U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack

Photo credit:The Wall Street Journal

What would happen if terrorists were able to sabotage as few as 9 key electric-transmission substations out of 55,0000 across the U.S.? Could it cause a catastrophic nationwide blackout? The Wall Street Journal reports on research done by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that points to the possibility that such an event could lead to weeks and even months of darkness. Security is only required for sub-stations near nuclear power plants, but what can be done to protect the others?

Former FERC Chariman Jon Wellinghoff shares his concern: “There are probably less than 100 critical high voltage substations on our grid in this country that need to be protected from a physical attack. It is neither a monumental task, nor is it an inordinate sum of money that would be required to do so.”

So how can we beef up security to prevent attacks like the one on the Metcalf substation in California last April? As Paul Stockton, former assistant secretary of defense and president of risk-assessment firm Cloud Peak Analytics says, “The power grid, built over many decades in a benign environment, now faces a range of threats it was never designed to survive. That’s got to be the focus going forward.”

The Wall Street Journal, 3/12/14

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