For over two decades, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnet Pulse (EMP) Attack (EMP Commission, for short), composed of well-informed competent physicists and engineers, reported to Congress and issued over a dozen reports on the nature of the existential threat posed by both manmade and natural EMP threats — and how to protect against these threats.
Some of these experts were actively engaged in the early efforts (in the 1960s) to understand EMP effects and to design and protect our most important strategic systems to survive and operate through such effects. Moreover, these same countermeasures also can be quite affordably applied to protect our critical civil systems — and those protective measures are openly reported and are readily available.
Yet the “powers that be” have at best studied the problem without applying such well-known methods to protect even our most important critical civil infrastructure, like the electric power grid — while the threat has grown.
For example, I joined several experts in a 2015 Newsmax article to warn about Iran’s pending capability to attack the United States, including with an EMP attack on the electric power grid. And my 2017 Newsmax article opposed efforts to disband the EMP Commission, even as the leaders of North Korea explicitly threatened an EMP attack on our electric power grid.
Moreover, we have known for years that North Korea and Iran — as well as Russia and China — include EMP attacks in their military plans, which today would debilitate the United States.
As I testified on May 2017 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and wrote for a May 2018 American Legion article for their 2.2 million subscribers, I became frustrated that Washington’s “Powers that Be” were doing nothing to address this existential threat and decided to try to address the problem from “The Bottom Up” — starting locally and then working up to the state and federal authorities.
Those reports are expanded in Appendix B of Powering Through 2020, Building Critical Infrastructure Resilience — including a discussion of the Lake Wylie Pilot Study that was initiated to better understand these issues and to estimate the cost of countering EMP vulnerabilities.
That important effort resulted from my visit with the Chairman of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of my Alma Mater Clemson University to obtain names of graduates who worked at Duke Power, one of the nation’s largest energy companies, which supports the northwestern portion of South Carolina and various southeastern states out to Indiana.
We formed an alliance to address grid vulnerability issues from the bottom-up, beginning in York County, S.C. — referred to as the Lake Wylie Pilot Study. Duke operates three power plants on Lake Wylie — Hydroelectric and Nuclear Power Plants in York County, South Carolina and a coal power plant in Gaston County, North Carolina.
Our plan was first to determine how to best protect the York County grid and then extend the lesson-learned throughout South Carolina and North Carolina and throughout the nation. These activities have been reported by Newsmax: e.g., most recently in my October 7, 2021 article (Pay Attention to Hardening the Grid) and my February 7, 2022 article (Secretary Granholm Should Fund the Lake Wylie Study).
We found that the York County Distribution Grid can be protected to the same standard as our most important military systems for less than $100 per citizen — and that it would cost about $30 million to validate that finding and plan to protect all of the Carolinas and the rest of the nation.
But there has been no response to provide such needed support in spite of the fact that the “powers that be” know the threat exists.
Indeed, Secretary Granholm acknowledged the threat in her January 2021 confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Energy, but the Department of Energy (DOE) has not seriously addressed this existential threat. She also acknowledged that the grid is vulnerable to cyberattacks — as documented in Grid Down, Power Up | The Documentary (griddownpowerup.com) that includes key excerpts and a link to the complete 56-minute film. EMP poses the most horrific cyberattack threat.
This film highlights many important aspects of the grid vulnerability, none more important than the large transformers that “step-up” the voltage from power plants to the high-voltage transmission lines across the nation to “step-down” transformers that deliver electricity to the Distribution Grid, over 90% of the overall grid, that delivers electricity to our critical civil infrastructure — e.g., water supplies, emergency management, hospitals, security operations, gas stations, grocery stores, etc., as well as to our homes.
Recognizing this importance, Duke Energy gave one of their transformers (worth over a million dollars) for testing to EMP and cyberattack effects at the Savannah River National Laboratories (SRNL). It has sat idle for over four years at the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) in North Charleston, awaiting funding to ship up the Savannah River to the SRNL where a site is available for testing. (It is too large to transport it over the highways to SRNL.)
My July 16, 2021 and July 21, 2021 Newsmax articles observed that U.S. power companies had purchased hundreds of such untested transformers from China and many have now been installed in our grid. The second of these articles provide a photo of the transformer still sitting idle in North Charleston.
At the direction of the National Security Council during the latter days of the Trump administration, $35 million was provided to DOE to support such transportation and initial testing — and the Lake Wylie Pilot Study, but that funding apparently disappeared within the DOE bureaucratic labyrinth.
And to my knowledge nothing has been planned for using some of the recent multi-trillion-dollar legislation.
So ... when will the powers that be protect the electric power grid, upon which our survival depends?
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.