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Got Power? Maine PUC Report on GMD/EMP Threat to Grid [Full Report]

Photo, Susan Patten, Townsquare Media

For some time now, national experts have been sounding the alarm regarding the vulnerability of our nation’s electric power infrastructure.

The threat to the electric grid comes from three possible sources; solar space weather, a nuclear detonation in our atmosphere, or a cyber attack.

Last year, the Maine Legislature required the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to study the impact that a geomagnetic disturbance (GMD), or electromagnetic pulse (EMP), could have on the power grid.

As part of the PUC’s investigation for its report, the state’s major utility companies were questioned, as was the ISO-New England, and from the answers they provided, it’s clear power regulators are aware of the problems space weather can pose to the grid and electric transformers.

Historical data contained in the PUC report proves the threat is not a matter of science fiction.

“Another major GMD event in North America occurred in Quebec on March 13, 1989.This incident affected the Hydro Quebec (HQ) electric infrastructure and caused a widespread outage affecting nearly six million HQ customers for approximately nine hours. Additional damage was reported across North America, including damage to a 500 kV transformer at a nuclear facility in New Jersey. Other EHV electrical equipment in the United Kingdom was reportedly damaged as a result of the same solar storm”

As I’ve been reporting in my series Got Power?, state representative Andrea Boland of Sanford has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention of Maine lawmakers.

Earlier this week, Boland, and national experts, shared their knowledge of the subject on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s radio call-in show, Maine Calling.

Boland, and many others who have been researching the threat, say while it’s good to know the power companies have protocols and procedures on the books to relieve pressure on the electric infrastructure in the event of extreme geomagnetic disturbances, the reality is, these procedures have not been put to test in the event of a massive solar storm. They suggest mitigation efforts by utility companies would not be nearly as costly to this country as would be trying to recover from such a crisis.

MPBN was criticized by one group for airing the program, suggesting it was nothing more than a ploy by the ‘military industrial complex’ enthusiasts.

“The talking heads on the Maine radio program yesterday made the outrageous case that possible nuclear attacks from Iran and North Korea are key reasons for needing this protection.  And they made them sound eminent,” stated Bruce Gagnon with the Global Network.

An outrageous claim?

Not according to former Iranian Revolutionary Guards member Reza Kahlili who suggests ignoring the radical ideology that drives the Iranian mullahs would be dangerously naive.

The detonation of a nuclear warhead in our atmosphere, launched from an ocean going vessel off our coast, could have the potential for creating an electromagnetic pulse capable of disabling the nation’s power infrastructure.

This is the full report submitted to the state legislature for its consideration this session.

Maine Public Utilities Commission Report on GMD/EMP Threat

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