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American utilities prepare for a nuclear threat to the grid


 USA: America’s electricity industry has been on alert following the announcement from North Korea that it had developed a hydrogen bomb, adding that it could be used for a “super-powerful” high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) attack, reports The Economist.

American utilities are more than a year into a three-year programme, funded by about 60 electricity firms, aimed at understanding the potential impact of a HEMP attack on the generation and transmission of electricity, and finding ways to protect the network.

An EMP has three components, E1, E2 and E3, that from high altitude can spread across thousands of miles. E3 is the longest-lasting and can affect transmission lines and the transformers connecting output from power stations to the grid.

An EPRI study in February calculated that E3 from multiple detonations was unlikely to cause mass transformer failure, but is doing more studies on this.

American electricity industry is also looking for ways to protect equipment from electromagnetism, for example by using Faraday cages, metallic structures that block radio waves, to render the threat less effective.

Source: The Economist