
    By Matt Smith, CNN
    updated 8:16 AM EDT, Fri October 12, 2012

    (CNN) -- Fears of a possibly nuclear-armed Iran took center stage early in Thursday night's vice presidential debate between incumbent Democrat Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, Paul Ryan.

    "When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material, nuclear material, to make one bomb. Now they have enough to make five," Ryan said. "They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability."

    The Wisconsin congressman said Iran's progress has sped along "because this administration has no credibility on this issue."

    Biden hit back by criticizing what he called "bluster" and "loose talk" about the issue, saying international sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy and that U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran is "a good way away" from getting the bomb.

    The facts:

    Iran has greatly expanded its ability to produce nuclear fuel in the past four years, revealing a second uranium enrichment plant in 2009 and continuing to defy U.N. demands that it halt work until questions about its intentions are resolved.

    A bit of tech talk here: About three-quarters of 1% of naturally occurring uranium is uranium-235, the radioactive isotope used to produce a nuclear reaction. To produce fuel for nuclear power plants, that concentration has to be increased to 3 to 5%, while research reactors use fuel with a U-235 concentration of about 20%. To make a nuclear weapon, that concentration has to be increased to more than 90%.

    As of May, Iran had produced about 6,200 kilograms (13,640 pounds) of power plant-grade uranium and 146 kilograms (320 pounds) of fuel at 20% concentration, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

    Based on those figures, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, estimated that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for five nuclear bombs. The organization, led by former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, says Iran could build a crude bomb with 20-25 kg (44-55 pounds) of highly enriched uranium.

    However, it would take Iran more than two months to produce that amount if it started with 20%-grade uranium, and "several months" to make enough for a bomb using low-enriched uranium. That would give the world community enough time to detect the operation and organize a response, ISIS noted in June.

    And there's more to building a bomb than just having the uranium, as Biden noted. ISIS estimated last week, that Iran would need "many additional months" to develop a device that could be tested "and even longer to make a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile."

    Iran has denied conducting any nuclear weapons research, insisting its nuclear program is for civilian purposes. The IAEA has verified that Iran has not diverted any of its declared uranium stock, but cautions that Iran "is not providing the necessary cooperation" to verify that all nuclear work is peaceful.

    Israel has accused Iran of working toward a nuclear weapon, raising concerns that it could launch a preventive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel is believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, but has never disclosed whether it has the bomb -- and Iran has accused Israel and the United States of trying to sabotage its nuclear facilities.

    As for the United States, American intelligence agencies believe Iran "is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons" but has not made the decision to build a bomb, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee in January.

    Conclusion: According to at least one widely circulated estimate, Iran could produce enough uranium for five bombs, as Ryan says. But the same estimate notes that it would draw attention if it did so, and that's only part of the work necessary to make a weapon.

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    Electromagnetic pulse impact far and wide
    By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

    Modern society relies on technologies vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse effects that, if strong enough, can induce currents that burn out wires and circuits.

    The sky erupts. Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses.
    End-of-the-world novel? A video game? Or could such a scenario loom in America's future?

    There is talk of catastrophe ahead, depending on whom you believe, because of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse triggered by either a supersized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life.

    Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) are oversized outbursts of atmospheric electricity. Whether powered by geomagnetic storms or by nuclear blasts, their resultant intense magnetic fields can induce ground currents strong enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment across state lines.

    The threat has even become political fodder, drawing warnings from former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a likely presidential contender.

    "We are not today hardened against this," he told a Heritage Foundation audience last year. "It is an enormous catastrophic threat."

    Meanwhile, in Congress, a "Grid Act" bill aimed at the threat awaits Senate action, having passed in the House of Representatives.

    Fear is evident. With the sun's 11-year solar cycle ramping up for its stormy maximum in 2012, and nuclear concerns swirling about Iran and North Korea, a drumbeat of reports and blue-ribbon panels center on electromagnetic pulse scenarios.

    "We're taking this seriously," says Ed Legge of the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, which represents utilities. He points to a North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) report in June, conducted with the Energy Department, that found pulse threats to the grid "may be much greater than anticipated."

