Study: U.S. power grid vulnerable to terrorist attack

As if Hurricane Sandy’s blackouts weren’t worrisome enough, a new federal study warns the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attack. Yet it says fixing the problem won’t be easy.

6:46PM EST November 14. 2012 – After Hurricane Sandy left millions in the dark, a long-delayed federal study Wednesday says the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attacks that could cause months of blackouts and billions in economic damages.

The nation’s grid is spread out across hundreds of miles, and many key pieces of equipment are either unguarded or so old they lack the sensors to limit outages from cascading, according to the study by the National Research Council (NRC), a private independent agency operating under a congressional charter.

“We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don’t have many spare transformers,” says M. Granger Morgan, engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chairman of the NRC committee that wrote the report. He says a terrorist attack could cause disruptions worse than Sandy and rack up “hundreds of billions of dollars” in damages.

“Most of the report is as relevant today as when we wrote it,” he says, adding the power industry changes slowly. The NRC completed the report in 2007, but the sponsoring agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), decided to classify it entirely. In August 2010, the NRC requested an updated classification, and in August 2012, all but a few pages of the report were cleared for publication.

“It was very frustrating,” Morgan says of the delay. He says the committee understood the need to protect national security and was careful not to provide a “cookbook” for terrorists, relying instead on widely available data. He says the authors are now “pleased” the report is public.

The report focuses partly on high-voltage transformers, saying they’re vulnerable both from within and from outside the substations where they’re located. It says they’re huge, difficult to move, often custom-built, and hard to replace, because most are no longer made in the United States. It recommends developing smaller portable ones for temporary use to reduce delays in restoring disabled power systems.

Morgan says DHS has “done a little” to develop and test spare low-voltage transformers but says “there’s a long way to go.”

DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard acknowledged threats to the grid, but added that the agency”continues to work every day with private sector and government counterparts to adapt and strengthen our security and resilience against an ever changing threat.”

The report says the federal government faces difficulty in addressing weaknesses in the nation’s power grid, because more than 90% of the grid is privately owned and regulated by the states. Still, it calls on DHS or the Department of Energy to study where the U.S. is most vulnerable to extended blackouts and to develop cost-effective strategies for reducing their length and their impact on critical services.

“The NRC is right to call for more investment in making our grid both more secure and more resilient in the face of attacks,” says Richard Caperton, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. He says a terrorist attack is unlikely but, as Hurricane Sandy shows, “Anything that disrupts power supply can have catastrophic consequences.”

Morgan says many of the steps that could protect the grid from terrorism would also protect it from extreme weather. He points to smart meters, saying they disconnect damaged properties so power can be restored more quickly to the rest of a neighborhood without fear of explosions. He says much of Long Island and New Jersey lacks such technology.

DOE estimated Wednesday that 6,000 homes and businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region remained without power because of Hurricane Sandy or the Nor’easter storm. The number, which reached nearly 9 million, was down from 25,061 on Tuesday and 63,821 on Monday.

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Report: Majority Of Americans Still Not Prepared For A Major Disaster

According to a report by YouGov.com, a research and consulting organization, 64 percent of Americans are woefully unprepared for a major natural disaster, even after the events of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and a series of other major natural disasters smacking us around in recent years.

The report finds that people making disaster-readiness plans has slightly increased from 31 percent to 36 percent since 2011, showing that the majority of Americans have failed to adequately prepare themselves in the event of another major disaster. This is the breakdown of YouGov’s numbers,

Of the 36 percent who said they were equipped for natural disasters, their preparations included the following:

  • Emergency supplies (for example, flashlights or first-aid kits): 89 percent
  • Food stocks: 74 percent
  • Creating an evacuation or an emergency plan: 50 percent
  • Disaster insurance: 22 percent

Of the 89 percent who had emergency supplies, their supplies included the following:

  • Flashlights:  97 percent
  • Water:  92 percent
  • First-aid kits or medicine:  92 percent
  • Sleeping bags or blankets:  83 percent
  • Face masks: 18 percent
  • Iodine pills:  15 percent

While general preparedness is low, concern and fear over another natural disaster has increased, especially across the Northeast, where 31 percent report that they are “very concerned” following Hurricane Sand, doubled from the previous year’s report of 17 percent concern in polling done after Tropical Storm Irene, the highest percentage in the country.

A lot of people have prognosticated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that this was finally the storm that got everyone’s attention, and that in the future, people will be more prepared for the advent of another natural catastrophe. I’m not so sure. While Sandy’s devastation was massive and destabilizing, only time will tell how New Yorkers will prepare and respond, both personally, and politically, should another superstorm come to wreck our city.

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Giant Sun Eruption Captured in NASA Video

The sun unleashed a monster eruption of super-hot plasma Friday (Nov. 16) in back-to-back solar storms captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.

The giant sun eruption, called a solar prominence, occurred at 1 a.m. EST (0600 GMT), with another event flaring up four hours later. The prominences was so large, it expanded beyond the camera view of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which captured high-definition video of the solar eruption.

