The electromagnetic pulse EMP Threat: House of Representatives hearing 2005

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Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Some notable statements from the hearing:

George Baker, Professor Emeritus, James Madison University:

  • I’ve been to some EMP meetings in Britain, where they actually are protecting their grid. I heard a member of Parliament say it’s 3 days to total anarchy once you lose the electricity.
  • “The long-term term effects without the electric power grid, we’re talking about certainly within a year, you would lose at least half the American population. I have seen estimates as high as 90% of the American population would be at risk over a projected 1-year period”.
  • “Although EMP does not affect every system, widespread failure of limited numbers of systems will cause large-scale cascading failures of critical infrastructure systems and system networks because of the interdependencies among the failed subsystems and the interlinked electrical/electronic systems not directly affected by the EMP”

PETER VINCENT PRY, Executive Director, Task force on National and Homeland Security:

  • What we must understand about the threat is that it is not merely theoretical, it is a real [asymmetrical] threat. The military doctrines of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran call for a Blitzkrieg combining nuclear weapons, cyber-attack, and physical sabotage.  Failed states like Iran or North Korea [or terrorists] could theoretically defeat and destroy a highly advanced society like our own [in such an asymmetric attack].
  • “There are 2,000 extra high voltage transformers that are basically the technological foundation of our electronic civilization. They are vulnerable to EMP. They should be protected. We don’t even make them in this country anymore”.

Mike Caruso, Director of Government and Specialty Business Development ETS-Lindgren.

“It is my sincere belief that we, as a nation will someday, in the not too distant future, face an EMP attack.  I have lectured and given workshops in both South Korea and Israel where they are certain that they will face an EMP attack and they are taking very active steps towards protection. I urge you to consider and pass legislation to address the EMP threat that I believe has been overlooked for far too long”.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

House 114-42. May 13, 2015. The EMP Threat:  the state of preparedness against the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.  House of Representatives. 94 pages.

Ron DeSantis, Florida, Chariman subcommittee on National Security. The state of preparedness against the threat of an electromagnetic pulse is the subject of today’s hearing. An electromagnetic pulse could be created through an attack from a missile, nuclear weapon, radio frequency weapon, or geomagnetic storm caused by the sun. Fallout from an EMP event, either man-made or natural, could be extremely significant ranging from the loss of electrical power for months, which would deplete energy sources of power such as emergency batteries and backup generators have cascading consequences for supplying basic necessities such as food and water, and result in loss of life.

The electrical grid is necessary to support critical infrastructure, supply and distribution of food, water, and fuel, communications, transportation, financial transactions and emergency and government services. Significant damage to the electrical grid during an EMP event would quickly and significantly degrade the supply of these basic necessities.

EMPs can also be caused by solar storms, also referred to as geomagnetic disturbances, which are basically an everyday occurrence, they just doesn’t always hit the Earth. Two significant storms that did enter the earth’s atmosphere occurred in 1859 and 1921, respectively. Given the limited use of electricity in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, the impact on society was relatively minimal. Today however, society depends heavily on a variety of technologies that are vulnerable to the effects of intense solar storms.

Scientists predict that these storms impact the Earth once every 100 to 150 years. So it’s not a question of if, but a question of when.

The occurrence today on an event like the 1921 storm could result in large scale and prolonged blackouts affecting more than 100 million people. The National Academy of Sciences estimates the cost of damage from the most extreme solar weather at $1 to $2 trillion with a recovery time of 4 to 10 years. The cost from even short-term blackouts are significant.

In July of 1977, a blackout in New York that lasted only one day resulted in widespread looting and the breakdown of law through many New York neighborhoods. The blackout cost approximately $346 million and nearly 3,000 people were arrested during a 26-hour period. In August of 2003, more than 200 power plants shut down as a result of the electricity cut off caused by cascading failure. The blackout affected Ohio, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan and parts of Canada. Although relatively short in duration, the blackout’s economic cost was between $7 billion and $10 billion due to food spoilage, lost production, overtime wages and other related costs.

The Department of Defense recently decided to move the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD back inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado because the mountain is EMP hardened and would allow the military to sustain communications and homeland defense operations despite an EMP event.

Not only is the Federal Government still operating under sequestration, but unfortunately, Congress recently passed a budget blueprint that contemplates cutting non-defense spending, including our Homeland Security budget that could be helpful on this issue by nearly $500 billion below sequestration level spending caps.

While government officials, scientists and other experts may disagree on the imminence of Electromagnetic Pulse event, the EMP Commission established by Congress in 2001 to assess the threat of an EMP attack reported that our national electric grid and other U.S. Critical infrastructure could be significantly disrupted by a sudden and high-intensity energy field burst. Now as the chairman noted, this could be large in scale and produced by nuclear explosion, it could also be created through the use of batteries, reactive chemicals and other nonnuclear devices, or be the product of a natural magnetic storm.

