A report out by the Wall Street Journal concerning the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid is creating a buzz by noting that a terrorist attack on just 9 high voltage substations would knock out the entire country. The WSJ report doesn’t identify which 9 as if omitting this info will protect the country from any potential terrorists. Really? Just stop it already.

This type of info has been public knowledge for decades. The internet certainly serves to make it easy for any potential terrorist to research it, but the problem was identified long ago. In fact, President Clinton signed PDD 63 way back in 1998 with a 5 year plan to protect the nations grid from just such an attack and that PDD was simply an update to a problem identified years earlier than that.

The WSJ sensationalizes their reporting as being cutting edge as this example shows.

According to Wall Street Journal, study’s results have been known for months by the White House, Congress and officials at federal agencies, who were briefed by then-FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and others at the commission.

A day late and a dollar short is the way the saying goes if I remember right.

Here’s a report submitted to Congress a decade ago that further illustrates this isn’t anything new – http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R42795.pdf.

The facts are simple. Electricity is comprised of 3 main components. Generation, transmission and distribution. We have multiple methods for generation with various types of power plants. The distribution system is massive with the familiar poles and wires you see in your neighborhoods delivering power to homes and businesses. However, it is the transmission system which is most vulnerable. Relatively few are in operation used to pump up the voltage to extremely high levels needed for long-distance transmission.

The WSJ report states that if just 9 of 55,000 substations were attacked, the result would be catastrophic. It’s even worse than that. The country only has a few thousand high voltage substations used for the transmission system. We also have jus 3 main networks in the grid. With just some cursory research, you can determine where the critical links are as utility companies publicly report on the makeup of their networks.

Once identified, disabling the HV transformers is a piece of cake. A transformer, whether it be a relatively small one you see hanging off your utility pole or a giant multi-story 745kv HV transformer used in power transmission share common design characteristics. Simply drain the cooling oil and it will burn up if you can access it which generally means simply snipping through a chain link fence protecting it. Won’t electrocute yourself in the process either or risk a massive fire or explosion should you decide to shoot holes in one.

Worse is the fact that the U.S. no longer manufactures 345kv or 745kv transformers. Canada still does but they are all custom built and take months to design and build. Few spares are kept as they rarely fail and since spares are kept for maintenance purposes, they are usually stored right by the one in service to make replacement quick.

The bottom line is that all of this stuff is public knowledge, easily accessible and easy to disable. Glad you figured it out at the WSJ even if you’re a little late to the party. If you’re an average Joe wondering what the heck one can do to prepare, the answer is not much. Sure, you can go off the grid and make your own castle impervious to a nationwide power grid failure, but your job or school or whatever else won’t be meaning you’re still affected. Not to mention your neighbors will soon become your enemy and loot your castle once they figure out it’s every man for himself out there.

Do you ever watch those Alaska shows with the crazy, off-the-grid preppers struggling just to survive? Me thinks they just might be further ahead than the rest of us once the SHTF.

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