Scott Tucker on Shielded Facilities
Page Principal Scott Tucker was asked some questions about shielded facilities and here is what he had to say:
What are shielded facilities and why are they needed?
A shielded facility is a room, space or building constructed with protective enclosures and devices that prevent unwanted electromagnetic energy from passing into (or out of) the protected area.
The protective enclosure itself is a type of Faraday cage; referred to as a shield, and the protective devices accompanying the shield include electrical filters and "waveguides-beyond-cutoff" – specially configured openings that won't allow electromagnetic energy of certain frequencies to pass through. Together, a shielded enclosure and its protective devices establish the shielded facility.
Room with Faraday Shielding
The type of protection required and the equipment or construction used are determined by circumstances and types of electromagnetic threats a particular facility is expected to face. Electromagnetic threats can come from both natural and man-made sources.
The outcome of an electromagnetic event can range from an annoyance to a catastrophic disaster, depending on the nature of the facility, the severity of the event, and the reliance of other facilities on services provided by the impacted facility.
There are several types of shielded facilities:
- Spaces designed to prevent electromagnetic emanations inside the space from escaping, resulting in a security breach or disruption of other equipment or devices outside the space. Examples include MRI rooms, SCIFs and TEMPEST enclosures.
- Buildings or spaces containing sensitive equipment that could be disrupted or "upset" by electromagnetic interference (EMI) from outside sources. Examples include electron microscopy and bio-telemetry rooms used in research, electronic testing rooms, communications facilities, and various types of medical imaging facilities.
- Buildings or spaces designed to minimize damage to electronic equipment from high-energy electromagnetic pulses (EMP). Examples include supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) facilities, control buildings, and data centers associated with critical infrastructure.
- Non-building equipment installations, including electrical substations, transformers, generators, control equipment and emergency operations equipment with electronics that make up or serve critical infrastructure. Different types of equipment are susceptible to various kinds of electromagnetic radiation. Large transformers, for example, can be damaged or destroyed by currents induced by Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD).
- Among the types of shielded facilities, those considered to be critical infrastructure have the greatest need for protection, particularly in the case of EMP and GMD threats. According to the Department of Homeland Security, critical infrastructure is “the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the well-being of the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on our economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”
Coronal Mass Ejection
While the military has employed electromagnetic shielding for critical command and control facilities for at least forty years, electromagnetic threats have, until recently, been generally overlooked by Owners and designers of civilian buildings and infrastructure. There are three types of electromagnetic threats of concern:
- Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD; sometimes called "Space Weather") and resulting Geomagnetically-Induced Current (GIC), caused by a particularly severe type of solar activity – a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).
- Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) & Intentional Electromagnetic Interference (IEMI), resulting from both natural and man-made sources.
- High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), a particular type of EMP, resulting from a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of at least 20 km (about 12.5 miles) above the ground (above the atmosphere).
GIC's are damaging, DC-type currents introduced into power transmission lines by geomagnetic disturbances. These induced currents, although highly variable based on latitude, position of the earth, strength of solar activity, and conductivity of the soil can still cause damage to transformers and other transmission equipment making up the power grid. Widespread damage to this part of the electric power system can cause cascading failures and widespread electrical outages. GIC's are primarily a threat to equipment (like large transformers) connected to long-length transmission wires, and not a direct threat to most electronic devices.
An EMP is a short-duration, powerful electric current caused by a nuclear detonation or portable electromagnetic weapon. This type of electromagnetic energy can pass through an unprotected structure directly, and upset or permanently damage electronic equipment inside. These currents rise within nanoseconds, without warning, causing instant damage to microelectronics. Every device that relies on integrated circuits has the potential to be disabled or destroyed, with the attacker leaving no information behind for forensic analysis.
Components of HEMP from a Nuclear Detonation
An EMP resulting from a high-altitude nuclear detonation (HEMP) can generate electric currents in excess of 40,000 watts per square meter in conductive metals, far beyond the ability of modern electronic devices to survive.
Range of EMP Effects Based on Height of Nuclear Burst
A HEMP strike can cause widespread damage over areas measuring thousands of miles across, depending on the height of the burst. HEMP effects would be continent-wide with a nuclear detonation at over 200km in altitude.
