Power grid is huge national security issue
Storm a preview of extended outage
The devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast has given us a preview of an even worse possibility.
Millions were left without electricity by the huge storm that ravaged the electricity infrastructure of that area. Those victimized by the storm and those of us watching from afar learned how vulnerable our society is to the loss of power for an extended time. Basically, we are totally dependent on it in our modern world.
On a much smaller scale we have witnessed this dependency right here in our area when storms have cut power, and of course there was the rolling blackout that impacted a large part of the Southwest, including our area, when a Yuma electrical substation caused the grid to fail more than a year ago.
Now imagine a huge power failure like the one from Sandy lasting for weeks and even months. The United States is vulnerable to that if terrorists were to take advantage of weaknesses in our nation's power grid, according to a federal government study.
The study was actually completed by the National Research Council (NRC) in 2007, but was classified to keep it under wraps, perhaps out of concern terrorists which learn how vulnerable the nation is to this type of attack. Most of it was just declassified and released.
The problem, according to one of those responsible for producing the report, is that critical parts of the grid lack security, and if they are destroyed it can result in devastating cascades of power outages that knock out the grid. And in some cases, there are no replacements immediately available for this critical equipment. It is not like repairing a downed line. The result would be a lack of power for weeks and even months while repairs are made at the cost of many billions of dollars.
The NRC said there needs to be a major investment to secure and modernize the grid to prevent this from happening. But much of it is privately owned and the NRC chairman says the power industry moves slowly.
That type of attitude must change. It is a security issue that is critical in an age of terrorism. Fighting terrorism isn't only about the military, it is also about safeguarding the nation's critical infrastructure.