Dr. George Baker, Professor Emeritus at James Madison University and CEO of BAYCOR.  I see three reasons why we are not making progress at present on these. The first is there are many misconceptions about EMP and GMD threats.

  • Only major nuclear powers, such as Russia and China with high- yield thermonuclear devices could effectively execute an EMP attack. In fact, low yield devices obtained by emerging nuclear powers such as North Korea and Iran can produce catastrophic EMP effects.
  • A nuclear EMP attack would burn out every exposed electronic system. In fact, based on government tests, we know that smaller self-contained, self-powered systems such as vehicles, handheld radios, disconnected portable generators are often not affected.
  • EMP effects on critical infrastructure will be limited to non-severe, nuisance-type effects. In fact, wide area failure of just a few systems, could cause cascading infrastructure collapse, in highly interconnected networks. One example is the 2003 electric blackout of the northeast was precipitated by a single high-voltage line touching a tree, and then proceeded to cascade to the entire northeast.

So, when you extend this concept to a wide area of failures and infrastructure networks, including the Internet, you can see that EMP is an existential threat that we must take very seriously.

A recent cost study by the Foundation for Resilient Society shows that significant EMP protection could be achieved for an investment in the range of $10 to $30 billion.

But we aren’t making progress because the stakeholders are in a state of denial. Concerns about cost makes stakeholders, the government and the private sector reluctant to admit EMP vulnerabilities. Actions to date have been limited and ineffective. An example is the joint effort of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that is, FERC, and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, that is NERC, to set reliability standards for wide area electromagnetic impacts on the electric grid.

The NERC-developed and FERC-approved standards that we have exclude nuclear EMP, despite the opportunity to protect against both GMD and EMP using the same equipment. NERC standards rely on operational procedures that require no physical protection of the electric grid. The largest measured storms are a factor of 10 higher than their benchmark for protection. A sceptic might suspect that NERC’s main objective was to avert liability rather than to protect the American public.

Another reason we aren’t making progress is there is no one in charge. There’s no single point of responsibility to develop and implement a national protection plan. When I ask NERC officials about EMP protection, they informed me we don’t do EMP, that’s DOD’s responsibility. The Department of Defense tells me, EMP protection for civilian infrastructure is DHS’s responsibility. And then when I talk to DHS, I get answers that the protection should be done by the Department of Energy, since they are the infrastructure’s sector-specific agency. So we have EMP and GMD protection as finger-pointing exercises at present.

PETER VINCENT PRY, Executive Director, Taskforce on National and Homeland Security.

Also see Pry’s full testimony here: The EMP Commission estimates a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill up to 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse

What we must understand about the threat is that it is not merely theoretical, it is a real threat. In the military doctrines of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, they plan to make a nuclear EMP attack against the United States. We have seen North Korea and Iran exercise this, including by launching ballistic missiles off of a freighter at sea, which would enable the possibility of an anonymous EMP attack.

During the nuclear crisis we had with North Korea in 2013, it was the worst nuclear crisis we ever had with Kim Jong Un was threatening to make nuclear missile strikes against the United States in the aftermath of their third illegal nuclear test.  In the midst of that crisis North Korea orbited a satellite over the south pole that passed over the territory of the United States on the optimum trajectory and altitude to both evade our national missile defenses, and, had that been a nuclear warhead, to place an EMP field over all 48 contiguous United States that would have had catastrophic consequences. That was the KSM 3 satellite; that satellite stills passes over us, it’s still in orbit and passes over us with regularity.

Another thing that must be understood is that EMP is part of their military doctrine that they consider a revolution in military affairs, a combined arms operation with cyber-attacks, physical sabotage, nonnuclear EMP weapons, and nuclear EMP weapons all used together and coordinated in a new Blitzkrieg, except one that’s waged in cyberspace to basically bring a civilization down to its knees so that a failed state like an Iran or North Korea could theoretically defeat and destroy a highly advanced society like our own.

This would be unprecedented in history where you would have a situation where a state like Iran or North Korea or even a sub national actor like a terrorist group if they could get hold of that one nuclear bomb and do it in combination with cyber-attacks and physical sabotage to crash our critical infrastructures, especially the electric grid and basically destroy our civilization. But they write about it; they exercise it; they are serious about it. And we actually see this being practiced in real life in some countries back in June of last year while ISIS was sweeping over northern Iraq, al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula blacked out the entire electric grid in the state of Yemen, put 18 cities and 24 million people into the dark.

That is the first time in history that a terrorist group has blacked out a whole country. And it so destabilized Yemen that look what happened to them. They have gone from being a U.S. ally, so now we have lost one of our most important allies in the Middle East already to this kind of an attack.

