Shutting down the electric grid before EMP attack - is it possible?

Discussion in 'The War Room' started by Joku, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. So, would it be possible to simply shut down the electric grid when the missiles are launched (in a case of nuclear war), but before the missiles actually hit? I imagine this would make it far more reailient to the effects of EMP.
  2. Redfield

    Redfield Vanguard

    I was under the impression that the whole "turning off electronics prior to EMP" thing was a myth. They'll still get fried. To my knowledge, the only way to make it survive an EMP blast is to protect it via a Farraday cage, etc. Correct me if I'm wrong.
  3. As far as I know, the effects of EMP on power grids are caused by massive overcurrents and -voltages being induced across transmission lines, and as such also through transformers and relays. Obviously, this wouldn't happen if the ends of said lines are grounded.

    EMP might still damage sensitive electronics where even relatively short leads can gather enough overvoltage. Ie. In ethernet cables and such.
  4. Terradyne

    Terradyne Disappointed, but not surprised.

    While a Faraday cage guarantees protection, I'm fairly certain that turning electrical equipment off does protect it from an EMP.
  5. ObssesedNuker

    ObssesedNuker Commander of 10 Million Men

    Turning it off certainly helps reduce the likelihood it will get fried. You could have a turned on and completely unprotected television running when a pulse hits and it still might keep running (emphasis on the 'might'). It's a chance thing, I bet there's an equation for it.

    That being said, since we're talking about the entire US electric grid in a time span measured in one or two hours at best, I would say it couldn't possibly be done.
  6. Nonite

    Nonite Perä-Amilaari

    How about we all write Mythbusters, and ask them to try it?

    I wonder if Frank Doyle has any nukes lying around....
  7. Terradyne

    Terradyne Disappointed, but not surprised.

    You could probably get a half-decent idea about it by sticking electronics in the microwave, although it's probably far too strong.
  8. Well, probably not at least without any prior arrangements, but with luck they wouldn't be too expensive (ie. arranging some hotlines to control centers etc.).
  9. Roi Danton

    Roi Danton Bavarian, no longer in exile Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    You cannot just shut down an entire nations electrical grid. Not in a few minutes. I could most likely be done in a few weeks, but not faster than that. Unless you want to damage your nation beyond repair.

    First of all: How do you want to shut down the grid at all? There dozens if not hundreds of power station in any reasonably sized country. And I'm counting only the big ones. And shutting them down can take quite a while (e.g. nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants, etc). So you can't do it that way.

    Of course you could just sever the connection between the power station and the national grid. But I'm not really sure if that is feasible as well.

    And if you could shut down the grid by pressing a button then there is of course the question of how much damage you are causing. Especially in the industrial/high tech area. There are a lot of machines that don't like to be shut down instantly.

    And what are you going to do with all the backup power generation units in hospitals, computer centers, etc? They will spring into action if the power is severed and thus nothing changes for those installations.
  10. As far as I know, nuclear plants can be shut down very fast in an emergency. Don't know about coal plants or how industrial machines react to power outages.

    Anyways, the point was to protect the electric infrastructure from EMP, not computer centers or hospitals. The machines there remain online, but wouldn't get giant overvoltages from grid.. They might still get broken though.

    Still, I was assuming some sort of nuclear war against an opponent with limited warheads some of which are used for EMP.. So it doesn't really matter if some stuff gets broken, as long as electricity could be restored within reasonable timeframe.
  11. Jonen C

    Jonen C F.M.D.G.

    The reactor cores shut down, there is no more nuclear reaction.
    The cores are still hot, though (although, emergency cooling may be possible), which means that the steam will be moving, and the actual generators will still be running for a while after shutting down the cores.

    You can probably turn off the generators - probably. I don't know much about powerplant design in general.

    I'd think one problem is even if you shut down generators, there's still enough of a charge remaining in the powerlines, transformers and such for several hours, maybe days, that they'll be vulnerable to EMP.
    And you'll need to inspect them for damage before turning the power back on afterwards (or else make the damage worse).
  12. Where would that kind of an charge be stored? It's not like there are gigantic capacitors on the powerlines, not to mention that power grid is AC..
  13. AdmiralTigercla

    AdmiralTigercla Naughty? Bracket and fire for effect.

  14. This would be impossible and pointless. Impossible because you just don't have adequate warning time and pointless because even if it did work on the EMP, the ensuing nuclear war is going to finish your power gird. If the enemy has a lot of nuclear warheads - like the classic US/USSR exchange - those power plants are themselves priority targets. Especially the nuclear ones.
  15. In something like US/USSR case it would be pointless, but maybe not in some China/Iran vs. US scenario.
  16. Roi Danton

    Roi Danton Bavarian, no longer in exile Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Iran maybe, China has enough boom to damage the US beyond repair. They don't need any fancy EMP to pull this off, they'll just nuke cities.
  17. I thought China has about two or three dozen missiles capable of reaching US, some of which might or might not be intercepted by the missile shield. It would certainly heavily damage US, and it would take decades to recover, but it probably wouldn't be beyond repair (as in, US as a nation permanently turned into wasteland).
  18. Gaius Marius

    Gaius Marius Witch Hunter Mod Moderator

    I'm more interested in shutting it down to stop a blast from the sun
  19. Roi Danton

    Roi Danton Bavarian, no longer in exile Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Yes, but that will do more damage than any EMP impulse. And of course the US may continue to exist (depending on the political, economical and military situation after the war) but it would be worse than any kind of EMP strike I can imagine.
  20. Sure, but they would probably do an EMP strike as a part of the attack to make it even worse. Having no electricity for several months/years when trying to clean up the mess of having 30ish nukes hit you would suck more.
  21. tasselhoff

    tasselhoff Need sleep

    Turning off the power (even if you can do it) will only help with big old/simple machines. For anything with a microprocessor then power on or off will not matter. The transistors are so tiny and sensitive to voltage spikes that every thing that uses a chip is going to be fried. That means even though steel mills may be able to have the big equipment to turn on (if the iron freezing hasn't screwed it) no one will be able to go to work cause every car, phone, computer, and so on will be dead including most 'modern' power switching stations.
  22. IRS


    The USAF does have EMP generators for testing equipment.

    Most desktops and certain computers might survive though those under those conditions with exception those near ground zero and its periphery. Power distribution systems will have problems for several weeks depending on the breaks and law and order issues. The real problem is calming the public and minimize public disorder. But putting money into a civil defence program is not worth it. If anything, missile defence backed by an effective nuclear retaliatory system or even better a first strike on warning.

    As for shutting the power down in the event of a solar storm, its possible to network-link SCADA. Plus it would require a satellite with a fail-safe signal system about half an AU from the Sun in a geosynchronous orbit. But it will cost money.
  23. areoborg

    areoborg Would you like to make a contract? Moderator

    The East Coast power outage back in 2003 demonstrated that the power stations can quickly have an emergency shutdown. In fact, power plants are designed to be quickly disconnected from the grid and shut down in the event of a a sufficiently large undervoltage/overvoltage to prevent damage to the generators.

    So intentionally inducing an even larger outage should be possible. But I don't think the grid is set up with an intentional nation-wide blackout function.
  24. Transistors are tiny, but the leads in microprocessors are also very short, and as such only relatively small voltages would be induced to them. I don't have any numbers at hand so I don't know if it would still be enough.
  25. Xort

    Xort Mahō Shōjo

    I don't think it will help, all those power lines while not transmiting power are still going to absorb a lot, and suffer damage.