Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Space Storm Alert: 90 Seconds from Catastrophe

A fascinating article from New Scientist passed along by Law and Order Man. Thanks for a very scary article. 😦

According to the NAS report, a severe space weather event in the US could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people (see map). From that moment, the clock is ticking for America.

First to go – immediately for some people – is drinkable water. Anyone living in a high-rise apartment, where water has to be pumped to reach them, would be cut off straight away. For the rest, drinking water will still come through the taps for maybe half a day. With no electricity to pump water from reservoirs, there is no more after that.

There is simply no electrically powered transport: no trains, underground or overground. Our just-in-time culture for delivery networks may represent the pinnacle of efficiency, but it means that supermarket shelves would empty very quickly – delivery trucks could only keep running until their tanks ran out of fuel, and there is no electricity to pump any more from the underground tanks at filling stations.

Back-up generators would run at pivotal sites – but only until their fuel ran out. For hospitals, that would mean about 72 hours of running a bare-bones, essential care only, service. After that, no more modern healthcare.

72 hours of healthcare remaining
The truly shocking finding is that this whole situation would not improve for months, maybe years: melted transformer hubs cannot be repaired, only replaced. “From the surveys I’ve done, you might have a few spare transformers around, but installing a new one takes a well-trained crew a week or more,” says Kappenman. “A major electrical utility might have one suitably trained crew, maybe two.”

Within a month, then, the handful of spare transformers would be used up. The rest will have to be built to order, something that can take up to 12 months.

Even when some systems are capable of receiving power again, there is no guarantee there will be any to deliver. Almost all natural gas and fuel pipelines require electricity to operate. Coal-fired power stations usually keep reserves to last 30 days, but with no transport systems running to bring more fuel, there will be no electricity in the second month.

You can read the entire, very scary article, by clicking NEW SCIENTIST

March 25, 2009 - Posted by | Community, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Technical Issue

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