Thursday, August 07, 2014

John Kappenman explains mitigation techniques against power grid damage from solar storms, EMP (2012 meeting at Carnegie); libertarians -- wake up!

The New York Times, on Aug. 7, has a feature story on Rand Paul, and asks, “Has the libertarian movement finally arrived”, by Robert Draper, link here.  Yes, legalization of medical and even recreational marijuana and of same-sex marriage, and of general public acceptance of these changes, sounds libertarian. 
But another side to debating libertarianism is the idea of self-sufficiency.  This idea has certainly driven the Second Amendment crowd, in the face of tragic rampages, and sometimes fed into survivalism.  The fact is, we are very dependent on one piece of critical infrastructure – the power grid (however owned privately in US most areas), which also feeds the Internet and information infrastructure, which has made new modes of self-expression and self-broadcast possible.  These could all go away in an instant, if you believe the dire warnings about the damage that could be wrought by really big solar storms and by enemies or terrorists with EMP devices. (And, as for survivalism, some devices could shut down home generators, too.)

These threats seem legitimate, and have been discussed by credible sources, including NASA, which admitted we dodged a big solar storm in July 2012 – but didn’t admit it until April 2014 at a meeting at the University of Colorado.
On top of all of this, there have been news reports of physical attacks on power stations (the biggest, near San Jose CA in April 2013) (NPR story) and even of the presence of North Korean missiles snuck into Panama, creating a mini “Cuban Missile Crisis II”. 

It’s hard to get your arms around all of this.  The major media and federal government do talk about nuclear weapons, raw materials (HEU), domestic jihadists, and even the possibility of dirty bombs (although that idea was more commonly mentioned right after 9/11).  These may sound easier to pull off than a high or moderate altitude EMP blast, which, however, can be lower (like from a balloon) or from non-nuclear sources.  The major media have not covered this idea very well, so it is hard to assess how credible it is. The recent belligerence of Vladimir Putin suddenly fits in to the picture.  This is not an easy time for libertarianism.
Yesterday, I found an hour long Fox News video about the threat to the power grid from EMP and solar storms (coronal mass ejections), by Judge Jeanine, and placed my “review” on my “cf” (or “Films on Major Threats to Freedom”) blog, which is rather small compared to the others.

Here is an important video with relatively little publicized information on both the solar storm (coronal mass ejection) threat and the EMP terror threat:
John Kappenman: Latest Advances in Solar Storm Grid Impact Modeling and Mitigation”, put up by Policy Studies Organization Feb. 7, 2013, held at the Carnegie Center for Science on 16th Street in NW Washington DC  (a half mile from the White House), some time in late 2012. (Note: it’s interesting that the Carnegie Center hosts many screenings for the DC Environmental Film Festival.)  The meeting was the "Dupont Summit 2012" with the "InfraGard National EMP SIG". 

Kappenman represents a technology company AFS (Advanced Fusion Systems), and started out the talk with dire words about the threat to the continuity of the United States were there to be a colossal catastrophe.  One important fact is a growing awareness that big solar storms are more frequent than we had thought;  they can be ten times as powerful as the 1989 Quebec storm.  He showed a graphic of how the 1989 pulse reached into mid latitudes of the US.   He also explained that the EMP threat has two components, the E3, or slow pulse threat (the main threat posed by solar storms) and a stronger more geographically focused E1 component, which can be larger with non-nuclear Radio Frequency flux devices which the US military has and which terrorists could make  (New Scientist had explained this in 2001 with this article reproduced in Popular Science just before 9/11).
Kappenman showed some photographs of a typical substation and explained some technical mitigation measures that are possible now, especially against the E1 portion.  One concept is “GIC blocking”.  There are also issues with shielding and grounding components, and how to construct housing for them.
Kappenman suggests that the government should develop regulations forcing utilities to adhere to these standards.  
Note that a bill, HR 2417 (link)Secure High Voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act” did not get through the Senate in 2013.  The bill would set up standards of resilience to be implemented in six months (related to geomagnetic storms) and one year (regarding EMP from enemies), and requires utilities to become available to manufacture transformers within the US.  I don’t know how that would really happen.  This sounds like a good industry for the Shenandoah Valley, for Virginia to court. 
I wonder, with the NSA and CIA having so much info, how can we really miss this? 

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