Government Agency Warns If 9 Substations Are Destroyed, The Power Grid Could Be Down For 18 Months

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

What would you do if the Internet or the power grid went down for over a year?  Our key infrastructure, including the Internet and the power grid, is far more vulnerable than most people would dare to imagine.  These days, most people simply take for granted that the lights will always be on and that the Internet will always function properly.  But what if all that changed someday in the blink of an eye?  According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's latest report, all it would take to plunge the entire nation into darkness for more than a year would be to knock out a transformer manufacturer and just 9 of our 55,000 electrical substations on a really hot summer day.  The reality of the matter is that our power grid is in desperate need of updating, and there is very little or no physical security at most of these substations. 


If terrorists, or saboteurs, or special operations forces wanted to take down our power grid, it would not be very difficult.  And as you will read about later in this article, the Internet is extremely vulnerable as well.

When I read the following statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's latest report, I was absolutely floored...

"Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer."


What would you do without power for 18 months?

FERC studied what it would take to collapse the entire electrical grid from coast to coast.  What they found was quite unsettling...

In its modeling, FERC studied what would happen if various combinations of substations were crippled in the three electrical systems that serve the contiguous U.S. The agency concluded the systems could go dark if as few as nine locations were knocked out: four in the East, three in the West and two in Texas, people with knowledge of the analysis said.


The actual number of locations that would have to be knocked out to spawn a massive blackout would vary depending on available generation resources, energy demand, which is highest on hot days, and other factors, experts said. Because it is difficult to build new transmission routes, existing big substations are becoming more crucial to handling electricity.

So what would life look like without any power for a long period of time?  The following list comes from one of my previous articles...

-There would be no heat for your home.

-Water would no longer be pumped into most homes.

-Your computer would not work.

-There would be no Internet.

-Your phones would not work.

-There would be no television.

-There would be no radio.

-ATM machines would be shut down.

-There would be no banking.

-Your debit cards and credit cards would not work.

-Without electricity, gas stations would not be functioning.

-Most people would be unable to do their jobs without electricity and employment would collapse.

-Commerce would be brought to a standstill.

-Hospitals would not be able to function.

-You would quickly start running out of medicine.

-All refrigeration would shut down and frozen foods in our homes and supermarkets would start to go bad.

If you want to get an idea of how quickly society would descend into chaos, just watch the documentary "American Blackout" some time.  It will chill you to your bones.

The truth is that we live in an unprecedented time.  We have become extremely dependent on technology, and that technology could be stripped away from us in an instant.

Right now, our power grid is exceedingly vulnerable, and all the experts know this, but very little is being done to actually protect it...

"The power grid, built over many decades in a benign environment, now faces a range of threats it was never designed to survive," said Paul Stockton, a former assistant secretary of defense and president of risk-assessment firm Cloud Peak Analytics. "That's got to be the focus going forward."

If a group of agents working for a foreign government or a terrorist organization wanted to bring us to our knees, they could do it.

In fact, there have actually been recent attacks on some of our power stations.  Here is just one example

The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Smith reports that a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman is acknowledging for the first time that a group of snipers shot up a Silicon Valley substation for 19 minutes last year, knocking out 17 transformers before slipping away into the night.


The attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S., Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time, told Smith.

Have you heard about that attack before now?

Most Americans have not.

But it should have been big news.

At the scene, authorities found "more than 100 fingerprint-free shell casings", and little piles of rocks "that appeared to have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots."

So what happens someday when the bad guys decide to conduct a coordinated attack against our power grid with heavy weapons?

It could happen.

In addition, as I mentioned at the top of this article, the Internet is extremely vulnerable as well.

For example, did you know that authorities are so freaked out about the security of the Internet that they have given "the keys to the Internet" to a very small group of individuals that meet four times per year?

It's true.  The following is from a recent story posted by the Guardian...

The keyholders have been meeting four times a year, twice on the east coast of the US and twice here on the west, since 2010. Gaining access to their inner sanctum isn't easy, but last month I was invited along to watch the ceremony and meet some of the keyholders – a select group of security experts from around the world. All have long backgrounds in internet security and work for various international institutions. They were chosen for their geographical spread as well as their experience – no one country is allowed to have too many keyholders. They travel to the ceremony at their own, or their employer's, expense.


