Coping: Grid Hard-Down Planning

You may remember last month, or so, back we did a Peoplenomics article on how “certain sources” of ours were concerned about the “urban-spillover” effect in the event of a widespread (REGIONAL AND UP) attack on the power grid.

Today, we see another side of this concern coming to light in the report about how the FedGov is planning for just such a thing and will be exercising for it shortly.

Also called a “Black sky” event, the dropping of the grid – even if only regionally – is one of those nightmare scenarios that would “keep on giving” as a major economic disruption for years, if not a decade.

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The actual source or cause of disruption does not matter.  What does matter is that a regional long-extended grid outage would begin melting down nuclear power plants left and right.

You see, in that Peoplenomics report, we noted that nuclear plants need (as in require, not optional) continuous cooling for in most cases 90-120 days under “normal circumstances.”

The problem is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has listened to the power industry and has “swallowed the pill” on why they don’t really need to have enough diesel fuel on hand to complete a cold shut-down.  Specifically, that would cost money.

The mechanics of a nuclear plant shutdown with the boiling water type reactor is that even if SCRAMMED they need cooling in order to prevent a runaway condition.  Once they are on the road to cold shut-down, it doesn’t help because when the power fails, and cooling with it, the reactor is merely a day to a week from “going Fukushima.”

Having more diesel is not the answer.

The ONLY acceptable answer is to keep all plants fully stocked to operate (with back-up) from hot operating conditions to complete cool-down.

Sadly, there’s another problem which doesn’t get the discussion (and respect) it deserves.  That is the problem of overloaded rod cooling ponds.  These, too, can boil and meltdown if cooling is interrupted for a suitable length of time.

In the Peoplenomics piece we focused on the “double Fukushima” problem:  What would happen to the Great Lakes (and Hamilton and Toronto) if there was a radiation event that ruins the Lakes as a source of drinking water?  You might find 20-40 million people getting thirsty – and mobile – with no warning.

That’s the kind of nightmare knock-on sequencing that the Fed’s “exercise” will likely gloss over.

It wouldn’t be the first time.  All students of military history will remember the misadventures of Marine Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper during Millennium Challenge 2002?  Wikipedia instructs us what to know:  Like most military exercises, there were two teams: blue and Red.

“Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World-War-II-style light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.

Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships. This included one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five of six amphibious ships. An equivalent success in a real conflict would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 service personnel. Soon after the cruise missile offensive, another significant portion of Blue’s navy was “sunk” by an armada of small Red boats, which carried out both conventional and suicide attacks that capitalized on Blue’s inability to detect them as well as expected.

At this point, the exercise was suspended, Blue’s ships were “re-floated”, and the rules of engagement were changed; this was later justified by General Peter Pace as follows: “You kill me in the first day and I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing, or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days’ worth of experiment out of me. Which is a better way to do it?”[1] After the reset, both sides were ordered to follow predetermined plans of action.

Van Riper continued with unorthodox tactics, which sadly are the stock-in-trade of our adversaries.  When things got out of hand, and Van Riper’s Red scored important punches, the rules were suspended.

That’s why you’ll have to pardon us if we look at the FedGov’s upcoming exercise with a high degree of skepticism.

Like the charade “Stress Tests” imposed on the financial industry, so too, civil control scenarios are generally limited to an “expected range of outcomes.”

But with the Van Riper template (think outside the real box and act as events would naturally drive) we anticipate the FedGov op will be pronounced a “rousing success” with the usual platitudes like “mission accomplished” and other bizarre forms of self-congratulatory aggrandizement.

So here is Ure’s challenge for the “ops” planners.

Make the “exercise” cope with a 1.5 year grid hard-down event.

In the process, run the reactors to where they run out of coolant pumping diesel back-up and with none of the “re-setting” that was used to negate Van Riper.  For that behavior enters the gray zone between denial and delusional, although weighting toward the latter.

In the exercise, melt (as we did in the Peoplenomics piece) the Fermi 2 boiling water reactor and take out Great Lakes drinking water.

Simultaneously (with the NRC map here) take out 3 of the five reactors in Illinois through coolant failure over the duration of the exercise.

Now we have no drinking water that can be pulled from the mighty Mississippi, and I’m not sure where the crews will be found to barge fuel up and down the river, nor are we sure where the 60-million displaced by the combined effects of such a strike would be fed, watered, and housed.

If the FedGov exercise doesn’t get down to the brass tacks we’ve described more fully in Peoplenomics #829-B of July 29, then sorry to report as a kind of self-appointed Reality Ombudsman At Large, it’s just another government “feel-good” that fails to resurrect the critical missing piece of American strategic thinking that we need to be rescuing right now:

Civil Defense.

