Vulnerability of Electric Power System Assessed by CRS

11.01.12 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The U.S. electric power system is vulnerable to a variety of threats, from natural disasters to operational errors to sabotage or terrorist attack, a newly disclosed report from the Congressional Research Service says.

Over the years there have actually been tens of thousands of recorded attacks on electric power targets, CRS notes, but usually due to “mischief” and with limited or no consequences.

“Most commonly, electric outages are caused by use of a weapon to shoot out transformers or use of simple tools to take down transmission towers.”

“As part of regular operating procedure, utilities make contingency plans for outages of one or two large components on their system. However, few systems make contingency plans for outages on as many as seven critical components. Under extreme scenarios, large portions the United States could be without power for several months.”

The CRS report is dated April 9, 2004.  But for reasons that could not be immediately ascertained, the report was only issued last week with a new report number.

“This report identifies physical and cyber vulnerabilities in the electric transmission and distribution system.  The role of government and industry in protecting infrastructure as well as in the restoration of damaged systems is analyzed and policy implications are discussed.”

A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.  See Electric Utility Infrastructure Vulnerabilities: Transformers, Towers, and Terrorism, April 9, 2004.