What these men and women control is the system at the heart of the web: the domain name system, or DNS. This is the internet's version of a telephone directory – a series of registers linking web addresses to a series of numbers, called IP addresses. Without these addresses, you would need to know a long sequence of numbers for every site you wanted to visit. To get to the Guardian, for instance, you'd have to enter "" instead of

If the system that controls those IP addresses gets hijacked or damaged, we would definitely need someone to press the "reset button" on the Internet.

Sadly, the hackers always seem to be several steps ahead of the authorities.  In fact, according to one recent report, breaches of U.S. government computer networks go undetected 40 percent of the time

A new report by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) details widespread cybersecurity breaches in the federal government, despite billions in spending to secure the nation’s most sensitive information.


The report, released on Tuesday, found that approximately 40 percent of breaches go undetected, and highlighted “serious vulnerabilities in the government’s efforts to protect its own civilian computers and networks.”


“In the past few years, we have seen significant breaches in cybersecurity which could affect critical U.S. infrastructure,” the report said. “Data on the nation’s weakest dams, including those which could kill Americans if they failed, were stolen by a malicious intruder. Nuclear plants’ confidential cybersecurity plans have been left unprotected. Blueprints for the technology undergirding the New York Stock Exchange were exposed to hackers.”


And things are not much better when it comes to cybersecurity in the private sector either.  According to Symantec, there was a 42 percent increase in cyberattacks against businesses in the United States last year.  And according to a recent report in the Telegraph, our major banks are being hit with cyberattacks "every minute of every day"...

Every minute, of every hour, of every day, a major financial institution is under attack.


Threats range from teenagers in their bedrooms engaging in adolescent “hacktivism”, to sophisticated criminal gangs and state-sponsored terrorists attempting everything from extortion to industrial espionage. Though the details of these crimes remain scant, cyber security experts are clear that behind-the-scenes online attacks have already had far reaching consequences for banks and the financial markets.

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled "Big Banks Are Being Hit With Cyberattacks 'Every Minute Of Every Day'".

Up until now, attacks on our infrastructure have not caused any significant interruptions in our lifestyles.

But at some point that will change.

Are you prepared for that to happen?

We live at a time when our world is becoming increasingly unstable.  In the years ahead it is quite likely that we will see massive economic problems, major natural disasters, serious terror attacks and war.  Any one of those could cause substantial disruptions in the way that we live.

At this point, even NASA is warning that "civilization could collapse"...

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.


Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

So let us hope for the best.

But let us also prepare for the worst.

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Overfed's picture

Good thing they announced that to the public. Now they just need to get to work curtailing more of our freedoms.

NemoDeNovo's picture

It would be a LOT longer then 18 months, that is wishful thinking right there I'm afraid.


Payne's picture

bunch of alarmist lies to get us to trust the government to save us from ourselves.  The grid may not function the way it does now and you might have blackouts at times.

ss123's picture

I would just sit around and drink Coors all day.
Actually might be a good thing if people couldn't get on 'The Grid' for a year or two.

Surly Bear's picture

Fuck. Well, that is what I would do.

johnQpublic's picture

if the grid goes down , so does every single nuclear plant

and that folks, is game over for the planet

imagine 50 fukushimas

extinction level event

SnobGobbler's picture

more like 108 fukushimas (23 exact same model too!) or so here, 420+ worldwide

whotookmyalias's picture

Living in San Diego when the power went out a few years ago is what got me started on prepping, arming, and stacking.  That was for less than 24 hours.

Tall Tom's picture

Thursday, September 6, 2011 at roughly 3:30 PM. I remember it well.


Even the man up the road with the huge assed Solar Array, obviously without Battery Backup, was DARK.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

We were down for 3 weeks after the Cedar Fire. We fortunately had a generator and had access to gas. When we found out Solar is designed to go down for the power line repair crews safety we designed ours with that in mind. Three weeks without power can truly change your prospective. Fortunately we had a 10k gallon cistern or we would have been out of water too. Sometimes disasters can turn into blessings.


Unpopular Truth's picture

Good thing I also hold physical gold coins, because my bitcoins would be no good!

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

It irks me to no end that gas furnaces are designed to require electricity to control them. You'd think some smart ass would have built a simple but ubiquitous component to generate enough electricity from the gas itself to run the electric parts of the furnace so you aren't simultaneously dependent on 2 grids.

It boggles the mind.

Soon as I can manage I want a bloombox. Even if the gas grid itself is cut off so long as one can provide methane to it, and methane isn't exactly rare, you can get electric power out of it.

I have no idea if it's gone commercial yet. All I know is test units were running on server-farms for Google and reportedly cut their power bill in half on the test site, no problems reported.