On January 25, 2016 a terrorist group blacked out 80% of the grid in Pakistan. We don’t know what they are up to, but Pakistan is a nuclear weapons State. So the idea that 80% of the grid could be blocked out in Pakistan for purposes unknown is extremely disturbing.   Was it an attempt to get their hands on nuclear weapons in Pakistan?

About a week before the Washington blackout happened, 80 percent of Turkey was put into blackout by a cyber-attack by Iran. These were not EMP attacks, but they are experiments of the doctrine to combine all these things and we have seen in the case of North Korea and Iran experiments with the nuclear EMP option as well.

The greatest progress we made in this country was when the EMP Commission was around and, you know, with the absence of the Commission, well we have seen that no progress has been made.

And last, the NERC/FERC relationship, I completely agree with Dr. Baker. It’s extremely dysfunctional, it doesn’t work. It needs to be reformed. I’m not sure that you can actually reform those institutions. I would actually advocate abolishing both FERC and NERC and starting with something else, a different kind of institution, something similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that has real regulatory power, and that understands that its stakeholder, its customer is not the electric power industry first, but it’s the American people first. And the responsibility is first not to the profits of the utilities, but it’s to America’s national security.

George Baker, Professor Emeritus, James Madison University, CEO of Baycor.

I’ve been to some EMP meetings in Britain, where they actually are protecting their grid. I heard a member of Parliament say it’s 3 days to total anarchy once you lose the electricity.

Although EMP does not affect every system, widespread failure of limited numbers of systems will cause large-scale cascading failures of critical infrastructure systems and system networks because of the interdependencies among the failed subsystems and the interlinked electrical/electronic systems not directly affected by the EMP.

The electric grid is the foundation for all other infrastructures. DHS has listed 16 critical infrastructure sectors, and the one sector that drives everything else is the electric power. The other thing about the electric power, it is the most critical infrastructure, and yet the most vulnerable to EMP because you measure EMP in volts per meter, so the longer the line, the larger the voltage it will be induced on the line. So it is ironic that our most critical infrastructure is also the most vulnerable, and that’s why we have to be so serious about protecting the grid. But without the electric grid, basic life services: The ability to pump drinking water, the ability to heat and cool our homes

I’ve been to some EMP meetings in Britain, where they actually are protecting their grid. I heard a member of Parliament say it’s 3 days to total anarchy once you lose the electricity.

Although EMP does not affect every system, widespread failure of limited numbers of systems will cause large-scale cascading failures of critical infrastructure systems and system networks because of the interdependencies among the failed subsystems and the interlinked electrical/electronic systems not directly affected by the EMP.

Moreover, for many systems, especially computer controlled machinery and unmanned systems, upset is tantamount to permanent damage ¡V and may cause permanent damage including structural damage in some cases, to systems due to interruption of control. Examples include:

  • Upset of generator controls in electric power plants
  • Upset of robotic machine process controllers in manufacturing plants
  • Lockup (and need for reboot) of long-haul communication repeaters
  • Upset of remote pipeline pressure control SCADA system

 

Mr. DESANTIS. And in terms of the some of the casualties, because people have surmised  that if terrorists can get their hands on a nuclear device, detonate an American city, obviously that would be very devastating. And someone said, yes it would be, but their best bet to do the most damage would be to try to launch it over the country and explode it and create an EMP. And the casualty estimates I’ve seen are really, really high if they were able to cripple our entire electrical grid. Is that your understanding that you are talking about potentially millions of people?

Mr. BAKER. That’s my understanding. The long-term term effects without the electric power grid, we’re talking about certainly within a year, you would lose at least half the American population. I have seen estimates as high as 90 percent of the American population would be at risk over a projected 1-year period.

 

Mike Caruso, Director of Government and Specialty Business Development ETS-Lindgren.

It is my sincere belief that we, as a nation will someday, in the not too distant future, face an EMP attack.

I have lectured and given workshops in both South Korea and Israel where they are certain that they will face an EMP attack and they are taking very active steps towards protection. I urge you to consider and pass legislation to address the EMP threat that I believe has been overlooked for far too long.

In addition to critical infrastructure, I’ve hardened military and government facilities for 32 years.  What’s required to harden a facility is to create a 6-sided electromagnetic shield around the equipment that’s intended to be protected. The six-sided metal shield has to be constructed so it basically has no openings in it except those that are absolutely necessary to have. And all of those openings are technically considered to be points of entry. So you start out by building a six-sided metal box with no openings, and then you start adding openings for things like the electrical power, communications and air exchanges and cooling systems. And all of those points of entries are handled in a very, very special and particular way in order to ensure that you are attenuating any EMP signal that might be broadcast in the atmosphere, but also any signals that are being brought in, conducted on the electrical lines or communication lines. A surge protector on steroids.

