Are Power Plant Transformers America’s Weakest Link?

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Source: Family Security Matters, by WALLACE S. BRUSCHWEILERALAN KORNMAN December 10, 2014

On November 6, 2014 The Guardian reports, “Three arrests fail to staunch mystery of Drones flying over French nuclear plants.”  Several drones were reported flying over the protected airspace of nuclear power plants raising questions about electrical grid security.

As the sophistication of commercially available drones increases our electrical grid becomes more vulnerable.

Who was piloting the drones and for what purpose?

What lies behind the suspicious flights at night?

What if these drones were outfitted with infrared cameras to spot the strong heat signatures emanating from the vulnerable ‘open air’ giant transformers responsible for delivering electricity from the generating plant, to the municipal substations, then to your home?

If several of these ‘giant transformers’ were to unexpectedly go offline, for any reason, would it could cause a ‘cascade effect’ resulting in rolling blackouts all along France’s electrical grid?

California Attacks 

On August 28, 2014, Matthew Wald, of The New York Times reports, “California Power Substation Attacked in 2013 is Struck Again.”

Federal experts who examined a California substation after an attack last April were attached to the Joint Warfare Analysis Center at Dahlgren, Va, yields clues about the importance of this issue.

The attack to the California substation went unchallenged for over an hour.

The Silicon Valley power substation that was attacked by a sniper in April 2013 was hit by thieves early Wednesday morning, according to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, despite increased security. 

The substation, near San Jose, Calif., is the source of energy for thousands of customers, and the idea that it was the target of a well-organized attack, and that it might have been disabled for an extended period, raised anxieties about the possible broader vulnerability of the grid.

In the 2013 attack, shots were fired into the radiators of giant transformers.  Without these giant transformers no electricity would enter the grid disrupting power along that particular grid matrix.

map of usa power grid

Are there enough replacements of these giant transformers readily available and in the right locations to repair the damaged power stations without a significant disruption of electricity to its customers?

We should be aware the time delay of manufacturing and delivering these giant transformers can be a lengthy process taking months or even years.

Arkansas Attacks – You Should Have Expected US 

Arkansas experienced three attacks to its electrical grid in August, September, and October of 2013.  These attacks were not as sophisticated as the California attacks but did cause over $2 Million dollars in damage and 10,000 people temporarily lost power.

The Arkansas attacker left an ominous note at the entrance of the electrical power station in black marker, “You should have expected US”

The drone nuclear plant flyovers are a wake up call to those who are tasked with the responsibility of protecting our United States, Regional, and Local power grids.

Remember when:  Ten years ago in Ohio, a high-voltage power line brushed against some trees, which shut down a power line, which knocked out a transformer, which cascaded through the northeast electric power grid until 50 million people from Ontario to New Jersey were without power. The Northeast Blackout resulted in 11 deaths and cost about $6 billion. It affected every segment of our society-from healthcare, transportation, and commerce to public safety and national security. In a modern world, electrical power is more than a convenience. It’s a necessity. (MITRE.org)

transformer

Important Questions

What would happen to the national and regional power grids if a small number of these giant transformers are put out of commission?

If a number of these giant transformers are simultaneously taken out, will an uncontrollable ‘Cascade Effect’ overwhelm our regional and or nationwide electrical grids?

What if a number of simultaneous attacks on these giant transformers were to happen today, are we prepared to successfully block the effects of this nightmarish scenario?