I hope they don't buy the guy outright and keep it all to themselves. Google is big enough now to afford it.

Wile-E-Coyote's picture

There are hot water boilers designed to work without mains electricity. Two methods one using a thermopile, a bunch of thermocouples to power the gas valve or a bimetallic controlled gas valve which opens and closes depending on the set water temperature.

But the thing to remember if the grid goes down the gas supply might go as well; gas pressure is normally boosted by gas turbines.

Get a good wood burner.



Headbanger's picture

There are some real fucking idiots here! 

!)  GET A GOOD INVERTER GENERATOR like  Honda or my preference, a Yamahahaha..


3) L EARN HOW TO GET GAS OUT OF YOUR CAR'S TANK .. Guess what?  You can't siphon like the good old days cause of the anti-roll-over check valve








Evil Peanut's picture

Nice of them to let us know its only 9.

are they begging for something to happen?


Have at it boys

exi1ed0ne's picture

Wood burners need juice too for the circulation pump and fans for outside units.  The only solution is to get enough local generation to meet minimal needs (fridge/freezer/heat/well pump).

DeadFred's picture

$400 of parts plus a backup battery (that can be taken from your car) will give you a functional off the grid system. Solar City will install a system for free although you'd need to bootleg the off-grid capability. Wrap the inverter control system in metal in case of an EMP. Your tin foil hat can do double duty for that purpose. Sadly I had to check out a Solar City web site for the particulars some time back so guess whose ad is looking at me as I type. You'll lose $400 worth of food when your freezer goes out for a couple days, much longer than that and you'll be glad you have those rechargable zombie-weedwhackers.

Tall Tom's picture

In Jamul the power was only out for six hours. But I think that Miffed is correct.


A Faraday Cage is definitely something to think about for shieding from an EMP. It can be a metal mesh.


But it was not my system. I survived on batteries and had a Transistor Radio to get information. But even the News Crews were on the air and were openly begging for fuel as they did not have Backup Storage.


It was pretty trippy.

weburke's picture

too many elites live in that eastern canada/new england grid for it to go down. 

prains's picture

their Hello Kitty Vibrators wouldn't work, it would be total anarchy

Ident 7777 economy's picture


More ID 10T-ism on display.


How many here REALLY know what a Farady Cage REALLY represents?


Anyone ... show hands?


The Dunning Kruger effect on this board is ASTOUNDING sometimes ...


El Vaquero's picture

It's a conductor in the form of a "cage" around whatever you want to protect that shields the inside from electromagnetic radiation.


I'll also say that EMP is one of the most misunderstood topics out there.  During the cold war, we knew what the effects were, and the Soviets didn't.  So, we started spinning up all sorts of EMP research programs to get them to do the same, because we knew that we could afford it at the time and we didn't think they could.  Think about how much misinformation that leads to. 

Wile-E-Coyote's picture

Faradays cage has been known about for some time, who is putting out misinformation here?

Element's picture



During the cold war, we knew what the effects were, and the Soviets didn't.

The Soviets were acutely aware of EMP effects by mid-1962 (they were planning to use it against the US from Cuba in November of the same year).

Remember that defecting Foxbat with the vacuum tube electronics in the mid 1970s? They were far more resistant than ICs to ampere surge. What did the US do? Well, the very opposite, it made itself far more and more susceptible to EMP, via lower and lower voltage tolerance and denser and denser ICs, with finer and finer tolerances, and filled all of industry and military systems with the RS232 interface.

So please don't tell me how the US spent up big to protect itself when it permitted the exact opposite to occur. You can believe all you want, but just have a look at the back of your PC, or Mac, or any industrial controller, and most military computers, and grid-control systems. The US has never been more vulnerable to EMP, or the sun chucking an E3 wobbly, than right now.

And they'll make, nationally, millions of urban and suburban fires in less time than it takes to read this last word.

Quick, call the  ... oh ... never mind.

i.e. you'll get fire storms.

msmith9962's picture

So you're saying the power will go out and all our shit will catch fire?

Element's picture

In high-yield high altitude EMP? Yes. Resistance heating of such ampere/voltage will cause conductors to glow incandescent and many to explode and shower molten metal around the place. Some you can't even see, such as wiring in walls and ceilings. If you aren't at home to put them out, or you can't see or reach them, or there are too many fires ... well that will be everywhere in your street in a real EMP strike, and these will burn whole cities to the ground, without even a single airburst or ground burst over a city.