If you haven’t been previously made aware of the gap between nuclear reactor shut-down times and eventual melt-down risks, you have some “catching up with the class” to do.

You almost might want to keep in touch with our friend Shane Conner over at  We’re not the only folks who see grid hard-down as a kick-off event that could bring on the modern analog to the Dark Ages.  Except, of course, instead of maps noting “Thar be dragons” the maps will simply show “Dead Zones.”

“Urban spill-over?”  If it comes up at all, it will be at the bad joke level.  No one will likely touch the 60-million nomads issue.  And maybe that’s OK…we can just all remain asleep and mutter about emails and collusion and other useless memes.  Charades can be useful if you don’t have a real solution.

(I apologize for presenting so much detail about a Peoplenomics piece, but this is a critical subject in the public need, interest, and concern..)

Write when you wake up from this nightmare,

31 thoughts on “Coping: Grid Hard-Down Planning”

  1. And the rationale behind the Deagel population figures? No water=no people. What a way to destroy the ‘Constitutional Republic’ concept. Scatter it to the 4 corners of the Socialist world. Maybe we can create ‘no go’ areas under constitutional law in France…

  2. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has listened to the power industry and has “swallowed the pill” on why they don’t really need to have enough diesel fuel on hand to complete a cold shut-down. Specifically, that would cost money”

    A few years ago after 2012.. ( not that many though ) I was having a lunch with some friends and the discussion of the mayan calendar came up and how they had anticipated all out chaos and asked me what I thought.
    I like always told them what I thought and how it would play out.
    during this conversation we got into the shut down of the power plants and the amount of fuel it would take. after we were done I got up and was getting ready to leave when a gentleman stopped me and said he couldn’t help overhear our conversation. He then said who he was and what federal department he was the head of and asked if I would like another cup of coffee..( he found my weakness) anyway during that coffee time he said that the group he was with have the exact same idea as I do of how things will play out. what I learned during that conversation is they are stock piling fuel for just such a situation and along with that keeping records of who else has fuel.
    Yup if you have bought a thousand gallons of diesel.. guess who they are going to visit..Remember what is important is continuity of government..

    (e) foster cooperation between the defense and commercial sectors for research and development and for acquisition of materials, services, components, and equipment to enhance industrial base efficiency and responsiveness.

    “(e) The Secretary of each resource department, when necessary, shall make the finding required under section 101(b) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(b). This finding shall be submitted for the President’s approval through the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Upon such approval, the Secretary of the resource department that made the finding may use the authority of section 101(a) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(a), to control the general distribution of any material (including applicable services) in the civilian market.”

    Read the material and Just Think about it..
    Its similar to listening to one of the legislators speaking about a bill they signed and just how wonderful it was.. then realizing the very bill they were so proud of had a clause in it where they could be sent home LOL.. maybe they shouldn’t be buying their guidance chips from another country.. hey maybe they shouldn’t be dumbing down the children of the USA and supporting education.. If a contagion got loose and started to spread like wild fire.. hey maybe insuring those that will have to take care of your health and those around you would have been important to.. sick people wait longer to go to the doctor.. just saying.. think about it.. why are they making communities buy mobile cremation units that can process hundreds or thousands of people a day.. Just read the news and the new policies they are coming up with .. and think about it..
    on average the majority of the people are so busy and have their own worries they don’t want to think about it..there is to many hours on the clock working to worry about some future event.

  3. The book “One Second After” scared the bejeebers out of me. 90% loss of life in one year after an EMP event. And he never covered the “melt down” scenario. It would be even worse than he envisioned. My wife naggs me because I am so negative. It’s either that or head in the sand.

  4. Mr. Ure,
    Any chance that’s what the “FEMA Camps” are for? A place for the dis-placed based on what Deagel knows. Maybe not enough room for all but perhaps they already know all wont make it.

  5. Prepare for extended blackouts? There is no prep. you must accept.

    “Good morning! What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for four hundred thousand.”

    -Hugh Romney, aka Wavy Gravy

  6. I read somewhere that there is no surface wafer that is safe to drink without boiling. Remember no electricity means no well pumps. Do you know where your nearest spring or artesian well is?

    With all the discussion of high tech issues an old low tech nemisis lurks to take the old, the young and the infirm first. Its name is cholera.

    • For those with access to a well, even a deep one, search “well bucket” on ebay or the net generally. You can build or buy one of these things and with a long enough rope, you can get water from the well a couple of gallons at a time. They’re cheap. They’re also a lot of work, but they’ll get water when you really need it. They’re generally long pieces of 2″ to 4″ PVC pipe with a one way valve at the bottom.

