My recent Newsmax articles discussed natural and manmade existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats to the nation’s electric grid; and reported that in South Carolina we have demonstrated that protecting the grid is affordable.
Changes are required to assure our survival — and can be supported via the current infrastructure funding debate.
My March 16 article built on two previous articles emphasizing 1.) The "Cold Weather" Texas Grid Failure warning all Americans of the dangers of losing electricity for only 5-days (several times officially acknowledged 151 fatalities); and 2.) That President Biden's proposed "American Rescue Plan" should protect all Americans against a major electric grid failure — from a major "solar storm" that for sure will one day occur.
My May 27 article discussed reports that major solar storms are likely in the next few years. A coronial mass ejection (CME) passing through the Earth’s orbit may envelop it and interact with its geomagnetic field to produce a major Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) not seen since the 1859 Carrington Event that today would crash electric grids leaving Americans without life support for months.
Most would die within a year due to the consequent disease, starvation and societal collapse — according to the Congressional EMP Commission.
Lower-level CME/GMDs could also seriously damage our unprotected grid.
My March 16 article referred to a March 6, 2021 Wall Street Journal report that proposed legislation then included $350-billion for state and local authorities, with $10-billion designated for infrastructure — an opportunity. Various reports indicated follow-on legislation would include additional infrastructure funding.
My April 23 discussion noted a proposal by Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., — chair of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee — that an Infrastructure Bill include funds for local and state authorities to protect the grid against cyberattack.
As cochair of the Congressional EMP Caucus, she knows that the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran includes EMP as the most consequential cyberattack strategy — a connection that infrastructure negotiations should address.
Hopes grew as the Biden administration proposed even more spending and seemed open to improving traditional infrastructure. I hoped to see the grid (as traditional infrastructure) protected against the existential EMP threat.
But ongoing negotiations among the "powers that be" offer little encouragement.
Senator Shelly Moore Capito, R-W. Va., who is leading Republication negotiators —including with President Biden (meeting scheduled tomorrow) has insisted on "real" or "physical" infrastructure — including new "broadband" that depends on electricity.
Other "infrastructure innovations" that require electricity have been included; but essential electric grid protection seems not to have entered the negotiations — a serious error.
CME/GMD interactions with the Earth’s electromagnetic field would cause seconds-long pulses that propagate down high-voltage transmission lines to damage/destroy essential grid components, especially large transformers — not easily replaced or built in the United States. (Our power companies have purchased hundreds from China — a concern, given China’s cyberattack threat that could bring down the grid.)
The worst case EMP from high-altitude nuclear explosions includes similar long-wavelength pulses, but also nanoseconds-long “shocks” that can destroy essential electronics—beyond those vulnerable to a GMD.
So, protecting against manmade EMP protects against natural EMP, but the converse is not true.
And the current debate reports about what infrastructure will be funded suggest the powers that be are more interested in building more infrastructure that depends on electricity than protecting sources of that electricity.
Moreover, federal government initiatives are focused on the Bulk Power Grid — power plants and high voltage transmission lines — leaving out the Distribution Grid, which constitutes 90% of the overall grid and delivers electricity to Americans in their homes and businesses and supporting critical infrastructure, e.g. hospitals, water-wastewater, communications, businesses, emergency management, etc.
A significant percentage of "infrastructure" funds being discussed should be used to protect the nation’s entire electric power grid against manmade EMP — we know that protection is quite affordable based on the Lake Wylie Pilot Study conducted over the past five years in York County, South Carolina.
That will also assure the grid is protected against a major CME/GMD event.
Duke Energy operates three power generation plants on Lake Wylie formed on the Catawba River that flows from North to South Carolina.
Duke transmission lines provide electricity to two local power companies that operate over 90% of the Distribution Grid supplying electricity to almost all York County citizens and businesses.
In our Lake Wylie Pilot Study, Duke Engineers worked with York County engineers to understand the potential Distribution Grid vulnerabilities and assure needed loading conditions for Duke power plants — particularly its Catawba nuclear plant in York County.
Dr. George H. Baker, a key Congressional EMP Commission staffer, supported the Lake Wylie Pilot Study from its conception.
He led efforts to assess the vulnerability of our strategic systems (our strategic ballistic missile systems, bombers, submarines and their associated command, control and communication systems) against EMP; assure their survival from EMP attack; and sustain their subsequent operations.
He subsequently served on the National Security Council Staff dealing with these issues and is now back in the private sector.
He assessed the York County Distribution Grid vulnerabilities and estimated costs to protect it from EMP attack.
The grid would then also be protected against "natural EMP," or CME/GMD effects.
By mid-2019, Dr. Baker estimated that the essential components of the York County Distribution Grid could be protected for a one-time cost of less than $100-per-York County resident — and minor annual funding to maintain that survivability.
Needed from the powers that be is $30-million to validate that estimate by actually protecting York County’s Distribution Grid and provide a plan to extend lessons-learned to other counties in South Carolina and beyond.
Leaders of Rock Hill, South Carolina's fourth most populous city, and the rest of York County fully supported our assessment activity, as illustrated by a 5-minute video prepared by David Tice to be included in an upcoming documentary "Grid Down, No Second Choice."
It also illustrates support of South Carolina’s Adjutant General, who would be key in exporting the lessons-learned, including to link these efforts with the ongoing Joint Base San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense Initiative (JBSA-EDI).
The Lake Wylie Pilot Study is an important model for protecting the South Carolina grid, owned and managed by about 40 Municipal Power and Cooperative companies — and three companies that also involve bulk power grid components.
As key members of South Carolina’s Organization of Municipal Power Systems and the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, York County leaders could, and I believe would, take their lessons-learned throughout South Carolina — and support efforts to extend them beyond South Carolina.
But will the powers that be provide the $30 million to make it happen?
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Read Ambassador Cooper's Reports — More Here.
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