And the moment that happens the ABM missile-shield is also compromised and degraded if not rendered completely stuffed. What is for sure if more missiles come they will get through. Escalation between nuclear powers is too dangerous.

El Vaquero's picture

LOL dude, I have realatives who worked for the MIC during the cold war.  I've been to some of the EMP test sites that we had. 

Element's picture

Look up the vulnerability of RS232 to E1 and E2 EMP effects. (see report linked below)

Now look up where RS232 ports have been implemented in the US.

It isn't about relatives or trips to facilities, it's about what happens when a HEMP explodes above you and if your electronics can take it or not. The overwhelming view in technical reports is that at least 50% of US is totally screwed in the event of the use of even a single fission A-bomb type yield in a HEMP device over the central united states.


Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack - April 2008


After actually reading that report I bet you don't feel anywhere near so confident.

Element's picture

Faraday cages work when not connected to an antenna, power lead, or copper wire data interfaces.

Remove those and the result is the same as not turning it on, it doesn't work.

I can not believe that you don't know that, so you must know it, and simply deny it.

laboratorymike's picture

A panel for the freezer is a great idea. I've been told boat batteries are the best for solar systems, as they are designed to sit in a garage without use for months at a time.

If you stick with any liquid fuel, a multifuel stove that takes gas or diesel is also a good bet. During good times you can buy gas ahead, and during hard times the stove and an inverted flower pot gives off a lot of radiant heat, I was able to keep my apartment reasonable for ~6 hours on one test when it was 0 F out, with no carbon monoxide issue as measured by the detector I kept next to it (Always have one if you burn anything in your house!).

Citxmech's picture

For SHTF storage - I think diesel is a must.  The gas now sucks balls when it comes to storage, even with a stabilizer.  We have one commuter car that runs on gas for a bit of diversity - but everything else we have is diesel.  A home heating tank will hold 250+ gallons of heating oil (which is basically diesel without the road taxes and a dye added) for a cheap, low profile method of storage.  Propane is pretty good as an additional line of backup for heating and cooking.

exi1ed0ne's picture

You would need to wrap your house in a faraday cage otherwise the wires in your house will still feed damaging voltage into your inverter.

ILLILLILLI's picture

Boy, sure is a good thing they don't know about THIS book:

"This is a legendary work by the famed Swiss expert on guerrilla warfare, Major H. von Dach. Well-written and illustrated with easy-to-understand drawings, Total Resistance analyzes and overviews the techniques needed to overcome an invading force, formation of guerrilla units, weapons, food and medical considerations, ambushes, sabotage and much more."

You can find it on Scribd for free if you're more interested in buying the barbarous relic than books...

Tall Tom's picture

Thanks. I have not read that one yet. But I will.


Scribd charges money but here is a link that will get it for free.

ILLILLILLI's picture

It's worth the time to read it.

As to Scribd, if you upload a file or two, you get to download files for free. No need to pay...just upload something that you think others might want to read.

Stuck on Zero's picture

I remember the event well. All the neighbors came out and started talking.  It was the friendliest I had ever seen the area. 


If someone could just knock out all the televisions I'd tickled pink.


Tall Tom's picture

I wonder just how many San Diegans are on ZH. Maybe we all need to meet sometime and see the members of the San Diego Chapter of Project Mayhem.


On second thought I am sure that we would be infiltrated with Agent Provocateurs. So perhaps it is best that we do not.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Bumped into quite a few over the years. Probably more likely to find ZHers from SD than San Fran ( who probably only lurk or troll). Problem is meeting up w/o the obvious high value target droning. You don't have homing pigeons by any chance?


firstdivision's picture

Ummm...don't know where your info comes from, but the plant would have power.  Its everything else that wouldn't. 

Tall Tom's picture

They have a THREE DAY supply of Diesel to run the Emergency Generators.


I got my information off of the Discovery Channel Documentary


AFTERMATH Population Zero.


Later in the Documentary it tells you that they start Melt Down at the 72 Hour mark when the Diesel Generators run out of Fuel. You ought to watch it. Because the first minutes of the Film tell you what happens without power.


Refrigerated Gases blow up. It will be a Toxic Nightmare. Although they believe that life will continue that is debatable. It will be the end of the World as YOU know it. Life as you know it will become EXTINCT.


Normal will vanish. The article states that NASA even sees the potential for the collapse of civilization. Now you can IGNORANTLY BE IN DENIAL.


