A recently released report found that the nation's power grid is susceptible to terrorist attacks that could have devastating impacts -- months-long power outages costing billions of dollars. Conducted and written in 2007 by the National Research Council (NRC), it wasn't until August 2012 that most of the study was made public. According to a report in USA Today, the NRC was frustated by the delayed release, which was ordered by the Department of Homeland Security. Officials say that most of the report's contents, however, are still relevant.
Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor M. Granger Morgan heads up the NRC committee that penned the report. "We could easily be without power across a multi-state region for many weeks or months, because we don't have many spare transformers," he told USA Today.
Key elements of the power grid, distributed across hundreds of miles, are unguarded. Aging equipment lacks sensors that would detect and intervene to minimize cascading power outages. Compounding the federal government's challenges in shoring up these vulnerabilities, according to the report, is the fact that the majority of the grid is privately owned and subject to state regulation.
Following Hurricane Sandy, many officials are calling for more resilient infrastructure that would more effectively guard against natural disasters as well as terrorist threats. Sen Joe Lieberman recently sponsored a new cybersecurity bill that could provide safeguards against such attacks on the nation's infrastructure, but the issue has proven divisive in Congress. According to CNET, an executive order by President Obama to implement some form of security may be forthcoming.
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