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Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System (2012)

Chapter:Appendix A: Statement of Task

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.


Statement of Task

The National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) will establish a committee of about 18 individuals. The committee will consider approaches to reducing the vulnerability, enhancing the robustness, and improving the resilience and ability to recover of future electrical transmission and distribution (T&D) in the United States to potential terrorist attacks. The committee will use as a starting point the three recent reports addressing electric T&D in the nation, namely, the National Academies’ report Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism; the DOE report Grid 2030, A National Vision for Electricity Second 100 Years; and the EPRI report Electricity Sector Framework for the Future. The study will address technical, policy, and institutional factors that may affect the evolution of electrical T&D in the United States in the midterm (e.g., 3 to 10 years) and the long term (10 to 25 years). The committee will identify priority technology opportunities, R&D directions, policy and institutional actions, and strategies that will lead to more secure electrical T&D in the face of an uncertain future. The committee will write a report documenting its findings and recommendations. In particular, the committee will likely include the following in its activities:

(1)  Examination of the current status of electricity T&D in the United States with the aim of identifying significant technological opportunities that can reduce vulnerability or enhance robustness to potential terrorist attack. The committee can draw on various recent studies (noted above) by DOE, EPRI, and the National Academies on electricity T&D in the United States, and also on other perspectives that may arrive at different conclusions than these studies.

(2)  As part of its data-gathering activities, and in order to elicit a wide array of perspectives on how electric T&D and supply in the United States may evolve and the different approaches to reducing the impact of potential terrorist attacks, the committee will invite presentations from electric power industry groups, federal and state representatives, nonprofit groups, consumer groups, small companies, and others. The committee will review the various perspectives vis-à-vis the vision that has been laid out in the DOE and EPRI studies (noted above) as at least one point of reference. The committee will likely organize itself into working subgroups to entertain these presentations and promote discussion on selected issues, such as technology, policies, and institutional issues. The committee may also include a workshop(s) as part of its early data-gathering activities to help the committee focus on the priority issues and questions that need to be answered for its study.

(3)  Given that the future evolution of electric T&D in the United States is uncertain, the committee may develop a range of scenarios, considering factors affecting future requirements for the nation’s T&D infrastructure, including the need for new capacity, replacement needs, siting issues, vulnerability to terrorism, and the effects of interconnectedness among regional networks.

(4)  The committee will analyze the likely implications for the vulnerability, robustness, and recovery and resilience of electrical T&D to potential terrorist attacks in the midterm (3 to 10 years) as well as the long term (10 to 25 years) with an eye on science and technology investment.

(5)  Analyze how existing and emerging technological options could improve the reliability, security, robustness, and the ability to recover from disruptions to the electrical T&D system, or systems, and prioritize technical opportunities and R&D needs.

(6)  Recommend strategies for implementing the transition from the current situation to a future system that is less vulnerable to disruption from terrorist attack, considering primarily technical barriers.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.

(7)  Write a final report documenting its findings and recommendations.

The National Research Council will issue a final report approximately 15 to 18 months from the time funds are received to initiate the study.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
Next: Appendix B: Committee Biographical Information »
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The electric power delivery system that carries electricity from large central generators to customers could be severely damaged by a small number of well-informed attackers. The system is inherently vulnerable because transmission lines may span hundreds of miles, and many key facilities are unguarded. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that the power grid, most of which was originally designed to meet the needs of individual vertically integrated utilities, is being used to move power between regions to support the needs of competitive markets for power generation. Primarily because of ambiguities introduced as a result of recent restricting the of the industry and cost pressures from consumers and regulators, investment to strengthen and upgrade the grid has lagged, with the result that many parts of the bulk high-voltage system are heavily stressed.

Electric systems are not designed to withstand or quickly recover from damage inflicted simultaneously on multiple components. Such an attack could be carried out by knowledgeable attackers with little risk of detection or interdiction. Further well-planned and coordinated attacks by terrorists could leave the electric power system in a large region of the country at least partially disabled for a very long time. Although there are many examples of terrorist and military attacks on power systems elsewhere in the world, at the time of this study international terrorists have shown limited interest in attacking the U.S. power grid. However, that should not be a basis for complacency. Because all parts of the economy, as well as human health and welfare, depend on electricity, the results could be devastating.

Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System focuses on measures that could make the power delivery system less vulnerable to attacks, restore power faster after an attack, and make critical services less vulnerable while the delivery of conventional electric power has been disrupted.

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