Steve Reilly, a reporter at USA Today, was a guest on a 30 minute segment of C-Span's Washington Journal this morning. Watch it here. Mr. Reilly's article can be found at Bracing for a big power grid attack: 'One is too many'.
Actually, we've experienced quite a few more than one. We've been warned about cyber and physical attacks of power stations for years, and Mr. Reilly reports that there have been 362 over a four year period according DOE data.
From the C-Span program:
Host: What is your worst fear?
Reilly: The worst fear is an attack on multiple substations or pieces of substructure at the same time. The concern obviously is that we might see some sort of large scale outage, um, possibly along the line of what we saw in 2003 in the Northeast corridor, an outage that affects millions of people at the same time. It would be devastating to society.
Mr. Reilly's article seems concerned with the lack of regulatory movement in this area. He notes that an industry group, the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC) writes the standards for the industry, and the government's FERC takes a back seat. The industry itself is probably best equipped to come up with solutions for protecting the power grid. But getting those solutions implemented is another matter. Whether they are doing a good job is something we may have to find out the hard way, because it's hard to find evidence that much has been done by the power companies themselves.
A caller to C-Span asked about EMPs. That was not the focus of Mr. Reilly's report, however he did say that nothing has been done to protect against them. However, some of the thinking on that topic has resulted in suggestions of Faraday cages constructed around vulnerable structures. Now that might work.
The real vulnerability, though, is the lax security around the typical power plant.