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Nord Stream leaks prompt other countries to tighten pipeline security: NPR


The Karsto gas processing plant in the municipality of Tysvær, Norway, which said it would tighten security around its oil facilities after leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline.

Cornelius Poppe/NTB/AFP via Getty Images


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Cornelius Poppe/NTB/AFP via Getty Images

Nord Stream leaks prompt other countries to tighten pipeline security: NPR

The Karsto gas processing plant in the municipality of Tysvær, Norway, which said it would tighten security around its oil facilities after leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline.

Cornelius Poppe/NTB/AFP via Getty Images

A week after the discovery of several suspicious ruptures along the Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline, gas has reportedly stopped leaking but the questions continue to flow. Namely: what caused the damage? And how can countries try to prevent similar incidents from happening again?

Scientists say both leaks were likely caused by powerful underwater explosions, based on seismic data from Sweden and Denmark. And European leaders believe the leaks were not accidental, with NATO blaming “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.

Sweden, Denmark and Germany have all opened investigations, while Russia – whose state-controlled energy company Gazprom is the main owner of the pipelines – is calling for a review and blaming the West.

Neither pipeline was operational at the time of the leaks, as Moscow cut off flows to Nord Stream 1 in August (in retaliation for Europe’s support for Ukraine and sanctions in Russia) and Germany has postponed the opening of Nord Stream 2 just before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. .

Yet the incident raised a number of concerns about the impact on the environment (due to the massive amount of climate-damaging methane it released) and Europe’s energy supply, as well than the vulnerability of critical infrastructure more broadly.

The Nord Stream leaks serve as a warning that any of the many gas, electricity and telecom cables criss-crossing Europe could be a target, as NPR’s Jackie Northam put it. Taking note, countries like Norway, Denmark, Italy and Poland have tightened security and surveillance around their own undersea pipelines in recent days.

There are about 730,000 miles of pipelines in the world, enough to circle the Earth 30 times, according to national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. And that doesn’t include the wires connecting the internet, which she says is “another million miles of cable, basically.”

These pipelines are “lifelines for these countries to continue moving, living and having access to electricity,” Kayyem said. morning editionis A Martínez on Monday. “They’re vulnerable because they’re big, they’re exposed — at least below the ocean floor — and they’re very difficult to protect.”

What steps can countries take to protect their critical infrastructure?

That doesn’t mean no one is trying to protect these vulnerable pipelines, Kayyem says.

“We should be thinking about it more and people are thinking about it,” she explains. “The standard is not: ‘Can we make it safe?’ It’s just kind of like, ‘Can we make it safer?’ At this point, can we minimize the risk to these pipelines?”

According to Kayyem, who describes the approach as “layered defenses,” security experts consider four main ways to minimize risk.

It’s about building more protective pipelines that can resist intrusions, control access to pipelines, monitor them and intercept potential attacks.

Kayyem says the Nord Stream incident shows the importance of surveillance and making sure countries know what boats and submarines are around the pipeline. These types of pipelines are equipped with many detection devices, she adds, that can help authorities determine if the nearby object is a whale or a real threat.

And if something appears to be attacking the pipeline, are a country’s forces ready to pursue it? Kayyem says they could use battleships, submarines or even equipment like drones to “get stuff out”.

“It’s a bit like war, because you’re protecting something that would be attacked in a war,” she adds.

Not all threats come from land or sea. It wasn’t until last spring that a ransomware attack temporarily shut down the Colonial Pipeline, which carries gas, diesel and jet fuel along the east coast of the United States, from Texas to New York.

Kayyem says it’s crucial for countries and businesses to plan for these types of disruptions so they can prepare to restore their systems as soon as possible.

“We just have to anticipate that there will be attacks,” she said. “And then the standard for success is, can we get back online quickly.”

The audio interview was produced by Naina Badarinath Rao and Julie Depenbrock, and edited by Simone Popperl and Reena Advani.

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