Smart grid technology is a hot issue on Capitol Hill, but some are raising questions about the idea. In recent days we've discussed the smart grid's potential exposure to worm attacks
, consumers' unreadiness
for the idea, and whether the whole concept may need a rethink
. A Congressional hearing on Thursday surfaced another reason for caution: the smart grid's vulnerability to EMP
. "Electromagnetic Pulse" refers to the damage caused in electrical circuits and systems when a nuclear explosive goes off nearby. The electric grid as it's currently constituted is vulnerable to EMP; the further down the road we go towards a smart grid, the more vulnerable it will become. "It makes a great equalizer for small nations looking to stand up to military Goliaths, argues Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Rep.-Md.), a former research scientist and engineer who has worked in the past on projects for NASA and the military. All one needs to wreak some serious EMP damage, he charges, is a sea-worthy steamer, $100,000 to buy a scud-missile launcher, and a crude nuclear weapon. Then fling the device high into the air and detonate its warhead. Such a system might not paralyze the entire United States, he concedes. 'But you could shut down all of New England. And if you missed by 100 miles, it's as good as a bulls eye.'"