Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System (2012)
The U.S. power delivery system is remarkably complex. Its network of substations, transmission lines, and distribution lines are not designed to withstand or quickly recover from damage inflicted simultaneously on multiple components. In addition, investment to strengthen and upgrade the grid has lagged, resulting in a high-voltage system with many heavily stressed parts. Overall, the nation’s power grid is in need of expansion and upgrading. Since all parts of the economy—as well as human health and welfare—depend on electricity, the results of a well-planned and coordinated attack on the power delivery system could be particularly devastating. This report examines technologies and strategies that could make the power delivery system less vulnerable to attacks, restore power faster after an attack, and make critical services less vulnerable while the power is out. The approaches explored in the report can greatly reduce the grid’s vulnerability to cascading failures, whether initiated by terrorists, nature, or malfunctions.
The full report, Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System, was completed by a committee of dedicated experts, assembled by the National Research Council (NRC), and delivered to the study’s sponsor, the Department of Homeland Security, for security review in 2007. The report being released publicly is an unclassified version. The Report in Brief and the full NRC report are available for free online.