Eighteen states have ongoing initiatives to require electric utilities to address the protection of the electrical grid from the dangers of an EMP or a solar storm. Electromagnetic energy from an EMP can disrupt Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems on which the electrical grid relies. The States currently taking a proactive stand are: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. I have recently testified at the Texas State House in support of Bills introduced by State Representative Tan Parker, State Representative Tony Tinderholt and State Senator Bob Hall. Texas is aggressively pursuing passage of EMP Legislation including a State appropriation to get Critical Infrastructure Segments started in the evaluation process. To my knowledge, there are only three Electric Utilities in the U.S. that have taken steps in hardening their Operational Control Centers and Substation Control Buildings. I am prohibited by non-disclosure agreements, from directly identifying their names or locations. However, I can discuss the hardening process and costs of a recently completed facility.

 

Mr. DESANTIS. What percentage of the electrical grid is prepared for an EMP threat?

Mr. CARUSO. Currently, there’s only one control center in the entire country that I’m aware of that is protected.

 

Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts. What we’re saying here is that because of the interconnectivity of our society today, the great reliance and connectivity to the Internet, so much of every aspect of our lives is wired now, that that fact will actually amplify the impact of a EMP event. Is that basically what you’re saying, Mr. Baker?

Mr. BAKER. That’s right.  The only substantive response to the EMP recommendations has been within the Department of Defense, where they are actually providing an annual report to Congress on the steps they are taking to meet the EMP Commission recommendations. But as far as the civilian infrastructure, I’m not aware of any progress.

 

Mr. PRY.  There are 2,000 extra high voltage transformers that are basically the technological foundation of our electronic civilization. They are vulnerable to EMP. They should be protected. We don’t even make them in this country anymore.  The Commission had a rather long list of recommendations, basically a plan that could be implemented to protect the civilian critical infrastructure at affordable cost. It’s not hard to do, the technology isn’t the problem, the money isn’t the problem, it doesn’t cost that much to do it, it’s the politics that has been the problem. As George Baker has said, nobody has responsibility for doing this, those you would think would have responsibility,  such as the Department of Defense, for example. When you talk about it, DOD will say they have no jurisdiction over the civilian critical infrastructure, or that it could be caused by a geomagnetic storm and that’s not their department’s responsibility.  It’s a foreign threats, so that’s the Department of Homeland Security’s job. But DHS will say it is a nuclear weapon, that’s the DOD’s job. In the end, nobody has been in charge.

And then, where it counts the most, there is a very dysfunctional relationship between the NERC, the North American Electric Liability Corporation that represents the 3,000 utilities that is supposed to partner with U.S. FERC in providing for grid security. But the political reality is that that relationship is dysfunctional and it has not resulted in not only in increasing our security where EMP is concerned, but even against tree branch problems, for instance. It took NERC a decade to come up with a vegetation management plan to better manage tree branches so that we won’t have a repeat of the great Northeast Blackout of 2003. They are falling down on job on very pedestrian threats, let alone cyber threats and EMP attacks and the like. It’s just the system isn’t working, and that needs to be fixed by somebody.

CYNTHIA M.  LUMMIS, Wyoming, Chairman of the subcommittee on the Interior.   Dr. Pry [you say] the relationship between NERC and FERC is dysfunctional. You mention the possibility of doing away with both. So if you were dictator for a day, and you could do exactly that, either combine NERC and FERC or do away with them and replace them with something else that would solve the dysfunction you’ve identified, as well as address this electromagnetic pulse issue responsibly, what would that look like?

Mr. PRY. That would look like the kind of relationship that the Federal Aviation Administration has with the airline industry. What I think isn’t understood is that the electric power industry is the only critical infrastructure that still operates basically in something that’s close to a 19th century regulatory environment. The Federal Aviation Administration has the power and has independent inspectors. If they find metal fatigue in the wings of an airline, they can ground that whole fleet and order the airline industry to not fly those planes until they are fixed. When there is a disaster and an airplane crashes, the industry doesn’t get to investigate and figure out what went wrong, not by themselves. It’s the Federal Aviation Administration that drags those things into a hangar. And why do we do that? Because we want an objective actor whose first priority is public safety, because hundreds of lives are at stake when airplanes fly and so we don’t take lightly the lives of the American people when it comes to that. If we go to the Food and Drug Administration or any other industry, I would like that same kind of regulatory relationship with the electric power industry.

Let me describe to you a little bit about what the current regulatory environment is like, because it’s not really what we would consider a regulatory environment. The U.S. FERC does not have the power to tell NERC — the industry — what they shall do to protect the grid. It can order them to come up with a plan and then NERC can take as much time as it likes to come up with a proposed plan. And then if the U.S. FERC has objections that plan, the whole plan has to be scrapped, and the process starts all over again.

That’s why it took 10 years to get a plan for vegetation management so we wouldn’t have a repeat of the great Northeast Blackout of 2003. Industry takes its time dragging its feet and can use the process to escape doing what it’s supposed to do. NERC is supposed to partner with the U.S. FERC in providing for the security of the American people, but it doesn’t.