  7. Comments on Coast the other night about nuke plants: The sodium type reactors built in the 50’s were much safer than the ‘tea kettle’ type we now have. The power industry maneuvered the government into using the ‘tea kettles’ all based on economics. The guest recommended that you locate minimum of 50 miles upwind or 100 miles downwind of all known reactors. IMO that doesn’t leave a lot of places to be.

  8. BTW, I laugh at the folks who think they will go into the bush and hunt for food. There is not enough wildlife to feed the hordes that will swarm like locusts out from the big cities. My farm friends are concerned too at their ability to defend themselves from the swarms. IMO lots of casualties will pile up and diseases follow with even more casualties. But then, it will make it easier for the bunker dwellers to control the remainder afterwards.

  9. My best well-connected source confirmed our government’s concern that there will be a total grid shutdown and advised that it has no solution for that event, other than preservation of the government itself. Comforting.

  10. I went through the headlines today – there isn’t anything that isn’t doom porn. I mean there truly isn’t anything out there unless you look at sports and entertainment. Even those two segments are embroiled in the internal right/left politics.

    I can’t remember it being this way, not even with the 2k scare or the 2012 scare. George is proposing the big short pretty soon. But the entire thing will be stairsteps downward – we just don’t know the slope of the stairs. I am guessing the feds will be all wadded up with their budget ceiling mess, and I hope they stay tied in knots – because they can’t even respond to a hurricane correctly.

    Just be sure to have your goodies all ready, because there are so many balls in the air that if they mis-execute one, the others are likely to go off. Our government history is one of linear thinking and thus mis-execution when the facts on the ground change. Military thinking is the same way, linear, because we are “indispensable”, our weapons unstoppable and linearity is easier.

    Got to run to the store – low on popcorn from watching this gong show…

    • You are so Right on.. OM2.. I think we have been juggling for a long time now.. to many area’s where one blink and its hoorah time..

  11. If we have merely a day to a week from “going Fukushima” what will it do to stocks and Bitcoins? ;-) Me worry?!!

    P.s. It’s all ‘brought’ by ourselves!

    • speaking of Fukishima. that is the elephant in the room no one is talking about.. anyone for some salmon or tuna LOL

  12. I just checked for the actual number of boiling water reactors operating in the USA. It’s 34, derived from:

    What I haven’t found is how much power is required to run the cooling and control systems and how much fuel is required to run them for a year. Also, how many backup gensets do they have for when one or more fail. One option for backup if there’s a rail siding there would be to have power converters to tap diesel-electric locomotives that could be stationed and/or positioned as a tertiary backup. I fail to see how having fuel onsite is expensive now, since fuel is cheap relative to the future.

    Of course, this scenario doesn’t account for PWR’s in the USA and elsewhere, nor military reactors that may not even be mapped. The problem of fuel cooling pools is grave, since every reactor and many old sites may have these things stuffed to the gills. I have no info as to whether or not fuel can be safely cooled by convection alone, and what spacing might be necessary to allow that. We’ve been lucky to have had only a few meltdowns in our short history(TMI-2, Chernobyl, Fukushima-Diachi, and probably some classified incidents). We can expect far more – though I have no idea how to address this with our ostrich mentality as a species.

    I think personal preparedness is really the only option, since government refuses to deal with it seriously.

    Here is a link regarding treatment of acute radiation sickness. I have no idea how to handle chronic high-dose radiation, other than get out of Dodge ASAP, and make peace with your creator.

    • speaking about diseases and super bugs.. you don’t hear about this one either.. It came to the USA by one person coming back from Afghanistan I think.. He was going about living and then got sick one day.. then he got sicker and wow went to the doctor..
      Now just a few years later it has spread in all the states.. fifty percent die.. twenty percent linger and thirty percent don’t know they have it..
      what is scary is the CDC’s procedures are not what they are in other countries..