    There are "some important reasons for concern," says physicist Yousaf Butt of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "But there is also a lot of fluff."

    At risk are the more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that cross North America, supplying 1,800 utilities the power for TVs, lights, refrigerators and air conditioners in homes, and for the businesses, hospitals and police stations that take care of us all.

    "The electric grid's vulnerability to cyber and to other attacks is one of the single greatest threats to our national security," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in June as he introduced the bill to the House of Representatives.

    Markey and others point to the August 2003 blackout that struck states from Michigan to Massachusetts, and southeastern Canada, as a sign of the grid's vulnerability. Triggered by high-voltage lines stretched by heat until they sagged onto overgrown tree branches, the two-day blackout shut down 100 power plants, cut juice to about 55 million people and cost $6 billion, says the 2004 U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force.

    Despite the costs, most of them from lost work, a National Center for Environmental Health report in 2005 found "minimal" death or injuries tied directly to the 2003 blackout — a few people died in carbon monoxide poisonings as a result of generators running in their homes or from fires started from candles. But the effects were pervasive: Television and radio stations went off the air in Detroit, traffic lights and train lines stopped running in New York, turning Manhattan into the world's largest pedestrian mall, and water had to be boiled after water mains lost pressure in Cleveland.

    Simple physics, big worry

    The electromagnetic pulse threat is a function of simple physics: Electromagnetic pulses and geomagnetic storms can alter Earth's magnetic field. Changing magnetic fields in the atmosphere, in turn, can trigger surging currents in power lines.

    "It is a well-understood phenomenon," says Butt, who this year reviewed geomagnetic and nuke blast worries in The Space Review.

    Two historic incidents often figure in the discussion:

    • On July 9, 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Defense Atomic Support Agency detonated the Starfish Prime, a 1.4-megaton H-bomb test at an altitude of 250 miles, some 900 miles southwest of Hawaii over the Pacific Ocean. The pulse shorted out streetlights in Oahu.

    • On March 9, 1989, the sun spat a million-mile-wide blast of high-temperature charged solar gas straight at the Earth. The "coronal mass ejection" struck the planet three days later, triggering a geomagnetic storm that made the northern lights visible in Texas. The storm also induced currents in Quebec's power grid that knocked out power for 6 million people in Canada and the USA for at least nine hours.

    "A lot of the questions are what steps does it make sense to take," Legge says. "We could effectively gold-plate every component in the system, but the cost would mean that people can't afford the rates that would result to pay for it."

    "The high-altitude nuclear-weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk," concluded a 2008 EMP Commission report headed by William Graham, a former science adviser to President Reagan.

    The terror effect

    In the nuclear scenario, the detonation of an atomic bomb anywhere from 25 to 500 miles high electrifies, or ionizes, the atmosphere about 25 miles up, triggering a series of electromagnetic pulses. The pulse's reach varies with the size of the bomb, the height of its blast and design.

    Gingrich last year cited the EMP Commission report in warning, "One weapon of this kind that went off over Omaha would eliminate most of the electrical production in the United States."

    But some take issue with that.

    "You would really need something the size of a Soviet H-bomb to have effects that cross many states," Butt says. The massive Starfish Prime blast, he notes, was at least 70 times more powerful than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945, and it may have blown out streetlights but it left the grid in Hawaii intact.

    One complication for rogue nations or terrorists contemplating a high-altitude nuclear blast is that such an attack requires a missile to take the weapon at least 25 miles high to trigger the electromagnetic pulse. For nations, such a launch would invite massive nuclear retaliation from the USA's current stockpile of 5,000 warheads, many of them riding in submarines far from any pulse effects.

    Any nation giving a terror group an atomic weapon and missile would face retaliation, Butt and others note, as nuclear forensics capabilities at the U.S. national labs would quickly trace the origins of the bomb, Butt says. "It would be suicide."

    Super solar storm

    On the solar front, the big fear is a solar super storm, a large, fast, coronal mass ejection with a magnetic field that lines up with an orientation perfectly opposite the Earth's own magnetic field, says solar physicist Bruce Tsurutani of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

    Tsuritani and other solar physicists view such an event as inevitable in the next 10 to 100 years.