And I don’t think combining them or keeping the same will work.  There are some good people in these institutions, where George and I have served on NERC’s Geomagnetic Disturbance Task Force.  But while we were there, we saw them engage in junk science, dishonest practices in terms of the science to try to mislead people. In my written testimony, I describe a very disturbing example of where the NERC came up with a hollow standard for the natural EMP created by the sun.  They were dragged, kicking and screaming and resisted for years said that the threat from the sun does not affect the electric grid, which was completely untrue. Eventually they were forced to come up with a standard, but the standard is so low that it doesn’t provide any real protection.

 

BRENDA L. LAWRENCE, MICHIGAN.  This issue is one of great importance to me and to our country. The congressional EMP Commission issued a report in 2008 identifying 16 segments of our infrastructure that could suffer severe damage if not protected. Today, 7 years later, the testimony continues to echo those concerns. Has anything changed since this last report regarding the protection of the grid?

Mr. CARUSO. I don’t believe anything significant has changed.   I have worked with several financial institutions, including insurance companies. I’ve worked with electric utilities and have done some work counseling, the gas and electric industry as well, but other than that, nothing real significant has happened. My recommendation really falls in line with those of Dr. Pry and Dr. Baker in that someone needs to be in charge, and especially as it’s related to the 16 critical infrastructure segments in terms of providing real protection, and at least addressing the issue to ask the question what if, what happens if we lose the electrical power?  I like to use the example of the waste treatment systems. You would not only lose the electrical power, but the control systems that control the wastewater filtration and pumping stations throughout an area. If that goes down in a major city, you have 2 or 3 days before the city is just on its knees.

 

JODY B. HICE, GEORGIA. Dr. Pry, what Federal agency do you believe is best suited to lead a preparedness effort for this? Is it Homeland Security? Is it Energy?

Mr. PRY. I think the Department of Homeland Security, that it naturally falls under their jurisdiction because they’re supposed to be responsible for critical infrastructure protection in the first place.  Since DHS and the Department of Defense are also supposed to have a cooperative relationship when it comes to providing for homeland security, DHS should have the lead, but there’s a lot of expertise in the Department of Defense. And the Department of Defense is also dependent on the civilian critical infrastructure.

 

TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA.  Let’s say an EMP device was exploded over the U.S. What is the geographic area that it would affect? Is it the size of D.C.? Of Maryland? Of Virginia? Smaller? Larger?

Mr. BAKER. A low-yield weapon, if it’s detonated at the optimum altitude would affect a circle with a diameter of 1,200 miles.

Mr. LIEU. And then, based on the way our electrical power grid is constructed in the U.S., could you take power from another part of the country and route it through the affected area?

Mr. BAKER. That would depend upon the size of the circular diameter. It would be difficult to do that because you’re looking at areas that are crossing, you know, State boundaries and the boundaries of the different power companies.  It could be difficult. And we don’t have grid control centers in most cases that span that large of an area.

 

Mr. LIEU.  To harden the United States to a place you think is sufficient, are we talking about $50 million, $50 billion, $500 billion?

Mr. PRY. It depends on how much protection you want to buy.  It’s sort of like asking how much will it cost to buy fire protection for my house. Some plans are very inexpensive. It can be as simple as buying a smoke alarm which would cost you very little. Others might want to put a fire extinguisher in every room and put a sprinkler system in, which is going to cost a lot.

John Kappenman, who was on our commission, had a plan, that would cost $200 million that would protect the 200 most important extra-high-voltage transformers, the ones that service the major metropolitan areas.   John wouldn’t say this was adequate, but would give you a fighting chance of saving millions of people from starving to death, because the transformers would be saved.

The EMP Commission had a more ambitious plan that cost about $2 billion to protect all of the transformers and generators.  It was a much better plan and would give you much greater resiliency and confidence in being able to recover society quickly from an EMP.

George Baker had an even better plan that went beyond that.

It sort of depends on how much do you want to put into prevention. Just like in protecting your house, you can spend more money to protect your house and be safer, or you can decide to spend less money and be less safe.

 

Mr. DUNCAN. I’m glad to hear that some States are taking individual initiatives. I hope that keeps growing.

Mr. PRY. But it is harder to do when NERC claims they’ve adopted a GMD standard and not to worry about it, they’re on top of the problem, which they also say about cyber and things like that, which is not true. And that takes away the incentive for States to protect themselves when NERC convinces them that they are already solving the problem. And I’d like to make one last statement, because you asked if are we getting more vulnerable. We are getting more vulnerable all the time because of the advance of technology.  Just as our semiconductor technology gets better and faster and runs on lower voltages, it becomes more and more vulnerable to the EMP effect, which is why we’re so vulnerable now.

