Dr. B. Don Russell, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, was a member of an expert task force commissioned to review the vulnerability of the electrical power system in the United States.
The task force, which was formed in 2005, along with the National Research Council and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), recently released its report, “Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System.”
The report, which was presented to the Department of Homeland Security, stated that concern exists that an orchestrated terrorist plan could significantly disrupt the economy, safety and defense of the United States by attacking the electric grid.
“In a worst case scenario, it is not the power disruption alone, but coordinated attacks that hit the power system simultaneous to other large-scale attacks that are the concern because it hinders our ability to function and communicate,” Russell said. “If the power system is down at the same time as a coordinated attack, the magnitude of the problem is enormous.”
The committee was tasked with identifying any and all vulnerabilities and suggesting approaches that could be reasonably taken to mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack.
Russell is the past chair of the Electric Power and Energy Engineering section of the NAE and past president of the Power and Energy Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
He is an expert on monitoring and protection of electric power systems and is the recipient of the IEEE Halperin Award, the highest recognition for electric power engineering given by IEEE. Dr. Russell holds the rank of Distinguished Professor and is Regents Professor of the Texas A&M University System. He is director of the Power System Automation Laboratory and has been a member of the faculty of Texas A&M for 37 years.
Dr. Russell is internationally recognized for his development of automated techniques for detecting arcing faults and failures on electric power systems. His recent work has emphasized predictive diagnostic tools for detecting failing power system equipment before catastrophic failure. This will allow utilities to repair systems before an outage occurs. His work is currently being extended to detect power system failures that cause wildfires, an area of great importance given the increasing drought conditions in the U.S.
By Timothy Schnettler, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
Jay Roberts ’05
Director of Development