    "It has to be the perfect storm," Tsuratani says.

    "We are almost guaranteed a very large solar storm at some point, but we are talking about a risk over decades," Butt says. Three power grids gird the continental U.S. — one crossing 39 Eastern states, one for 11 Western states and one for Texas.

    Solutions?

    In June, national security analyst Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists described congressional debate over power-grid security as "a somewhat jarring mix of prudent anticipation and extravagant doomsday warnings."

    Although the physics underlying the geomagnetic and nuclear pulses are fundamentally the same, they have different solutions. A geomagnetic storm essentially produces a long-building surge dangerous to power lines and large transformers. A nuclear blast produces three waves of pulses.

    Limiting the risk from the geomagnetic-storm-type threat involves stockpiling large transformers and installing dampers, essentially lightning rods, to dump surges into the ground from the grid. Even if such steps cost billions, the numbers come out looking reasonable compared with the $119 billion that a 2005 Electric Power Research Institute report estimated was the total nationwide cost of normal blackouts every year.

    "EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences," Graham testified to a congressional committee last year, endorsing such mitigation steps.

    Stephen Younger, former head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, last year argued against the catastrophic scenarios in his book, The Bomb, suggesting the effects of a pulse would be more random, temporary and limited than Graham and others suggest.

    The June NERC report essentially calls for more study of the problem, warning of excessive costs to harden too much equipment against the nuclear risk. "If there are nuclear bombs exploding, we have lots of really, really big problems besides the power grid," Legge says.

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    Reading this stuff makes me want to go buy a generator and a few cases of MRE's!

    I live in mid-America, immune to hurricanes and the like, but disruptions to the grid are possible. I do have a 200 gallon propane tank buried in back that could provide heat and cooking for months, if necessary.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    Reading this stuff makes me want to go buy a generator and a few cases of MRE's!

    I live in mid-America, immune to hurricanes and the like, but disruptions to the grid are possible. I do have a 200 gallon propane tank buried in back that could provide heat and cooking for months, if necessary.
    Within a few hundred miles straight line distance from an EMP generating nuclear blast, most anything with an electronic controller would no longer work (power grids, pipelines, generators, well pumps, refrigerators, modern vehicles, filling station pumps, radios, telephones, etc.). One well placed event could have catastrophic effect. The probability of that happening is very low. But I think that the downside effects are extensive enough that EMP should no longer be ignored in the design of new systems.
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    North Korea has put a satellite into orbit. An article quoted below mentions that, "...the satellite was expected to be placed in orbit at an altitude of about 500 km. Initial tracking information shows that the satellite is in an orbit of 494 km x 588 km, with an inclination of 97.4 degrees...".

    500 km = ~311 miles

    In one of the quoted articles up-thread it was mentioned that, "In the nuclear scenario, the detonation of an atomic bomb anywhere from 25 to 500 miles high electrifies, or ionizes, the atmosphere about 25 miles up, triggering a series of electromagnetic pulses. The pulse's reach varies with the size of the bomb, the height of its blast and design."



    NORAD acknowledges missile launch

    NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs
    December 11, 2012

    PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. EST. The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America.

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    North Korea Successfully Launches a Satellite

    David Wright, co-director and senior scientist
    December 12, 2012
    Union of Concerned Scientists

    After extending its launch window by a week—leading the world to believe technical problems would postpone the launch—North Korea last night conducted its second satellite-launch attempt of 2012 and successfully placed an object in orbit.

    The launch was essentially a repeat of April’s launch, using the same launcher, satellite, and trajectory. Based on the previous launch, the satellite was expected to be placed in orbit at an altitude of about 500 km. Initial tracking information shows that the satellite is in an orbit of 494 km x 588 km, with an inclination of 97.4 degrees, putting it in a sun-synchronous orbit. The satellite is not thought to be very capable, but will give North Korea experience communicating with it and downloading low-resolution images.

