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A recent study by the A study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) found that the U.S. power grid is highly susceptible to prolonged and wide spread outages if a small number of key substations were to be targeted by attacks, according to reports.

The report noted that of the 55,000 electric substations located throughout the country, saboteurs would need to only knock out less than ten in order to cause a major outage that could last for as long as a month or more, and currently there are no regulations in place to protect these specific critical assets.

“There are probably less than 100 critical high voltage substations on our grid in this country that need to be protected from a physical attack,” former FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff told the WSJ. “It is neither a monumental task, nor is it an inordinate sum of money that would be required to do so.”

The study was commissioned after sniper fire on an electric power station in San Jose, California last April damaged transformers, resulting in millions of dollars in damages. The perpetrators have not been apprehended, and investigators believe the event was not merely random vandalism.

“This wasn’t an incident where Billy Bob and Joe decided, after a few brewskies, to come in and shoot up a substation,” Wellinghoff told the San Jose Mercury News. “This was an event that was well thought out, well planned and they targeted certain components.”

The security of North America’s bulk electrical system (BES), which supplies electrical power to Canada, the United States and Mexico, has been a subject of concern for many years, as the facilities in place are seldom protected by more than a fence or surveillance system, and experts advocate making its protection a top priority.

“The power grid, built over many decades in a benign environment, now faces a range of threats it was never designed to survive,” said former assistant secretary of defense Paul Stockton. “That’s got to be the focus going forward.”

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