So LEARN ABOUT IT and WAKE UP. Or go back to the comfort of your Main Stream Media INDUCED DELUSION. It is much more comfortable there....FOR NOW. You can be a GOOD LITTLE SOCIALIST and cheer on your Red Team or Blue Team as you put your faith in Mommy Government to take care of the evil pwoblems.

TheReplacement's picture

But don't nuke plants make electric?  It would seem to work itself out.

Tall Tom's picture

The problem with that is that Nuclear Plants make too much Energy when you have an Electrical Grid Failure. Since they cannot transmit the excess energy to the grid so either they must shut down or they will Meltdown.


Nuclear Plants are not like a simple rheostat or a water faucet. You just cannot turn down the volume to a trickle. They will produce a Minimum Amount of Energy and unless Shut Down the Energy stored will increase. (The Core Temperature rises.)


(The lack of Water is another problem with an Energy Grid failure as pumps become inoperable. Ultimately that will kill many of us.)


You are in denial.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Solid fuel reactors, yes, and electric pumps yes, but let's remember a whole era of pumping existed with no electricity and let's also remember thorium reactors don't use solid fuel rods.

Obviously the problem is: we currently have no plans on any books to use purely pressure-hydraulic pumps bleeding off the heat like a sensible engineer would use who was told "you have no electricity to control this. Now make it work". Engineering existed before electricity, this isn't an impossible task. It is, however, in a political & economic environment that is blind to the obvious truth.

Anyhow why worry about grid failures? We can buy our way out with bitcoins!! SATOSHI POWER!

Citxmech's picture

If there were a regional or total grid failure - one would hope the military/nat guard would make maintaining the cooling systems on every affected reactor priority 1.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

And yet a liquid thorium reactor has no such melt-down catastrophe. Melt-down is its normal cooling & shut-down mode. Melt the cooled salt plug, down the pipe it goes & cools until pumped back into the reactor to do its work.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

You're absolutely right and it takes a very dishonest person and/or very stupid not to see it.
You simply extract the needed amount of heat for the electrical generation, so you don't have electrical generation overload, and produce electricity from that needed amount of heat.
You can bleed the excess heat anywhere you want to avoid explosion/danger, or to minimize it, in this process, since as the other arguing asshole will tell you, there's an excess of heat.
That excess means you can always bleed off the amount you need & channel the rest elsewhere.
We learned how to do that in the steam age before electricity even was used by us mere mortal humans.
From there once you have the electrical power and restore the electric transmission to the pumps you're good to go.
Since we can use wireless power transmission using induction coils there's no need for a grid at all,
not a grid to move electricity within the plant, and not to transmit it.
The big lie is that we need a grid when in fact we can use induction coils.
We've known that since Tesla's era and that was over 100 years ago.

The current problem is not an engineering problem since we've had the solution more than 100 years. Tje current problem is a political problem as bad designs are deliberately used with deliberate intentful harm with no question as to how bad the outcome will be and lots of lying to cover up the re-balancing of benefit from "producer" to "consumer" of power.

Spanky's picture



I got my information off of the Discovery Channel Documentary -- Tall Tom

Well, there's your problem right there...

Just because the transmission and distribution grid goes down does not mean that the power plants are inoperable. 

Tall Tom's picture

Yes they are inoperable. There is no way of transmitting the energy. The grid is down. So where does the heat go? (Energy and heat are synonomous)


I have been studying Energy for most of my life. That is what Physicists do. While I am not a Nuclear Physicist I do have a very good understand about how those plants work.


I guess that I will need to give you something else since you do not believe the Documentary Film which I referenced. (The Discovery Channel is not too political.)


Of course you may want to actually watch the film...

Rakshas's picture


Before we run off like chiken little ya might want to do a little reading - bottom line these things are not simple bouncing betty's just one tap and boom,  and the event that gave us the nightmare at FUCK-US-SHEEMA was pretty drastic to say the least.  Don't get me wrong I am in no way a fan of Nukes at all on any level ever but I know these things go down on a regular basis in ways that would be experienced should some dumbfuck ..... well how would I do it.... drive my car into the substation fence and .....

But anyway how about an examination of the historical events

From 2003 Northeast Blackout; Nine nuclear power reactors – six in New York and one each in New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan – were shut down because of the loss of offsite power, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Bethesda, Md."


Me I'll take my little junkyard wars wind turbines and my solar array - it ain't pretty but it keeps the kids off my back when the grid goes down......FYI used forklift batteries are better than marine type LA Cells