Back in 1962, Starfish Prime test, when that happened, the vacuum tube technology of the day was 1 million times less vulnerable to EMP. Still, the lights went out in Hawaii even though they were 1 million times less vulnerable. About every 10 years we have a 10-fold increase in the capabilities of our semiconductor technology. That makes us 10-fold more vulnerable to EMP. So this problem is getting worse and worse. It’s not just standing still while we do nothing.

 

Mr. DUNCAN.  We over sensationalize a lot of these threats because of a 24-hour news cycle and because so many people in companies make money off of threats that are exaggerated. But, in my opinion, this is one that’s not being exaggerated and that we need to do a little bit more. And I appreciate what you all are trying to do.

 

Mike Caruso. In 2014, ETS-Lindgren was part of a multi-disciplinary team that successfully completed construction of the first large, private-sector SCADA facility in the United States that includes EMP protection. The building is a new-construction, 2-Story 105,000 square foot concrete tilt-up building with:

  • 44,000 square feet of EMP protected space
  • Emergency generators and cooling systems protected
  • Approximately 40 to 60 occupants in the protected space „h Approximately $50MM building construction cost (building only)
  • Total project cost approximately $100MM (including equipment)
  • Approximate EMP Protection cost $8MM (including additional subcontract costs)
  • EMP protection was1-year on-site (concurrent with general construction)
  • Average additional ¡§total project costs¡¨ of 8% ($182.00/sqft)
  • 2 million homes and businesses served
  • 5,000 square-mile service area
  • Less than $1.00 per year per customer (spread over 5-years)
  • Performance certified by Little Mountain Test Facility (U.S. Air Force, Hill AFB)

While the optimum scenario is to include EMP protection in a new building, retrofitting existing buildings for EMP protection is somewhat more complicated and costly, but certainly achievable. I recently led a five-man team in an evaluation of two control centers (primary and back-up) for an electric utility in a major U.S. City. I am prohibited, by non-disclosure agreements, from directly identifying their names or locations. As you might imagine, existing facilities have legacy equipment and systems that were never intended to be EMP protected. This condition makes these facilities tremendously vulnerable to EMP. The existing interconnecting wiring, conduits and mechanical systems provide excellent pathways to conduct the EMP directly to the critical equipment. Therefore, a comprehensive evaluation of the facility must first be conducted to identify the “must have” functionality and equipment in the case of an EMP event. As an example, in this case, it was determined that the large system display board did not have to remain operational because the individual operators would be able to see their sector status on their individual monitors. Therefore it was only necessary to address the protection of the individual stations and a cost savings could be realized. The most critical equipment must be grouped and isolated in individual interconnected enclosures to accommodate functionality. In addition, the existing back-up power systems, cooling systems and communication systems that support the critical equipment must be protected. In some cases this will involve creating new dedicated support systems due to the complexity of the existing systems.

The estimated Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) costs for retrofitting an existing facility of a similar size as the previously discussed new-building is:

  • 44,000 square feet of EMP protected space
  • Emergency generators and cooling systems protected
  • Approximately 40 to 60 occupants in the protected space
  • Approximately $10MM building construction cost (building only)
  • Total project cost approximately $26MM (including equipment)
  • Approximate EMP Protection cost $16MM (including additional subcontract costs)
  • EMP protection 18 to 24 months on-site (concurrent with general construction)
  • Average additional “total project costs” ($364.00/sq ft)
  • 2 million homes and businesses served
  • 5,000 square-mile service area
  • Less than $2.00 per year per customer (spread over 5-years)

While, in my opinion, EMP protection of electric utilities is the primary concern, due to the survival dependency we have on electrical power, all other segments of our nation’s critical infrastructure must be addressed. Some proactive forward thinking electric utilities have either instituted EMP protection programs or have at least begun to consider implementing protection. However, critical infrastructure segments such as; financial, waste water, drinking water, transportation, food distribution, healthcare and emergency services have not.

 

George Baker, Professor Emeritus, James Madison University, CEO of Baycor

The costs to protect roughly the transmission and distribution system and half of the U.S. generation capacity are provided in the table below:

Resilient Societies Cost Projections

  • Electric Generation Plants $23,0000M
  • Electricity Transmission & Distribution $2,300M
  • Electric Grid Control Centers $1,390.M
  • Telecommunications $1,480M
  • Natural Gas System $640M
  • Railroads $1,380M
  • Blackstart Plant Resiliency $80M

TOTAL $30,270M

Using the $30,270 bottom line EMP and GMD protection cost estimate and a levelized annual revenue requirement of 20% ($6B), assuming there are ~150 million rate payers in the United States, the estimated annual cost per rate payer would be $3.30 per month. There are strong arguments for protecting selected subsets of the grid. For example, a top priority to ensure situational awareness following a GMD or EMP event would be to protect major grid control centers. Estimates to protect these are in the $1.4 billion ballpark. If a Phase 1 EMP/GMD program operated in 2016-2020 at a five year cost of $1.4 billion, or $280 million per year, and all the extra costs were passed through to retail customers, the extra cost would be approximately $0.16 per electric customer per month.

