On June 18, 2013, Representative Trent Franks (AZ-8) introduced H.R. 2417. The latest title of the bill is “To amend the Federal Power Act to protect the bulk-power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense and well-being of the United States against natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (“EMP“) threats and vulnerabilities.”
This is one of those bills that will not be important until we need it and don’t have it. What the bill does is protect the major parts of the American electrical grid from electromagnetic pulse (“EMP”). The United States became aware of the EMP during nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll during the 1940’s and 1950’s. After one of the nuclear tests, all of the traffic lights in Hawaii stopped working properly. An investigation began, and the concept of EMP was born.
EMP can happen naturally or it can be man-made. On June 18, the Center for Security Policy posted an article about the EMP threat.
In reporting on H.R. 2417, the Center for Security Policy states:
It’s no idle threat, either: in March 1989, the power grid in Quebec went from normal to shutdown in 92 seconds during a huge magnetic storm, according to a recent report by insurance giant Lloyds of London. It took 9 hours to restore normal operations, during which time ﬁve million people were without electricity. Total cost: about $2 billion.
The bill centers on protecting modern high-voltage transformers, which can weigh up to 400 tons, cost millions of dollars, and are made in only a handful of facilities in the U.S. A June 2012 report a June 2012 report by the Dept. of Energy called them a key failure point in the grid, citing volatile raw-material pricing – copper and electrical steel – and a lead time for manufacturing that can stretch to 20 months.
“It’s critical that we protect our major transformers from cascading destruction. The SHIELD Act encourages industry to develop standards necessary to protect our electric infrastructure against both natural and man-made EMP events,” Franks said, according to the Washington Examiner.
Shielding our major transformers would not be a great expense, and that shielding would prevent a much greater expense. H.R. 2417 needs to be passed and acted on quickly.