The Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) announced a $4-million Lab Call to address the risks of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) to the energy system. CESER, which leads DOE’s efforts to address both EMP and GMD, developed this Lab Call due to the potentially catastrophic impacts from either an EMP or a 100-year GMD event, and from identifying gaps in the US’ ability to address both risks effectively.
EMP can be generated by non-nuclear means and the field strengths can be quite high, albeit with a very limited and directed area of effect. Non-nuclear EMP generators are typically used to simulate EMP for testing components for their ability to withstand electromagnetic interference or radiation, but have also been designed as point target weapons. EMP can also be caused by nuclear weapons and if exploded at high altitudes (HEMP) can cover a very large area with significant amounts of electromagnetic radiation.
The Sun is volatile and solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) are visible (via solar telescopes) reminders. CMEs cause GMDs capable of causing major disturbances of the Earth’s magnetosphere. A CME is created by magnetic field changes in the Sun which result in an explosive projectile of plasma flung into space. A CME can change the geomagnetic fields of the Earth. Such changes in the geomagnetic fields could induce geoelectric fields on the earth’s surface which result in ground-induced currents (GIC) in man-made structures such as rail lines, pipelines, electric transmission lines, and some communications lines.
Energy from an EMP or GMD can couple into electric utility systems in multiple ways that can severely damage and/or impact component performance and lifetime, causing extended outages of the electrical infrastructure.
Both types of EMP threats (non-nuclear and nuclear) are of concern today for CESER and industry and along with an extreme GMD, on the scale of a so-called 100-year storm, are the foci of this Laboratory Call.
The three topic areas for this Lab Call, all related to addressing EMP and GMD are:
Modeling and Assessments: modeling estimates levels of voltage and current surges for specific equipment including coupling models of how energy enters the systems. Also includes simulations and expected impacts. Assessments compare simulation results with damage thresholds that are determined through testing. When the stress exceeds the strength, equipment damage is likely to occur. System impacts, including stability will also be analyzed. A variety of threat, vulnerability, and consequence assessments will be required. Peer reviews of assessments are expected.
Testing and Validation: identifies ability of components to withstand various levels of insult; there is a limited capability at present to field test and validate protection schemes. This task may include support to identify gaps in testing and test capabilities, develop and evaluate solutions for those gaps, prioritize testing needs, and produce test plans and test cases, and testing of live and de-energized equipment. The testing program is also expected to provide data with which to benchmark DOE’s modeling program.
Mitigation: develops new components, architectures, and advanced controls that address regulation, stability, and power management for EMP and GMD events. The mitigation program will be informed by the testing program and DOE’s separate electric field environment work to prioritize testing of mitigation strategies for protecting at risk components. Development and implementation of pilot programs to field and validate mitigation and protection devices and technologies, including partnering with utilities is part of the mitigation topic area.
With this funding announcement, CESER is seeking to advance capabilities and tools that can elevate the energy sector’s ability to mitigate or protect against EMP and GMD events.
The proposed solutions in these investments will emphasize the partnerships needed to optimize grid security and minimize events that could disrupt energy flow.—Pat Hoffman, CESER’s Acting Assistant Secretary
Since its inception, CESER has made notable progress through its strategic partnerships fostered across industry and in collaboration with other Federal agencies, academia, and DOE’s National Labs. These partnerships have helped advance preparedness and response to the growing landscape of threats, technology development, and energy system trends.
Only DOE National Laboratories are eligible to apply for funding under this opportunity.