We also might put priority on ensuring the survivability of major grid components that would take months to replace –or years if large numbers suffer damage. A primary example would be high voltage transformers which are known to irreparably fail during major solar storms and are thus also vulnerable to failure during an EMP event. Protection of these large transformers would save valuable time in restoring the grid and the life-support services it enables. The unit cost for HV transformer protection is estimated to be $350,000. The total number of susceptible units range from 300 – 3000 (further assessment is required to establish an exact number.) Doing the math, the protected cost for protecting 3000 of these longest replacement lead-time components of the grid is $ 1 billion – a small fraction of the value of losses (Lloyds of London estimates are in the trillions of dollars2 for GMD alone) and long-term recovery costs should they fail.

Stakeholder Reluctance.

Concern about costs and liabilities makes stakeholders in government and the private sector reluctant to admit vulnerabilities. A major impediment to action on protecting the grid against GMD and EMP effects has been that government and industry are (understandably) swayed by the familiar, the convenient, and the bottom line. Like it or not, familiarity and profitability are the touchstones of acceptability – strategic advantage goes to the convenient. Thus, the tendency exists to downplay the likelihood of EMP and GMD and their associated consequences. The prevalent misconceptions (factor 1) have also contributed to stakeholders’ ability to downplay the seriousness of EMP and GMD effects to avoid action.

In cases where stakeholders have decided to take action to improve infrastructure survivability, the actions have been limited and ineffective. A primary case in point is the NERC effort to set reliability standards for wide-area electromagnetic effects. Responding to FERC’s inquiries for protection standards, the NERC formed a GMD task force. When several task force participants asked why EMP could not be part of the task force deliberations, NERC leadership explained that EMP was a national defense concern and therefore not their responsibility – rather that DoD should take the lead.

The standards ultimately developed by NERC include a set of operational procedures requiring no physical protection of the electric grid and a scientifically-flawed benchmark GMD threat description that enables most U.S. utilities to avert installing physical protection based on their own paper modeling studies. The benchmark GMD threat description is based on solar storm statistics over the last 25 years during which there were no “Carrington Class” 100-year solar superstorms. The Carrington-class storm GMD levels are an order of magnitude higher than the largest storms in the NERC 25 year data window. NERC’s benchmark event is admissible only if we assume that all eleven-year solar cycles are the same, an assumption known to be incorrect. A skeptic might suspect that the NERC standard’s main objective was to avert liability rather than protect the public from serious GMD consequences.

The outcome of the NERC operational procedures standard, now approved by FERC, is that the public will not be protected from EMP and the industry will deal with GMD effects using operational work-around procedures such as shedding load and spinning up reserve generation capacity. The operational procedure-based solutions that have been offered by NERC in their recently adopted EOP-010-01-1 standard are ineffective for a number of reasons. A non-exhaustive list of ten pitfalls accompanying reliance on operational procedures to protect the electric power grid follows.

