Solar Flares Rock Global Networks, Expose Grid Vulnerability

Originally published at: https://peakprosperity.com/daily-digest/solar-flares-rock-global-networks-expose-grid-vulnerability/

In a series of events that underscore the fragility of our modern technological infrastructure, a barrage of solar activity has left its mark on Earth’s technological and energy systems. The initial shockwave from the sun, striking earlier than anticipated, brought about a geomagnetic storm that reached level four intensity. This rapid onset of solar-induced disturbances caused widespread disruptions across various networks and systems, highlighting the immediate effects of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on our planet’s magnetic field. The impact was felt globally, with reports of significant outages and technological issues, ranging from major online services like Amazon Web Services and Target’s website to social media platforms such as Pinterest and Snapchat facing operational challenges.

Further complicating the situation, a massive sunspot, AR3664, unleashed an X3.98 flare, marking it as one of the most potent flares of the current solar cycle. This particular solar flare led to the temporary or complete loss of high-frequency radio signals across vast regions, including Asia, eastern Europe, and eastern Africa. Such solar flares and accompanying CMEs are not just spectacular celestial events but also serve as a reminder of the sun’s potential to disrupt Earth’s technological backbone. As we approach the solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in the sun’s 11-year cycle, the importance of monitoring and preparing for these solar events becomes increasingly apparent.

Amid these natural phenomena, the vulnerability of the American power grid to various threats has been brought into sharp focus. The grid’s susceptibility to cyber attacks, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), and geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs) is a growing concern. Despite the clear and present danger posed by these threats, there appears to be a lack of decisive action from both the government and the electric utility industry to fortify the grid against potential disruptions. Initiatives in cities like San Antonio and Rock Hill, which aim to protect the grid through retrofitting substations and implementing EMP mitigation measures, stand as beacons of proactive effort. However, the broader call to action involves not just industry insiders but the general public as well, urging them to contact legislators, spread awareness, and advocate for comprehensive grid security measures.

As the world grapples with the immediate challenges posed by solar activity, the underlying issues of grid vulnerability and the need for robust protective measures against a spectrum of threats remain pressing. The intersection of natural solar phenomena and human-made infrastructure vulnerabilities highlights a critical area of concern for both policymakers and the public. The ongoing situation serves as a stark reminder of our dependence on technology and the importance of safeguarding our electrical and technological infrastructure against the unpredictable forces of nature and human-originated threats.

Sources

Massive Solar Flares Cause Widespread Network and System Outages

There are literally dozens of regional network and system outages.

Source | Submitted by Friedrichs_teeth

First Solar Impact Hits Earth’s Magnetic Field Earlier Than Expected

The magnetic disruption to Earth came on much more quickly than anyone anticipated, and that includes me.

Source | Submitted by BeeFarmer

Colossal Sunspot Unleashes Largest Solar Flare Yet, Earth in Firing Line

The X3.98 flare peaked in the early hours this morning (May 10) at 2:54 a.m. (0654 GMT) triggering either temporary or complete loss of high frequency (HF) radio signals across Asia, eastern Europe and eastern Africa.

Source | Submitted by drsharp

America’s Power Grid: Vulnerable to Terrorism, Cyber Attacks, and Natural Disasters

The attack was the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred in the US. This will be the next 9/11. This will be the next Pearl Harbor. As many as 90% of Americans could die. It could literally end civilization as we know it.

Source | Submitted by Robert B.

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One of the big reasons that I am excited by small modular reactor (SMR) technology is resilience. The best way of mitigating the risk from electrical grid disturbances would be to break the grid up into many small independent grids each with their own synchronous generator(s) supplying real and reactive load.

Coronal mass ejections are capable of causing grid disturbances. If the CME is large enough, they can cause damage to the transformers in the grid. Eliminating the long runs of connected high voltage lines mitigates the induced currents on the grid.

Many SMR designs also are designed to be “black start” capable. This means that they can be placed in service without off site power available. Most large thermal power plants are incapable of starting up without offsite power. I can only think of two commercial nuke sites that could possibly be re-started following a trip using their Class 1E emergency power sources. This would put them in non-compliance with their technical specifications (specifically 3.8.1 in standard technical specifications).

Standard Technical Specifications – Operating And New Reactors – Current Versions | NRC.gov

SMRs could easily be licensed to use the black start ability to quickly restore the grid in a controlled manner quickly once it is safe to do so. They are also designed to operate at full power for years at a time. They simply need to have a large amount of excess reactivity at the beginning of core life. With the new high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel designs being considered, these cores will last many years. I would not be surprised if some designs have a 10-year core life.

SMR could be the cheapest method of making electricity and give our grid resilience. When there are large scale blackouts, it costs the economy billions in lost productivity as well as losses of perishable goods. We need to put all of our efforts and capital into making a robust grid with many thousands of SMRS.

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Agree on breaking up the grid.

I’ve always thought that a distributed grid would reduce the distances that electricity would need to flow and improve reliability through simplicity.

Also, not sure what I think of massive cities that have become a furnace for all sorts of resources well beyond their own capacity to self-serve, such as water, electricity, and waste disposal.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“We can’t ignore space weather, but we can take appropriate measures to protect ourselves,” NASA says.

But there is no need to worry; so-called “killer flares” do not exist. Though solar flares can significantly disrupt the technological world, they don’t contain enough energy to do any lasting damage to Earth itself.

“Even at their worst, the sun’s flares are not physically capable of destroying Earth,” NASA says.

Not capable of destroying Earth, perhaps. However, certainly capable of sending our civilization back to the 17th century.

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