What brought down the Northeast's electrical grid?

August 15th, 2003

by Russell D. Hoffman

What brought down the Northeast's electrical grid?

Could it be embrittlement of gas and steam turbine blades, a hush-hush topic General Electric and Westinghouse (and ABB, BNF, AOSTOM, etc. etc.) would all like you to ignore?

Could it be one of many computer viruses that have appeared over the years?  Perhaps the communications systems for these power grids are too complicated and too open to be completely protected.  Most security systems fail due to a human error in the process -- even with the most complex and comprehensive security system possible, someone might, for example, forget to turn it on.

Could it be Pressure Vessel cracking at one of the 9 or 10 nuke plants which caused the problem?  Reports of a fire at a nuke plant seem to be premature, but perhaps SOMETHING serious went wrong at a nuke plant or nuke plant's switchyard.

Could it be the Steam Generators, which are also embrittled and cracking?

Are we heading for a Titanic accident (which was caused by embrittled rivets, according to an article by William Broad of the New York Times)?  Was this just about the most benign warning we could have had?  Will we be so lucky next time?

Why aren't distributed, medium-scale and small-scale renewable energy solutions being offered?  The loss of just 21 power plants in a span of about 3 minutes was the cause (though not the "root cause") of this blackout.  Why do we rely on an energy system where so few failures can cause such widespread disruption?

What about the Spent Fuel Pools, Dry Storage Casks, and other dangers outside the containment domes of the nuclear power plants?  Can we be sure they are safe from terrorists during widespread blackouts and the increased demands on police and other emergency personnel at those times?

In Canada, Air Canada was grounded because their control center lost power.  What if a control room of a nuclear reactor was actually attacked by terrorists?  Would the plant survive?  Probably not.

We see hundreds of thousands of people stranded in subways, trains, skyscrapers and walking along the roadways of New York -- people are told to stay inside WITH THEIR WINDOWS OPEN.  If Indian Point had melted down, they would probably be told to keep their windows closed.  Would the people be safe, or would it be a cruel joke?  Why hasn't KI been distributed to the people?  After a meltdown, even just a few hours afterwards, would be too late to do much good (KI is of limited protection, anyway).

CRAC-2, a 1982 government estimate of deaths from nuclear power plants, way UNDERESTIMATES the potential for death and destruction. Yet even CRAC-2 estimated over 400,000 deaths and nearly $600,000,000,000.00 (six hundred billion dollars) in damages if Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 were to melt down together (one catastrophe causing the second catastrophe, a not-impossible scenario) -- and the CRAC-2 report did not account for the possible damage from a spent fuel pool fire, where MOST of the radioactive material is kept!

Why hasn't America built a more robust energy grid since the famous 1965 blackout, after which, we all vowed that that was what we needed?  If we CAN'T build a foolproof energy grid, what makes us think we have built fool-proof nuclear power plants, especially after nearly-catastrophic accidents such as at Davis-Besse in Ohio last year, at South Texas Project this year, as well as recent problems at San Onofre, Indian Point, Three Mile Island, and elsewhere, including Europe and Japan?  One Asian reactor has such a poor reputation in the industry, that this author has heard it said that it's better for your resume to say you were in the Texas State Penitentiary for child molestation than to admit you spent time working at that plant!

These and other issues are all discussed in the author's newsletter, and at the author's web site:

"The Demon Hot Atom" (A look at historic documents from the nuclear era from the author's collection of over 300 books, videos, and other documents):

List of every nuclear power plant in the United States ("The Flying Nukes"):

Learn about EMBRITTLEMENT, Wigner's disease, and related issues with Dr. Ed Siegel:

Russell D. Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA
(760) 720-7261