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The Military

Electronic Armageddon, and No Electricity Either 158

Smart grid technology is a hot issue on Capitol Hill, but some are raising questions about the idea. In recent days we've discussed the smart grid's potential exposure to worm attacks, consumers' unreadiness for the idea, and whether the whole concept may need a rethink. A Congressional hearing on Thursday surfaced another reason for caution: the smart grid's vulnerability to EMP. "Electromagnetic Pulse" refers to the damage caused in electrical circuits and systems when a nuclear explosive goes off nearby. The electric grid as it's currently constituted is vulnerable to EMP; the further down the road we go towards a smart grid, the more vulnerable it will become. "It makes a great equalizer for small nations looking to stand up to military Goliaths, argues Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Rep.-Md.), a former research scientist and engineer who has worked in the past on projects for NASA and the military. All one needs to wreak some serious EMP damage, he charges, is a sea-worthy steamer, $100,000 to buy a scud-missile launcher, and a crude nuclear weapon. Then fling the device high into the air and detonate its warhead. Such a system might not paralyze the entire United States, he concedes. 'But you could shut down all of New England. And if you missed by 100 miles, it's as good as a bulls eye.'"

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