Terrorists Could Attack Power Grids

RETA has reported earlier on the vulnerability of above-ground power grids to potential attacks by terrorists, and how burying power lines would greatly reduce this risk.

The National Academy of Sciences has just released a report wherein they discuss how “A terrorist attack on the U.S. power grid could be more destructive than Superstorm Sandy, possibly costing hundreds of billions of dollars and leading to thousands of deaths” (Bloomberg). “By blowing up substations or transmission lines with explosives or by firing projectiles at them from a distance, the report said, terrorists could cause cascading failures and damage parts that would take months to repair or replace. In the meantime, it warned, people could die from the cold or the excessive heat…”(New York Times).

Particularly vulnerable are giant, often custom-built, transformers and other key components that are manufactured primarily outside the U.S. and can take many months or even years to order and replace.

The National Academy of Sciences report, sponsored by the United States Department of Homeland Security, says an attack “could be carried out by knowledgeable attackers with little risk of detection or interdiction… An event of this magnitude and duration could lead to turmoil, widespread public fear,and an image of helplessness that would play directly into the hands of the terrorists.”

The report recommends that cheaper ways be found to put power lines underground, which would protect them from terrorist attacks and negative effects of storms (hurricanes, tornadoes, other high winds, ice storms). If there is sufficient public and political pressure to bury power lines, and if transmission companies are forced to sharpen their pencils, the capital cost to bury lines will be shown to be not much more than to build them above ground. Currently, transmission companies grossly inflate the costs of undergrounding because it is in their financial interests to continually maintain, repair and replace overhead infrastructure, considering all of those costs are passed on to their customers – including administration and other fees. Underground cable experts know that when capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs are combined over the life of a line, buried lines are cheaper than overhead lines. Underground lines make even more sense, financially, when you add in the negative impacts that overhead power lines have on property values and health care costs.

See the Operation Circuit Breaker website for additional insight on this subject.

~ by RETA on November 15, 2012.

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