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18
Electromagnetic Terrorism: Threat to the Security of the State Infrastructure*

Vladimir Ye. Fortov, Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Moscow High Temperature Institute, and Yury V. Parfyonov, RAS Institute of High Energy Densities


A real danger has arisen in recent years, namely, the possible appearance of a new variety of terrorist acts—so-called electromagnetic terrorism. This term refers to the intentional use of powerful electromagnetic pulse emitting devices or high-voltage pulse generators with the aim of disrupting the normal operations of a country’s technical systems. Such systems include, for example, aircraft takeoff and landing control instrumentation; telecommunications systems; electronic devices used in managing nuclear power plant operations; systems for electricity generation, transmission, and transformation; equipment used in protecting environmentally hazardous facilities; and so forth.

The world has seen the creation of many powerful electromagnetic pulse generators capable of knocking modern electronic systems out of commission. We shall cite an example of one such piece of equipment that has been created in the laboratory. It consists of a semiconductor-based high-voltage short-pulse generator and an amplifying emitting antenna. Electromagnetic pulses with amplitude on the order of 5 kilovolts per meter and length of about 0.2 nanosecond are formed at a distance of about 10 meters from the emitter. The feature that

*

Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins.



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18 Electromagnetic Terrorism: Threat to the Security of the State Infrastructure* Vladimir Ye. Fortov, Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Moscow High Temperature Institute, and Yury V. Parfyonov, RAS Institute of High Energy Densities A real danger has arisen in recent years, namely, the possible appearance of a new variety of terrorist acts—so-called electromagnetic terrorism. This term refers to the intentional use of powerful electromagnetic pulse emitting devices or high-voltage pulse generators with the aim of disrupting the normal operations of a country’s technical systems. Such systems include, for example, aircraft takeoff and landing control instrumentation; telecommunications systems; electronic devices used in managing nuclear power plant operations; systems for electric- ity generation, transmission, and transformation; equipment used in protecting environmentally hazardous facilities; and so forth. The world has seen the creation of many powerful electromagnetic pulse generators capable of knocking modern electronic systems out of commission. We shall cite an example of one such piece of equipment that has been created in the laboratory. It consists of a semiconductor-based high-voltage short-pulse generator and an amplifying emitting antenna. Electromagnetic pulses with am- plitude on the order of 5 kilovolts per meter and length of about 0.2 nanosecond are formed at a distance of about 10 meters from the emitter. The feature that * Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins. 1

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1 ELECTROMAGNETIC TERRORISM makes this unit unique is its compactness. We direct your attention to the maxi- mum size of the generator, which is only about 30 centimeters. Further reductions in the size of the generator are possible, and a flat antenna may also be used. Existing small high-voltage pulse generators make it possible to inject into data transmission chains or even into buildings’ electricity supply and ground- ing networks pulses that are harmful to the equipment located in such buildings. They form short pulses with amplitude of 80 kilovolts, periodically repeating at a frequency of 1,000 gigahertz. Such a generator could be manufactured with a volume on the order of 500-800 cubic centimeters. There are two possible scenarios for how acts of electromagnetic terrorism could be carried out using powerful electromagnetic sources. Option 1 would be by aiming a powerful electromagnetic field at a facility, and option 2 would be by injecting high-voltage pulses into the data transmission lines and into the electric- ity supply and grounding network in buildings. To assess the degree of danger presented by these scenarios, a large number of facilities were studied to deter- mine their resistance to the impact of powerful super-broadband electromagnetic radiation and high-voltage pulse disruptions. The results of the experiments show that the intentional use of powerful pulse disruptions could lead to dangerous wide-scale consequences, such as communications breakdowns, power failures, alarm systems blockages, and so forth. At the same time, it must be said that the designers of the most critical facili- ties recognize this danger and apply all possible measures to protect electronic systems from various types of electromagnetic disruptions. However, there is an enormous quantity of civilian-use electronic equipment for which there are no requirements for protection against powerful electromagnetic disruptions. Of course, if a few individual pieces of such equipment crash, there will be no serious consequences. Meanwhile, if such equipment fails on a massive scale, chaos will ensue. Therefore, systematic studies have been initiated regarding the stability of civilian-use technical systems against intentionally directed electro- magnetic impacts. As an example, presented below are the results of tests on an electronic electricity-use meter and electric power line isolators. The typical electricity meter is a complex device that includes a special in- tegrated system, a microcontroller, power-independent memory, flow sensors, a pulse power source, an optical port, a liquid crystal indicator, a quartz generator, and a light diode. Experiments have indicated that if the meter is irradiated from a distance of 10 meters, operational failures occur. Furthermore, the personnel responsible for the electricity-use monitoring and accounting system are, as a rule, not capable of establishing the causes of the equipment failure in a timely manner or taking effective measures to eliminate them. Thus, the vulnerability of electronic electricity meters has been established experimentally. The tests have also demonstrated the fundamental possibility of intentionally disrupting their operating capacity for criminal purposes, for example, for unauthorized selection

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1 COUNTERING TERRORISM of a favorable electricity rate, and so forth. It is significant that these actions could be taken remotely and without anyone’s notice. As previously noted, electric power line isolators were among the items tested. A transformer substation would undoubtedly be a more interesting test subject; however, it is too expensive. Therefore, high-voltage isolators were selected as a focus of the experiments instead. The results of these tests are extremely interesting. It is generally believed that technical systems that include semiconductor devices are the most sensitive to the effects of pulse disruptions. As for high-voltage equipment, it is deliberately deemed resistant to such disrup- tions. This conclusion is based on the results of standard tests on high-voltage equipment for the impact of such disruptions in the absence of operating current. However, in actual conditions, the equipment will be simultaneously affected by both the disruptions and the operating current. Therefore, researchers concluded that special studies were needed. An experimental setup was developed for this purpose. The unit reproduces the joint action of short pulses of up to 400 kilovolts and operating electric current of up to 30 kilovolts. Electric power line isolators were tested using this setup. Experiments on the isolators showed that with the simultaneous effects of high-voltage pulse disruptions and operating current, degradation of the isola- tors’ electric parameters was observed along with their mechanical destruction. Such effects may lead to catastrophic phenomena in power systems similar to the widespread failure in the Mosenergo system in the summer of 2005 or the fire that broke out in the cable collector in Moscow’s Central District in July 2006. Thus, the experimental data indicate that compact super-broadband electro- magnetic pulse emitters and high-voltage pulse generators could easily be used in dishonest competitive struggles, in unauthorized and unnoticed lowering of rates paid for electricity, in the organization of power system failures, and so forth. It would seem reasonable not to wait for these potential threats to be realized but instead to take timely measures to prevent them. Such measures would include evaluating the vulnerability of the most important infrastructure elements. It is also necessary to develop effective measures to protect infrastructure elements from electromagnetic terrorism. Perhaps a review and clarification will also be needed regarding rules for grounding devices and means of laying data transmis- sions lines, power cables, and so forth. Because terrorism has become international in recent years and is evoking serious concern in all industrially developed countries, it would be expedient to take measures to promote international cooperation on this issue. It seems neces- sary to organize a joint experiment to assess the real danger of electromagnetic terrorism and develop means of protection. In addition, international and Russian standards must be developed with the aim of providing better protection for the civilian infrastructure against intentionally directed electromagnetic impacts.