Suitcase-sized Portable IEMI Device
Source: APELC (www.apelc.com)
EMP's generated by portable directed energy weapons, if positioned close enough to targets and carefully aimed, can also produce powerful currents with damage to modern electronics similar to an EMP from a nuclear weapon, although the effect is localized.
Any facility that depends on electronics and the availability of electricity for control, security, communications and information technology is vulnerable to EMP and IEMI threats – virtually all facilities. With the continued expansion of electric and digital technology, semiconductor electronics have become a ubiquitous presence in buildings and infrastructure (as they are in daily life), accompanied by a wholesale dependence on electric utility power and its dependent industries for day-to-day operation.
Therefore, it is particularly important to protect facilities in those industries society needs for daily survival (critical facilities):
- Electric power generation, transmission and distribution
- Security services and emergency response (police, military)
- Water treatment and distribution
- Agriculture, food production and distribution
- Transportation systems (fuel supply, railway network, airports, harbors, inland shipping)
- Financial services (banking, clearing, Insurance)
- Oil and gas production, refining, transport and distribution
- Chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing
Because power transmission, distribution and control facilities are at the apex of a system of interdependent critical facilities, and are susceptible to both GIC from solar storms and to EMP effects generated by nuclear or directed energy weapons, the need to protect these facilities is most critical.
Page is proud to have designed two of the first shielded electric utility control centers in the nation.
It is important to identify the performance criteria a shielded facility must achieve, early in the design process. By first categorizing the source and scope of potential threats, and identifying at-risk assets, and defining the scope of the protection, architects and engineers can design comprehensive, tailored solutions that yield more resilience to critical infrastructure.
These performance, scope and design criteria are documented in a program document, or Basis-of-Design, published to project stakeholders in order to achieve consensus before design work is undertaken. In addition to listing vulnerable assets and the types of threats addressed, this document includes performance standards for shielding and protective measures, discusses facility considerations such as the size and extent of protected enclosure(s), security boundaries and hierarchies, protection of points of entry for personnel and materials, regulatory and code compliance, redundancy requirements, construction cost and logistics, and maintenance issues.
There are unique design considerations for shielded facilities that must be addressed with threat-specific solutions. For example, any ordinary opening or conductor penetrating an EMP-shielded enclosure will easily conduct EMP-induced currents through the enclosure, therefore special details are required at each point of entry for any type of wiring, conductor, metallic conduit or piping. Solutions for penetrations may involve, dielectric connectors or waveguides. Conductors may require specially-designed filters, special conduit and grounding, or conversion to optical signals for data lines. Motors outside the protective volume may require fully-enclosed designs.
Waveguides designed for pipe penetrations into a shielded space
Testing typically involves generating signals of a particular type, duration and frequency on the unprotected side of a shielded enclosure, and testing for the specified reduction in signal strength (attenuation) on the protected side. This ensures that the facility will perform according to recognized standards. It is not necessary to test using full-power signals to measure attenuation.
Any shielded facility and its components must be tested and certified at fabrication, throughout construction, and after completion.
Shielded facilities must be designed so that the protective qualities of any protective devices and of the shield itself can be maintained throughout the lifetime of the facility. This could involve provisions for removable panels for access to grounding connections, cleaning of contact surfaces, repair of accidental damage, and protection of critical components during subsequent remodeling and construction activities.
As of this writing, there are no federal or state laws that require shielding for critical facilities from EMP or GMD, but there is a growing interest at both levels in recognizing this particular threat to the nation's critical infrastructure.
Bills such as the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 18, 2013, and the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act introduced on March 26, 2014 failed to become law, although variations containing similar requirements continue to be introduced (e.g. H.R. 8 and S. 3018), with the intent to address the vulnerability of electric power infrastructure to both GMD and EMP.
The recently passed FAST Act (H.R. 22 - December, 2015), an omnibus transportation bill, included the essential provisions of previously stalled SHIELD and GRID Acts, directing the Secretary of Energy to address a grid security emergency with measures "to protect or restore the reliability of critical electric infrastructure or of defense critical electric infrastructure during such emergency." A grid security emergency is defined to include EMP and IEMI attacks. Rules and procedures are not yet defined, but the authority is broad enough to concern owners and operators of all types of power infrastructure and related facilities.
