Office of Electricity

Furthering the Understanding and Management of Risks Associated with Electromagnetic Pulses

January 9, 2017

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DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability (OE) is committed to working with our interagency (including NASA, DHS, DOD, ODNI, and USGS) and industry partners to advance science on impacts, protection strategies, and mitigation solutions to the numerous threats and hazards that may severely impact the Nation’s critical energy infrastructure. These efforts have addressed natural disasters, cyber and physical attacks, geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs), and electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). 

Today, I am pleased to announce the next step we have taken to further our understanding and management of risks associated with electromagnetic pulses with the release of the DOE Electromagnetic Pulse Resilience Action Plan (DOE Action Plan).

EMPs can be caused by a high-altitude detonation of a nuclear device. This type of high-impact, low frequency event has the potential to destabilize the nation’s power grid and damage equipment. While the likelihood is low, DOE takes an all-hazards approach and is dedicated to understanding the risks while working with our government and industry partners to develop cost-effective strategies to mitigate, respond to, and recover from potential disruptions. As such, we have engaged in a series of activities:

  • Ongoing Research
    • DOE continues to collaborate with DHS to advance the understanding of EMP effects on electricity through research at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    • DOE funds Idaho National Laboratory to apply our current understanding to develop potential EMP strategies, protections, and mitigations for the electric grid. A study was released in January 2016 on this topic and can be found here.
    • The Department is analyzing the vulnerability of the power grid to an EMP event and the potential impact on reliability and delivery of electric power. The analysis will examine resilience options such as hardening, stockpiles, and planning.
  • Joint Strategy
    • In July 2016, we released a Joint Electromagnetic Pulse Resilience Strategy (Joint Strategy) in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The Joint Strategy enhances coordination and shapes future efforts to help meet the growing demands for EMP guidance.

With the release of the DOE Action Plan, we are outlining potential next steps, subject to available funding, to implement the Joint Strategy. The 19 action items in the DOE Action Plan are aligned to the five goals of the Joint Strategy: 1) improve and share understanding of EMP threats, effects, and impacts; 2) identify priority infrastructure; 3) test and promote mitigation and protection approaches; 4) enhance response and recovery capabilities to an EMP attack and; 5) share best practices across government and industry, nationally and internationally.

The DOE Action Plan was developed with input from interagency partners, the DOE National Laboratories, and the electric utility industry, in part through a one-day session with more than 50 EMP experts and electric power industry representatives to identify, discuss, and prioritize the action items outlined in the document. This collaborative approach will ensure that DOE remains focused on potential actions it can take to address the EMP threat, while remaining coordinated with interagency and industry partners over the next five years.

DOE is committed to ensuring a resilient, reliable, and secure electric grid in an increasingly challenging environment.