In the video, a colossal loop of glowing red plasma erupts from the lower left of the sun, arcing up and out of frame as it blasts away from the star.

“The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission, explained in a description. “The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.”

Friday’s solar eruption does not appear to be aimed at Earth, so will likely have little effect on our planet. But that was not the case earlier this week when a powerful solar flare erupted on Monday (Nov. 12). That flare registered as an M6-class eruption, a moderate but still intense solar event.

On Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 13 and 14), space weather conditions sparked a geomagnetic storm that supercharged the Earth’s auroras, creating spectacular northern lights displays for observers at high latitudes.

When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful solar flares and eruptions can pose a threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, and also interfere with communication, navigation and power systems on the ground.

The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24 and is expected to peak in 2013.

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EU in fresh trouble as budget summit faces collapse

The European Union looks set for fresh trouble this week as an extraordinary summit called to agree a long-term trillion-euro budget heads for an ugly showdown, possibly even failure.

Already weakened by three years of economic crisis, the 27-nation bloc of half a billion people faces new trauma at the two-day summit starting Thursday after weeks of talks that have exposed stark divisions between pro- and anti-austerity nations, as well as between the haves and have-nots.

“It’s a lose-lose summit,” said a senior EU diplomat. “Absolutely no one will leave this summit content if by chance we reach a solution.”

“We don’t exclude a breakdown,” another diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Europe’s leaders begin the talks on the EU’s next seven-year budget at 1900 GMT Thursday, with Britain’s premier David Cameron in the role of leading spoiler though most governments are putting national interest well above shared concerns.

“Cameron will come with a big knife to get spending cuts and to defend the British rebate,” said an EU diplomat.

In the face of Britain’s austerity-minded determination to secure a cut of up to 200 billion euros in the 2014-2020 budget, EU president Herman Van Rompuy, who will broker the talks, last week suggested a 75-billion-euro cut to the proposed 1.047 trillion euro ($1.3 trillion) budget.

But that made no one happy.

Spain said it would lose 20 billion euros of EU aid, Italy complained of losing 10 billion euros.

And a group of Nobel laureates flew to Brussels waving a petition signed by dozens of Nobel winners urging Van Rompuy and other EU officials not to strip funds for research and innovation.

“Fortunately, we only have these summits every seven years,” Van Rompuy said Friday after coming under fire from all sides.

His plan left Britain having to pay in part for its cherished yearly rebate of 3.6 billion euros, while diminishing Sweden’s rebate, and failing to address Denmark’s demand to have a discount too.

The three are among the 11 net contributors to the EU budget who in times of economic strain and domestic cutbacks are tired of bearing the brunt of the financial burden.

Eight of the net contributors — Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden — have banded together to demand spending cuts, though they are far from being on the same page on what should go or by how much.

France for instance, along with Italy, is refusing any decrease whatsoever in the budget’s biggest item, the subsidies paid to farmers, big and small.

“There can be no question of withdrawing even one euro from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP),” said French Premier Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose government is pushing for the EU to raise new revenues through new taxes, such as one on financial transactions.

In the other corner are 15 nations from Europe’s east and southern fringe who are net recipients, most often of the so-called “cohesion funds” used to help poor regions catch up economically and socially with the rest. This is the second biggest budget item after the CAP.

Chaired by Poland and Portugal, the group includes Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia — and most recently, once mighty Spain.

Cameron, who is under intense euro-sceptic pressure to wrest an agreement in Brussels, has been shuttling back and forth to raise support, travelling to the Netherlands, Italy and Germany in search of allies.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which is the biggest contributor to the EU budget, has promised to do her utmost to ensure the summit would not end in collapse.

“Even if we are net contributors and people could perhaps think that we can live with a non-agreement, that is not our goal,” Merkel said. “We want an agreement and we will talk exactly in this spirit with all countries.”

Meanwhile, there is a growing exasperation with France, whose recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande has urged Brussels to push for growth, rather than austerity, but whose obsession with maintaining the CAP will lead to cuts in programmes to help growth.

“He wanted to re-orient Europe towards employment and growth. It’s a political choice. He must be consistent,” said an EU official who asked not to be named.

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Are We Ready For The Next Middle East War?

 

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,  and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Matthew 24: 3-8

As the Middle East match box gets hotter, the prophesies we read from Jesus in Matthew 24 are being fulfilled before our eyes. The enemies of Israel are planning for the destruction of the Jewish people and her allies. Various nations of the world are rising up against each other and peace is elusive as ever.

The U.S. has seen it’s share of drought, pestilences, crop failures, and natural disasters which put us in a position of wondering if we are prepared for the next disaster which may befall us. Are we also ready for higher gasoline and food prices should the Middle East erupt in war?

Now is the time to prepare for any disaster which might befall you by stocking up with food, water, and other items to get you through the next disaster

P.S. Receiving salvation and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the best thing that could happen to you now and in the time of disaster.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 3: 16-17

Prepare Today For What Might Happen Tomorrow!