US en­ergy sec­re­tary: Power grid ready for storms, threats

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion - By Dan Brouil­lette

Trop­i­cal Storm Cris­to­bal crashed through the Gulf Coast ear­lier this week, and with the 2020 hur­ri­cane sea­son hav­ing just started — and pre­dicted to be above aver­age — we can be cer­tain that other storms are on the way, storms which may take more di­rect aim at Florida. As a con­se­quence, we must take pru­dent steps to pre­pare for dis­rup­tions that threaten the en­tire state, as Hur­ri­cane Irma did in 2017.

Florid­i­ans know the risks all too well. And while we can­not con­trol the wrath of wind and wave, we can pre­pare for in­evitable power dis­rup­tions by tak­ing pru­dent steps to en­sure our grid is ready, re­li­able, re­silient and se­cure.

We also need to be pre­pared for an­other kind of storm — this one man­made — as new cy­ber threats and at­tacks against our en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture pose a very real dan­ger.

These “cy­ber­storms” have the po­ten­tial to be just as dis­rup­tive as a hur­ri­cane, tear­ing into our bulk power sys­tem (our grid, along with its trans­mis­sion re­sources and con­trol sys­tems) and up­end­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices such as fire­fight­ers and emer­gency re­spon­ders — to say noth­ing of busi­nesses and fam­i­lies — that de­pend on an un­in­ter­rupted sup­ply of power.

Any­one who has been through a black­out un­der­stands what that means — not just a light switch that does not come on or a re­frig­er­a­tor that re­fuses to cool, but a sud­den sense of in­se­cu­rity.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2019 World­wide Threat As­sess­ment by the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, China, Rus­sia, and Iran all have the abil­ity to ex­e­cute cy­ber­at­tacks against Amer­ica’s crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing the bulk power sys­tem. In fact, ad­ver­saries have pen­e­trated such networks in the past.

In re­sponse, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­cently took two im­por­tant steps to mit­i­gate against those threats: the first to se­cure the bulk-power sys­tem, and the sec­ond to en­sure that the sys­tem has a re­silient and re­li­able sup­ply of power.

Last month, the pres­i­dent signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to se­cure Amer­ica’s bulkpower sys­tem against ma­li­cious at­tacks. This or­der au­tho­rizes my team at the Depart­ment of En­ergy to work with fed­eral agen­cies and our pri­vate-sec­tor part­ners, as ap­pro­pri­ate, to en­hance our se­cu­rity by elim­i­nat­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

Un­der the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, we will pro­hibit the fu­ture use of bulk-power sys­tem equip­ment that would pose an un­due risk to our na­tional se­cu­rity. We will also iden­tify and make rec­om­men­da­tions to re­me­di­ate ex­ist­ing equip­ment on the bulkpower

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RATES sys­tem that poses a threat. This presents an op­por­tu­nity for Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ers to fill the void left by banned com­po­nents.

In ad­di­tion to tak­ing steps to se­cure our bulk-power sys­tem, we also re­cently re­leased a strat­egy to en­sure that nu­clear en­ergy con­tin­ues to pro­vide re­li­able power to Amer­i­cans.

Nu­clear power pro­vides nearly onethird of the world’s clean en­ergy and al­most 60% of our clean en­ergy in the

United States — along with 20% of our to­tal power gen­er­a­tion — mak­ing it the largest source of clean en­ergy in our coun­try.

The U.S. nu­clear in­dus­try also di­rectly em­ploys nearly 100,000 peo­ple. Some 700 of those work at the Turkey Point fa­cil­ity in Mi­ami-Dade County, which pays ap­prox­i­mately $80 million an­nu­ally in salaries and pro­vides emis­sions-free en­ergy for more than 900,000 homes.

Last De­cem­ber, the Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion ex­tended the plant’s li­cense so it can con­tinue to pro­vide power to Florid­i­ans for decades to come. This was the first time in the United States that the com­mis­sion had re­newed a li­cense ex­tend­ing re­ac­tor op­er­a­tions from 60 to 80 years.

Our new “Strat­egy to Re­store Amer­i­can Nu­clear En­ergy” seeks to have a sim­i­lar ef­fect na­tion­ally, re­new­ing Amer­ica’s lead­er­ship in nu­clear en­ergy and en­sur­ing our cit­i­zens will be able to de­pend on re­li­able power for decades to come.

Specif­i­cally, the strat­egy aims to en­sure a healthy and grow­ing nu­clear en­ergy sec­tor in Amer­ica and ex­pand U.S. nu­clear tech­nol­ogy ex­ports, by grow­ing the mar­ket into which do­mes­tic ura­nium min­ers, fuel-cy­cle providers, and re­ac­tor ven­dors can sell their prod­ucts and ser­vices.

We have al­ready seen the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of pre­par­ing against na­tional threats lo­cally.

De­spite the Cat­e­gory 4 fury of Irma when it im­pacted Florida in 2017, power in the south­ern por­tion of the state was re­stored at a pace of roughly four times faster than when Hur­ri­cane Wilma swept across that same re­gion in 2005.

One rea­son was the mas­sive mu­tual as­sis­tance that elec­tric util­i­ties pro­vided to one an­other. Crews came from all across the coun­try to aid the restora­tion. An­other rea­son for this suc­cess was the bil­lions in in­vest­ments that com­pa­nies like Florida Power and Light made in hard­en­ing the grid.

What we as Amer­i­cans did to counter Irma, we can do again. We can strengthen our power sys­tem against all threats to come, and we will do so with pru­dence and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

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