    This appears to have been Pyongyang’s fifth launch attempt. The first was in August 1998 with the three-stage Taepodong 1 launcher, which used a version of the Nodong missile as a first stage. In that case, all three stages ignited but the third stage apparently went out of control and disintegrated before reaching orbit.

    The July 2006 launch failed less than 40 seconds after launch, and there remains some question about whether it was intended to be a satellite launch or a missile launch. It is believed to have used a much bigger rocket than in 1998, with a first stage powered by four Nodong engines—a configuration that has been used since then.

    In the April 2009 launch, the first two stages appeared to work but not the third. This rocket was launched on a path that carried it east over Japan, which cause international outcry. The April 2012 attempt was instead launched south from a new launch site on the western coast of the country, following a path similar to that of South Korean launches. That attempt had problems with the first stage and apparently the second stage did not ignite.

    From past launches, we knew that North Korea has been able to build or buy working components for a rocket. The main difficulty is getting all the parts to work together and at the same time, given the enormous complexity of rockets. Even with this success, North Korea has no confidence in the reliability of the rocket, which undermines its utility for military purposes. Politically, however, the launch will very likely have an impact on the way other countries view North Korea. And the fact that the North beat South Korea into orbit will be point of pride, and is quite an achievement.

    One interesting question is whether North Korea really had last-minute technical problems that it managed to fix, or whether it orchestrated a campaign to fool those watching the launch. On December 10, the Korean Central News Agency released a statement saying that scientists “found technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket carrying the satellite and decided to extend the satellite launch period up to Dec. 29 [from Dec. 22].” A South Korean news story the next day reported that the rocket had been covered with a “camouflage net;” if true, that may have led to press stories that the rocket had been removed from the launch pad to be repaired. It’s possible this was intended to reduce the number of monitoring sensors that were deployed by the U.S., Japan, and South Korea to collect information about the launch.


    About the author: Dr. Wright received his PhD in physics from Cornell University in 1983, and worked for five years as a research physicist. He was an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow in International Peace and Security in the Center for Science and International Affairs in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Senior Analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. He is a Fellow of the American Physics Society (APS) and a recipient of APS Joseph A. Burton Forum Award in 2001. He has been at UCS since 1992. Areas of expertise: Space weapons and security, ballistic missile proliferation, ballistic missile defense, U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy.

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    I'm not overly concerned (for now, at least) over NK rockets. It's one thing to put a 50 kilo satellite in orbit, another entirely to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, mount it on a rocket, and have everything work correctly.

    First gen nukes by any country tend to be pretty massive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    I'm not overly concerned (for now, at least) over NK rockets. It's one thing to put a 50 kilo satellite in orbit, another entirely to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, mount it on a rocket, and have everything work correctly.

    First gen nukes by any country tend to be pretty massive.
    I also don't think NK has the capability today.

    But what is it that they are working toward? I would put EMP weapon on the short list of the more probable among the possibilities.

    And couldn't they clear some development hurdles by hiring some experts?

    A lot can happen in a decade.
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    Their EMP wouldn't touch our boomer subs, which would then proceed to lay waste, turn to slag, much of NK.

    If they are that insane, then there's nothing we can do except wait and watch, and perhaps act upon solid, verified intel. The B2 comes to mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    I'm not overly concerned (for now, at least) over NK rockets.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    If they are that insane...
    The article below has an interesting perspective on NK.

    North Korea's Race Problem

    What I learned in eight years reading propaganda from inside the Hermit Kingdom.

    BY B.R. MYERS
    MARCH/APRIL 2010
    Foreign Policy

    America talks the talk; Pyongyang walks the walk. At least according to Kim Jong Il's domestic propaganda machine. In countless posters displayed in city centers, North Korean resolve is contrasted with American spinelessness. "If we say we do something, we do it," a towering Korean People's Army soldier shouts in one poster as he slams his clenched fist down on the continental United States. "We don't utter empty words!" Other posters depict North Korean fighter planes and missiles destroying the U.S. Capitol while helpless American soldiers, mere spindly, insectlike creatures, are hoisted effortlessly on bayonets or squashed under missiles.