    • I personally thought this one might be the next plague.. now keep health care from the average person so he waits till hes so sick.. and hey he could be working in as a dishwasher or a cook waitress.. healthcare worker, etc.. got the sniffles.. but heck I don’t have affordable healthcare so I will wait.. just saying think about it..
      here is the list.. notice where it is located at.. hmmm…

      WHO priority pathogens list for R&D of new antibiotics

      Priority 1: CRITICAL
      Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant
      Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, ESBL-producing
      Priority 2: HIGH
      Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant
      Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin-intermediate and resistant
      Helicobacter pylori, clarithromycin-resistant
      Campylobacter spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant
      Salmonellae, fluoroquinolone-resistant
      Neisseria gonorrhoeae, cephalosporin-resistant, fluoroquinolone-resistant
      Priority 3: MEDIUM
      Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-non-susceptible
      Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant
      Shigella spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant

  13. “…The ONLY acceptable answer is to keep all plants fully stocked to operate (with back-up) from hot operating conditions to complete cool-down…”

    I agree. In the long term we could add Stirling engine generators to the reactors to run the pumps. As long as the reactors are hot they would still provide power. Stirling generators with low efficiency aren’t that hard to build and are cost effective. It’s when you look for high efficiency that Stirling_engines start being expensive. If you want efficiency and expense the Swedes make a Stirling gen. set for submarines we could buy. They could be prepackaged to bolt in and when nukes need fuel change we could weld them in. All the electrical and other subsystems could be ready to go. I suggest two so there would be battery back up, diesel back up and two Stirling engine back ups.

  14. Think of the movie Heartbreak Ridge, “You are out of the Excercise Area”!

    Been in the business’s 40 plus years.

    These F’in Generals and flag officers are clueless. That’s why Warhammer is always a good laugh.

    But they are really good at PowerPoint and Excel!

    Duck and Cover baby, that’s your only option… or move south of the equator like some of my readers.

    They are the only real survivalists. Everyone else… BS!

    • That’s business, and BTW, where I work, when the wife of a General buys some furniture at Target, she calls the base Civil Engineers to put it together.

      The coddled class on America’s dime.

      Feel safe now?

    • remember Obama’s moolah to the mullahs? We waste all kinds of money and it’s a bipartisan cluster-fk

    • Because when the time comes, and it will come, they will use debt as an excuse and also claim that ‘no one could ever envision an EMP’. You know like Condi Rice, who said ‘no one could ever imagine planes loaded with fuel being used as a weapon.’ Even though the government had planned for this very event.

  15. George-

    Here’s something pretty interesting I’ve noticed just in the past few days: commercials on TV advertising survival foods! They are very dramatic with doom-porn headlines flashed on the screen that even read, “NORTH KOREA”, etc for maximum impact. They tout 25-yr shelf lives for their MRE’s which appear to be the standard over-priced fare. Never seen ads like these before, even during the worst tornado seasons! I cut my cable cord years ago so these are coming across low-powered broadcast channels – the ones that endlessly run every single sitcom aired in the 70’s-80’s! Luckily I can ignore the ads since I’ve been topping off [even expanding] my pantry since you gave the financial heads-up last spring… you see, I prefer to eat/drink/smoke my investments!

    On a side note: I recently bought a couple pair of those special “solar shades” with which to watch the eclipse later this month. Now I’m thinking of hanging onto the them after the big event… they may just come in handy as improvised flash-goggles!

  16. Nuclear power plants have multiple redundant backups. The potential shutdown issue would not be from a diesel generator crapping out, but from it running out of fuel before it can complete its job.

    Melissa: “FEMA camps?” — I’ve seen several. I am not convinced they are anything sinister, nor more than places where a displaced population can be housed until the hurricane goes away or the earthquake subsides. I consider them “good emergency preparedness” by the government, until proven otherwise, and intend to never be any place or in any situation where such proof could be forthcoming.

    JG: 200-300mln rounds would not be discomfiting, because it’s not unusual for shooters in-training to blow through 3000 rounds each. The fact that purchases are many times this, and that very few newly-armed Federal employees are in firearms training is, as is the purchase of the .308s and .338s, [which are] typically used as long-range sniper rounds.

    Sherlyn: Lump in the nuclear ICBM silos and there’s NO place in CONUS that’s 100 miles from a potential radiation issue.

    I know lots of experienced “hunters” who can sit in a blind for hours and pick off a deer when it walks up to them. I doubt 1 in 100 can actually stalk anything that’s less-cooperative than a cow or sheep, and make kills on a consistent-enough basis to feed their hungry family. Your farmer friends should certainly be concerned if their farms are within 50 miles of a major metropolitan area.

    Lily: We haven’t hardened our electrical grid because there is an element within our government which wishes our grid to go down hard. ‘Hate to say this, but there is no other rational explanation.

    Gingrich and Inhofe are the only two legislators in the past 25 years who’ve really taken “hardening of civilian assets” seriously. The former is long-gone, the latter, 82 years old, and neither, ever able to attract more than a “study group” on the issue.

    If’fn y’all want real flash glasses, I suggest Arc-flash from Rx-Safety. They nailed my prescription, which ain’t easy with specialty safety glasses… Expect a 2-3 week turnaround – and no, I’m not affiliated…

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