The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA, H.R.1073) passed by the House in November of 2015 and its companion bill S.1846 now on the Senate calendar as of May 2016 includes strategies, research and recommendations on mitigating GMD and EMP threats.
S.1356, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016, became law 114-92 in November of last year, and re-established the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (aka "EMP Commission"), author of the oft-cited 2008 Report "Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack." One notable aspect of this law is the inclusion of a list of expanded responsibilities for the Commission to decide "… which States should receive highest priority for protecting critical defense assets" if State grids are protected against EMP threats. This would apply not only to public utilities, but also to private service providers who support critical defense assets.
States with Recent Legislation Aimed to Protect Critical Infrastructure
Source: NCSL, 2016
On the State level, Maine in 2013 became the first to pass EMP-related legislation, LD 131, requiring the public utilities commission to "develop recommendations regarding the allocation of costs to mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances or electromagnetic pulse on the State's transmission system."
In Virginia in February of 2014, grid-related measure SJ61 passed the legislature unanimously, requiring the state’s emergency management agency to formulate a plan for disasters caused by EMPs or GMDs. It is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, four other bills were introduced in 2014, and at least 15 bills in 2015 by state legislatures aimed at protecting the electrical system against an EMP attack. Of these, five states – Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Texas – considered legislation creating committees to study the vulnerabilities and effects of an EMP attack and to evaluate technologies to address those issues. Meanwhile, three states – Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas – urged federal action to harden the grid against such attacks.
Interest by the states to protect their own assets is increasing, as is the urging from the states for the Federal Government to take action. However, none of the current state legislation includes specific hardening requirements for facilities.
Independently of legislation, and perhaps in anticipation of it, some power companies have begun to harden their own facilities against EMP and GMD threats. In 2014, American Transmission Company (ATC) of Wisconsin installed a prototype GIC-blocking device, designed to prevent transformer damage from GMDs for a large autotransformer connected to long, high voltage lines linking the Green Bay area with upper Michigan.
For the power industry, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has published a handful of binding standards Critical Infrastructure Protection, mostly for cyber (data) security. One of those, CIP-014, outlines requirements for physical security. Although this requirement does not specifically call for EMP or GMD protection, it would require such if the mandated security assessment in R1 includes those threats.
For a new facility, the cost for shielding is dependent on the total area of shielding, the complexity of the contents of the equipment to be protected, and the number, types and configuration of openings in the shielded enclosure (points of entry). Page's experience with larger facilities (SCADA control centers, data centers) indicates that a budget figure of 15-20% of the construction cost would be within range for that type of building. For an existing facility, the cost of shielding can be significantly higher for the same size and type of building, although there are other ways of mitigating electromagnetic attacks that may be a better value than HEMP-shielding. Since there are a lot of variables involved in arriving at a preliminary budget, a pre-design assessment and evaluation should be done to provide a context for shielding budget estimates.
Since there have been no known significant EMP attacks on U.S. critical facilities, risk cannot be calculated using actuarial methods used for other threats like flood, fire, wind and vandalism. NERC refers to these as "HILF" – High-Impact, Low-Frequency" events, which also include pandemic illness, coordinated cyber and physical attacks, and extreme solar weather.
It is unknown whether a malicious actor has ever employed an electromagnetic weapon against a facility in the United States, although it is easier to imagine the threat once one becomes familiar with the technology now available, given the propensity of terrorists to find new ways to carry out their goals.
Risk Matrix for EMP Threats
Even rarer is the so-called "Black Swan": a high-consequence event that has either never happened before, or is so rare that its occurrence or frequency are not predictable, or even imaginable without some effort to understand. A HEMP caused by nuclear detonation could be considered a Black Swan event.
Just because an event is unpredictable, infrequent, or has never happened does not mean that it should not be accounted for in design, especially if the stakes are very high.
We design buildings to resist earthquakes, because earthquakes, while relatively rare, result in immense consequences if they are ignored.
Today, we routinely design better structural, fire and impact resiliency into tall, high profile buildings in anticipation of terrorists using aircraft as weapons, even though this was not foreseen before September of 2011. That kind of event remains exceedingly rare and unlikely, but we easily justify the expense now, having only a single example to characterize the threat and assess the impact.