I’ve been tracking some of the potential areas of concern that may lead to widespread disasters for a while, and I have come to the conclusion that there are some definite problems looming for us in the future. The natural ones, such as hurricanes and tornadoes are ones we can do little to prevent and thus we must learn to live with and around them. Prepare ye the best ye can, for the future is at hand, my friends. But it greatly disturbs me that we tend to do so little to prevent the manmade disasters. And of these there are few that provide potential for a widespread disaster. Accidental disasters such as chemical leaks, oil spills and so one are generally preventable provided we take precautions, but not always.

On the other hand, terrorist attacks are something we can definitely prevent if we have the will to do so. Currently there are some areas of specific concern that are growing in measure, and therefore lead me to believe that we have a positive probability of their occurrence, probably in the very near future. One of these concerns is the collapse of our national electrical distribution systems, of which I have written of frequently.

The Dow Jones online news site had an article a day or so ago that says; Officials in charge of the reliability of the U.S. electric grid are taking a closer look at how to respond to cyberattacks and other possible catastrophic events. This says a lot to me by way of the fact that this comes from a well respected main stream investment news company. These people do not waste time on trivial stories, and usually there is significant reasoning behind what they do print. My guess is that the Feds have substantive proof that some person or agency is actively reconnoitering this nation’s power supply, both its sources and distribution channels with the intent of causing a massive failure of that system.

The story relates to a report by the National Electric Reliability Corp. known as NERC and its efforts to work at developing a plan to address and prevent possible disruptions to this nations power supply. The article further states that; “There have been events even recently where there has been suspicious activity–probing around control systems. But nothing of the magnitude of what’s contemplated by this report,” NERC Chief Executive Gerry Cauley said during a conference call ahead of the report’s release. Call me paranoid, but I would think that this activity would be considered a bit more serious than they seem to want us to think it is. Any attempt at disrupting power anywhere in this country should be construed as terrorist activity.

The piece goes on to say; The report highlights how new technologies to upgrade the grid and enable better coordination and control–often referred to generically as a smart grid– create potential new vulnerabilities. Additionally, the report states it’s unclear to what extent utility networks already have been infiltrated. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that cyberspies have penetrated the grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system. Along with all of this attention we have a push by some to develop what has been called a Smart Grid, which is a way to tie all of the countries electrical distribution lines into one single supply web. It’s an interesting idea, but to my way of thinking, fraught with danger and easily destroyed by unexpected events.

As I have written before, one well placed nuclear warhead could deliver an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could devastate this nation’s supply as it is. Why connect everything together and exacerbate the situation? It makes no sense to put all of our power supply eggs into one basket, especially in light of what this report seems to suggest. The story also states that; The report looked at a cyberattack, a pandemic and the detonation of a nuclear bomb at high altitudes among other possibilities. The catastrophic events the report examines aren’t necessarily the most probable, yet officials say cyberthreats are being detected currently on the nation’s grid. So there are definite threats, according to the article, but no mention is made as to where and by whom. It seems to me that this is one are we need to stay on top of. The likelihood of a HEMP attack may be small, but by what I read the likelihood of an attack by terrorists intent upon destroying this nation’s infrastructure is becoming greater every day.

The report, titled High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System contains quite a bit of information for its size, 120 pages, and seems to cover most potential threats to the systems. I have not as yet read all of it, but will do so and share my conclusions later on. But the bottom line here is that we really need to be more concerned for these areas of possible attack or damage, no matter what the causative factors may be. We need electricity in this nation as never before and yet the risk for failure is greater than ever before.

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