    Such violent imagery isn't confined to posters. Even North Korean math textbooks draw on the vocabulary of military might: "Three People's Army soldiers rubbed out thirty American bastards. What was the ratio of the soldiers who fought?" Dictionaries and schoolbooks encourage North Korean citizens to speak of foreigners as beasts with "muzzles," "snouts," and "paws," who "croak" instead of dying. In a chilling illustration from a recent North Korean art magazine, a child with a toy machine gun stands before a battered snowman; the caption reads, "The American bastard I killed."

    This triumphalism might seem irrational in view of North Korea's small size and obsolete military hardware. But according to the country's propaganda, the pure-bloodedness and homogeneity of the Korean race make the North's army a uniquely tight-knit and formidable fighting force. This way of thinking reflects an official ideology that many outsiders misperceive as communist but in reality belongs on the far right and not the far left of the ideological spectrum. No, I'm not referring to the pseudo-doctrine of North Korean "Juche" thought, a mishmash of humanist bromides (such as "man is the master of all things") that has never had the slightest effect on policymaking. I'm referring to the ideology that the Juche smokescreen is meant to hide from the outside world: a paranoid nationalism that has informed the regime's actions since the late 1940s.

    This worldview is not set out, at least not straightforwardly, in the writings of North Korea's father-and-son dictators, which are more often praised than read. Yet it informs all of the country's mass propaganda, most of which can easily be accessed at the North Korea Resource Center in Seoul. This material is varied in form if not in content: Over eight years, I've examined everything from nightly news reports and television dramas to animated cartoons and war movies; from the glossy-papered Rodong Sinmun, the Workers' Party organ, to women's magazines printed on gray, low-quality paper; from short stories and historical novels to dictionaries and school textbooks (these last printed, semi-legibly, on the worst paper of all); from reproductions of wall posters to photographs of monuments and statues. There is no way of knowing how much of this material is produced every year, but so significant is the propaganda apparatus that it was one of the few North Korean institutions that did not miss a beat even during the catastrophic famine of the 1990s.

    North Korea's ideology is not merely a nationalist-tinged communism of the old Yugoslav variety. It is a race-based worldview utterly at odds with the teachings of Marx and Lenin. And yet, the outside world continues in the illusion that North Korea is a hard-line Stalinist state. True, the nation's first leader, Kim Il Sung, was installed by Soviet occupiers after World War II. It is also true that the personality cult of Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il bears superficial resemblance to the cults of Stalin and Mao. Yet look closer, and it's clear just how different North Korean ideology is. Not for nothing was the country almost as isolated during Soviet times as it is now in the post-communist world.

    North Korea's race-centric ideology was inspired by that of the fascist Japanese who ruled the peninsula from 1910 until the end of World War II. Having been taught by their colonizers to regard themselves as part of a superior Yamato race, the North Koreans in 1945 simply carried on the same mythmaking in a Koreanized form. This can be summarized in a single sentence: The Korean people are too pure-blooded, and so too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader. This paranoid nationalism might sound crude and puerile, but it is only in this ideological context that the country's distinguishing characteristics, which the outside world has long found so baffling, make perfect sense. Up close, North Korea is not Stalinist -- it's simply racist.

    The celebration of racial purity and homogeneity is everywhere in North Korea. The citizens pictured on the country's new currency, for example, could pass for members of the same family, which in a sense they are. A worker in one painting appears much like a farmer or soldier in another, while the children pictured in schoolbooks are downright identical. White is the dominant color in Pyongyang: White concrete plazas, white or at least blond-stoned buildings, and white statues of virginal maidens in long gowns abound. Pyongyang is often photographed or depicted under snow, a favored symbol of purity itself. "Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance," a North Korean general told his South Korean counterpart during a 2006 meeting to discuss realignment of the maritime border between the two states. "Since ancient times our lands have been one of abundant natural beauty," he said. "Not even one drop of ink must be allowed."

