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Summary and Comments

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1997-06-24 00:00:00


The Vulnerable Power Grid



This is a Year 2000 Problem, but not THE Year 2000 Problem. It is the problem of solar flares and storms. The Year 2000 is expected to be a year of major storms -- part of the 11-year cycle.

If there are power failures, this will put pressure on the power grid. This will be added to any drain in power as a result of a shutdown by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of nuclear power plants because they are not y2k compliant. If a system is shut down, others must fill the gap. If too many gaps appear, the grid may experience major failures. If it shuts down entirely, the whole civilization is at risk. We are addicted to electricity.

How big is the U.S. system (before Canada plugs into it)? This article reveals just how huge it is: 6,000 generating units, 500,000 miles of bulk transmission lines, 12,000 major substations, and innumerable lower- voltage transformers. Big.

This is not run by a desktop PC equipped with Microsoft Office 97 software.

If a city goes down, the system must be ready to experience 600% higher than normal loads to get it back on-line. "Such a blackout is also likely to cause transient voltage stress and permanent damage to network equipment such as hiugh-voltage breakers, transformers, and generation plants, which makes them unavailable for restoring power. Hours or days may pass before power can be restored."

That's one city. That's not the system as a unit. If y2k takes down significant parts of the grid, what will get it back up? The article does not comment on this. You had better think about it.


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