  1. GMD operating procedures are based on the premise that operators can and will prevent large-scale grid collapse by shedding load. Due to insurance rules, grid operators will be reluctant to shed load to customers, even though load-shedding procedures reduce the probability of grid collapse and damage to EHV transformers. Utility companies know that if customer electric power is lost due to geomagnetic disturbance (GMD), they will not be liable for losses; but if customer power is lost due to intentional human action to deenergize the grid or portions of it, power companies can be held liable. (Reference the Lloyds of London report on GMD effects and liabilities and statements by insurance company representatives at 2012 Electric Infrastructure Security Summit at UK Parliament).
  1. The 15-45 minute warning time earlier provided by the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite and now supported by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) successor will be inadequate for grid operators to confer while executing required operational procedures. Participants in the 2011 National Defense University-Johns Hopkins University GMD response exercise indicated that they would be hard-pressed even to get all the players to the table within such a short time interval. And, once hit, the grid would fail quickly. We note that, in 1989, during a moderate solar storm GMD, the electric power grid of the entire Province of Quebec went dark in 92 seconds. The August 2003 Northeast Blackout evolved much more slowly (1:31pm – 4:10pm) with much more time available to take action. Nonetheless, even with a span of hours available, power companies were unable to react fast enough to prevent grid collapse.
  1. Grid operators will not have adequate information on the state of the grid to implement correct operational procedures. Because most of the grid is not monitored for Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC), operators will be “flying blind” with respect to the state of the grid. Operators will not know which portions need remedial action and what actions will be optimal. Information gaps will exist as in August 2003 – where operators were unaware of the initiating tree contact. Sensors needed to monitor GMD/EMP stressors on critical grid components were not required by NERC standards and have not been installed. And this lack of visibility has led and will lead to errors in executing operational procedures.
  2. There is no control center with large enough visibility to control operational procedure response on a national scale. Lack of information on neighboring interconnections impairs proper procedural response. A national control/coordination center does not exist. And in the Eastern Interconnection, there is no single authority over the nine American regional Reliability Coordinators. Because the geographic coverage of solar storm GMD and nuclear EMP can be continental in scale, super-regional control visibility and authority are necessary. At this point, only the federal government, using Presidential authority, can fulfill this role.
  1. Operational procedures have not been adequate to address the much simpler causes of previous large-scale blackouts. For instance, operational procedures proved ineffective in preventing the 2003 Northeast blackout that was precipitated by a single failure point – tree contact with a transmission line. Recent grid models indicate that GMD and EMP will cause hundreds to thousands of failure points. The complexity and rapidity of grid failure during a Carrington-class event will overwhelm the ability of electric utilities to respond and to prevent grid failure using any suite of operational procedures, no matter how wellconceived and practiced. During Hurricane Sandy, grid physical damage outstripped the effectiveness of procedural protection efforts. Physical damage to grid components will be a factor in GMD/EMP events as well.
  1. Unforeseen grid equipment malfunctions have greatly impaired grid operators’ ability to respond during major blackouts in the past. Operational procedures during the 2003 Northeast blackout were greatly impaired by computer control system malfunctions and software problems. Critical grid state monitoring, logging and alarm equipment failed. The control area’s SCADA and emergency management systems malfunctioned. The shut-down of hundreds of generators over multiple states was unanticipated as was the failure of tens of transmission lines. Confusion and inoperative control systems led to many frantic phone calls. As these events, show, any early failure of major grid components caused by the GMD or EMP environment will impede implementation of subsequent operational procedures.
  1. EMP and GMD will affect the communication systems necessary for coordination of operational procedures. Long-line internet and telecommunications networks will experience large overvoltages from GMD and EMP E1/E3 environments, likely causing their debilitation. GMD and EMP also impede signal propagation of HF/VHF/UHF radio systems and GPS systems. Thus grid communication and control systems necessary to execute operational procedures cannot be relied on – just when they will be needed the most.
  1. It is not possible to anticipate all grid failure point combinations and time sequences during GMD/EMP events in order to adequately plan, exercise, and test GMD/EMP operational procedures. Normal grid failures are not indicative of GMD/EMP failures. Operators are familiar with commonly occurring single equipment failures but when multiple points fail near simultaneously under GMD/EMP stress, and the failures interact and cascade, operators will have difficulty understanding and responding to prevent further damage. In most complex human-machine systems, the interactions literally cannot be seen. Prof. Charles Perrow of Yale defines ‘normal accidents’ in complex infrastructure systems as involving system interactions that are not only unexpected, but are incomprehensible for some critical period of time. For example, it took an expert NERC investigation team three months to determine the exact combination and sequence of system failures that led to the 2003 Northeast blackout.
  1. In the Eastern Interconnection, Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISO’s) don’t have cross-jurisdictional authority to enforce shutdown of neighboring grids, sometimes required to avoid large scale blackouts, as in the August 2003 Northeast Blackout. There is no overall supervisor for the Eastern Interconnection. During the 2003 Northeast blackout, First Energy was asked to shed load by its neighboring grid operators but First Energy declined. According to the NERC afteraction report, load shedding would have prevented the ensuing Northeast blackout.
  1. Draft NERC GMD operational procedures recently approved by FERC (Order No. 797, June 2014) are not comprehensive and not specific. The plans generator operators and load balancing authorities from mitigation responsibilities. The NERC operational procedures also exempt portions of the grid operating below 200kV. In the August 2003 blackout, failure of 125 kV lines played a major role in the collapse of the Northeast grid.

The GMD operational procedures and solar storm benchmark event approved by FERC are ineffective and allow the electric power industry to continue with no significant upgrades to their physical assets, leaving the grid vulnerable to 100 year solar superstorms and EMP. It is worth noting that while GMD fields are more intense at northern latitudes, E3 fields increase at more southerly latitudes relative to the locus of a high altitude EMP event. Utilities that require no protection against GMD because of their southerly latitude under the newly operative standard would be experience higher E3 fields in the event of an EMP event than their northerly counterparts. The bifurcated “stove-pipe” threat approach being pursued to protect the electric power grid is cost- and outcome-ineffective. We need to develop a unified, all-threat approach to this challenge which leads to the third and final impediment to progress:

 

 

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One Response to The electromagnetic pulse EMP Threat: House of Representatives hearing 2005

  1. Edward Marrs says:

    Here is an interesting article on the energy consumption of Bitcoin which is considerable. While it does not directly related to EMP it would certainly be affected by it. No electricity, no bitcoin transactions.

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bitcoin-is-still-unsustainable