    North Korea has often been called "solipsistic," but strong racial pride always entails intense awareness of an inferior other. For the North Koreans, foreigners are inferior -- even the friendly ones. Typical is a panoramic painting of a procession of exultant tourists during 1989's Pyongyang World Festival of Youth and Students. In whatever direction they happen to be looking, their faces are partly obscured by a sinister shadow. A fat Caucasian woman wears a low-cut blouse, while a few African women appear in halter tops; in Pyongyang today, such clothing is considered indecent. Here and there, unsavory-looking men sport long sideburns and denim, more signs of Western decadence. The only well-groomed and attractive person in view, and the only one whose face is evenly lit, is the Korean guide -- an innocent young girl, naturally -- who leads the way in traditional dress.

    Although popular imagery strongly implies that all foreigners are morally inferior, and occasionally criticizes the Jews' influence on world affairs, it subjects the Japanese and Americans to the worst routine vituperation. Like the "Japs," the former occupiers, the Yankees are condemned as an inherently evil race that can never change, a race with which Koreans must forever be on hostile terms.

    Even the Soviet Union, for all its decades of patronage, is remembered with more contempt than fondness. In Eternal Life, a 1997 historical novel, Nikita Khrushchev is called a "traitor," one of the "fake communists" who betrayed world socialism. In the same book, Kim Il Sung chuckles about how he learned Soviet secrets by getting Leonid Brezhnev drunk. History books rarely mention the Soviet Union's demise without sneering about how it went down "without firing a shot."

    The Korean War predictably occupies a central place in anti-foreigner propaganda, but this tends to focus less on the U.S. Air Force's extensive bombing campaign (which is hard to reconcile with the myth of a protective leader) than on isolated village massacres and other purported outrages. The killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Sinchon in October 1950, which was actually perpetrated by Korean rightists, is held up as the Yankees' most heinous crime. The Americans are held responsible for the nation's current economic woes as well. Last June, the nightly news in Pyongyang constantly intoned that the Yankees are "the cause of all our people's misfortune."

    What is especially significant and perhaps unique about North Korean nationalism is its emphasis on the vulnerability of the race. Whereas World War II-era Japan's racialized worldview equated virtue with strength, the North Koreans are taught that their virtue has rendered them as vulnerable as children in an evil world -- unless they are protected by a great leader who keeps a watchful eye on military readiness.

    Unfortunately for the United States, there is no place in this for any improvement in relations between the two countries. Were Kim Jong Il to abandon his ideology of paranoid, race-based nationalism and normalize relations with Washington, his personality cult would lose all justification, while his impoverished country would lose all reason to exist as a separate Korean state. The problem for U.S. negotiators is therefore not one of sticks versus carrots; the regime in Pyongyang will neither be bullied nor sweet-talked into committing political suicide. Nor, to dispel an increasingly popular pipe dream, can Washington expect the Chinese to make the North Koreans commit political suicide. If you want to know why there's no possibility of a deal, you can read all about it -- in Kim's own propaganda.

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    JRT
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    Their EMP wouldn't touch our boomer subs, which would then proceed to lay waste, turn to slag, much of NK.

    If they are that insane, then there's nothing we can do except wait and watch, and perhaps act upon solid, verified intel. The B2 comes to mind.
    No need for it to go to that. If critical infrastructure was less vulnerable, nobody would make the attempt. So it can be avoided by making critical infrastructure less vulnerable, as it should be.

    The same systems are similarly vulnerable to natural events. There was a geomagnetic storm in 1859 (see below) that had a small effect only because the current vulnerabilities didn't exist back then. When (not if) a storm like that happens again, the outcome will depend very much on whether or not the current vulnerabilities have been corrected.

    A difference is that there is some possibility of earlier warning with some natural events, that might not be the case with an effective sneak attack. And an EMP weapon might produce a higher intensity event than what might reasonably be expected from Nature. But hardening various systems against those natural events would also harden them against attack from an aggressor. Doing so would also reduce the probability that anyone would work toward developing EMP weapons.

    Its a problem that should not exist, but it does exist, and too little is being done to fix it.


    Getting Ready for the Next Big Solar Storm

    June 21, 2011
    Science at NASA | Headline News

    In Sept. 1859, on the eve of a below-average solar cycle, the sun unleashed one of the most powerful storms in centuries. The underlying flare was so unusual, researchers still aren't sure how to categorize it. The blast peppered Earth with the most energetic protons in half-a-millennium, induced electrical currents that set telegraph offices on fire, and sparked Northern Lights over Cuba and Hawaii.

    This week, officials have gathered at the National Press Club in Washington DC to ask themselves a simple question: What if it happens again?

    "A similar storm today might knock us for a loop," says Lika Guhathakurta, a solar physicist at NASA headquarters. "Modern society depends on high-tech systems such as smart power grids, GPS, and satellite communications--all of which are vulnerable to solar storms."

    She and more than a hundred others are attending the fifth annual Space Weather Enterprise Forum—"SWEF" for short. The purpose of SWEF is to raise awareness of space weather and its effects on society especially among policy makers and emergency responders. Attendees come from the US Congress, FEMA, power companies, the United Nations, NASA, NOAA and more.

    As 2011 unfolds, the sun is once again on the eve of a below-average solar cycle—at least that’s what forecasters are saying. The "Carrington event" of 1859 (named after astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the instigating flare) reminds us that strong storms can occur even when the underlying cycle is nominally weak.

    In 1859 the worst-case scenario was a day or two without telegraph messages and a lot of puzzled sky watchers on tropical islands.

    In 2011 the situation would be more serious. An avalanche of blackouts carried across continents by long-distance power lines could last for weeks to months as engineers struggle to repair damaged transformers. Planes and ships couldn’t trust GPS units for navigation. Banking and financial networks might go offline, disrupting commerce in a way unique to the Information Age. According to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, a century-class solar storm could have the economic impact of 20 hurricane Katrinas.

    As policy makers meet to learn about this menace, NASA researchers a few miles away are actually doing something about it:

    "We can now track the progress of solar storms in 3 dimensions as the storms bear down on Earth," says Michael Hesse, chief of the GSFC Space Weather Lab and a speaker at the forum. "This sets the stage for actionable space weather alerts that could preserve power grids and other high-tech assets during extreme periods of solar activity."

    They do it using data from a fleet of NASA spacecraft surrounding the sun. Analysts at the lab feed the information into a bank of supercomputers for processing. Within hours of a major eruption, the computers spit out a 3D movie showing where the storm will go, which planets and spacecraft it will hit, and predicting when the impacts will occur. This kind of "interplanetary forecast" is unprecedented in the short history of space weather forecasting.

    "This is a really exciting time to work as a space weather forecaster," says Antti Pulkkinen, a researcher at the Space Weather Lab. "The emergence of serious physics-based space weather models is putting us in a position to predict if something major will happen."

    Some of the computer models are so sophisticated, they can even predict electrical currents flowing in the soil of Earth when a solar storm strikes. These currents are what do the most damage to power transformers. An experimental project named "Solar Shield" led by Pulkkinen aims to pinpoint transformers in greatest danger of failure during any particular storm.

    "Disconnecting a specific transformer for a few hours could forestall weeks of regional blackouts," says Pulkkinen.

    Another SWEF speaker, John Allen of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate, pointed out that while people from all walks of life can be affected by space weather, no one is out on the front lines quite like astronauts.

    "Astronauts are routinely exposed to four times as much radiation as industrial radiation workers on Earth," he says. "It's a serious occupational hazard."

    NASA keeps careful track of each astronaut's accumulated dosage throughout their careers. Every launch, every space walk, every solar flare is carefully accounted for. If an astronaut gets too close to the limits ... he or she might not be allowed out of the space station! Accurate space weather alerts can help keep these exposures under control by, e.g., postponing spacewalks when flares are likely.

    Speaking at the forum, Allen called for a new kind of forecast: "We could use All Clear alerts. In addition to knowing when it's dangerous to go outside, we'd also like to know when it's safe. This is another frontier for forecasters--not only telling us when a sunspot will erupt, but also when it won't."

    The educational mission of SWEF is key to storm preparedness. As Lika Guhathakurta and colleague Dan Baker of the University of Colorado asked in a June 17th New York Times op-ed: "What good are space weather alerts if people don’t understand them and won’t react to them?"

    By spreading the word, SWEF will help.

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