are not chemical agents; however, “VX” is an extremely toxic organophosphate, a tasteless and odorless liquid with an amber-like color that severely disrupts the body’s nervous system. Ten milligrams (0.00035 oz) is fatal through skin contact. “VX” is far more potent than Sarin, another well-known nerve agent toxin, but works in a similar way. With its high viscosity and low volatility, “VX” has the texture of motor oil and can take days or even weeks to evaporate. This makes it especially dangerous, providing an extended persistence in the environment. It is odorless and tasteless, and can be distributed as a liquid, either pure or as a mixture. Also because of its density and vapor pressure as motor oil “VX” is not actually a “nerve gas”, used to describe Sarin. However, Sarin itself is a liquid pesticide and also has high vapor pressure, so it is not an effective “nerve gas” by itself. Initially investigators believe the Sarin used in the attacks in the 1995 attacks on Tokyo subways was contaminated with industrial chemicals. Subsequent analyses of the Sarin revealed the presence of a single common industrial chemical, added to the Sarin as a binary weapon to reduce the vapor pressure of the mixture, making more Sarin evaporate into vapor phase, making Sarin more effective. “VX” is an “acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor”, blocking the function of the enzyme “acetyl cholinesterase”. Normally, when a motor neuron is stimulated, it releases the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine into the space between the neuron and an adjacent muscle cell. When this Acetylcholine is taken up by the muscle cell, it stimulates muscle contraction (attached). To avoid a state of constant muscle contraction, the Acetylcholine is then broken down to non-reactive substances, Acetic acid and Choline, by the enzyme acetyl cholinesterase. “VX” blocks the action of Acetyl cholinesterase, resulting in an accumulation of Acetylcholine in the space between the neuron and muscle cell, leading to uncontrolled muscle contraction. This results in initial violent contractions. Sustained paralysis of the diaphragm muscle causes death by asphyxiation. 14 “VX” is the most toxic nerve agent ever synthesized for which activity has been independently confirmed. The median lethal dose (LD50) for humans is estimated to be about 10 mg (0.00035 oz) through skin contact and for inhalation is estimated to be 30–50 mg·min/m3. Chemists Ranajit Ghosh developed the VX at the British firm Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1952. The discovery occurred when the chemist was investigating a class of organophosphate compounds. Like Gerhard Schrader, who developed Sarin for I.G. Farben in Germany in 1932 as a pesticide, Ghosh found that “VX” was also an effective pesticide. In 1954, ICI put “VX” on the market under the trade name “Amiton”; however, it was withdrawn when it was found too toxic for use. Further commercial research on similar compounds ceased in 1955 when its lethality to humans was discovered. The toxicity did not go unnoticed, and samples of “VX” were sent to the British Armed Forces for evaluation. After the evaluation was complete, several members of this class of compounds became a new group of nerve agents, the “V agents”. The U.S. produced large amounts of “VX” in 1961. The name is a contraction of the words “venomous agent X”.
Making microgrids work: send in the Marines? By J. Michael Barrett, Center for Homeland Security and Resilience For several decades now electrical power experts have been making increasingly vocal statements about the utility and significant potential advantages of embracing localized power generation and distribution using microgrids, which are essentially miniaturized, selfcontained power grids serving a discrete set of users. Crucially, microgrids are small enough to offer a more manageable model for ensuring a stable and more resilient system, and they can also make the most of emergent technologies and the latest advances in distributed generation sources (such as solar, wind, etc.) while also spreading costs and sharing assets on a manageable scale. This means they could play a major role in the advent of the so-called smart grid as well as help to address a raft of growing cyber security threats against existing critical infrastructure. But while the technology is proven and workable business cases can be made, there nonetheless seems to be something holding back the concept from truly taking root. Is it time to send in the Marines? Ok, so not the Marines per se, but rather of the military more broadly, specifically by harnessing the Department of Defense’s operational necessity for energy surety and its enormous buying power? In other words, even though military, commercial, civic, scientific, industrial and other communities interested in the great potential of microgrids need to assess the practical, real-world benefits and associated costs and trade-offs involved in a smart, modern and resilient microgrid project, someone has to take the first step and help develop the market. Could the military lead the way by showing how cooperation, financing, planning and shared responsibility with the local community can be leveraged to strengthen the power grid for communities where vital national security functions overlap with civilian communities? If the resistance to microgrid 15 adoption is related mostly to the difficulty of overcoming marketplace inertia, is there a way that embracing the energy surety aspects of microgrids could make the Department of Defense more resilient against power supply disruptions while also harnessing the power of Public-Private Partnerships to help foster the nascent microgrid industry? This would serve a clear national security imperative as well as support economic growth in the important arena of tailored microgrids serving specific end-users. In practical terms, microgrids are best suited for locations servicing a discrete user base with relatively high energy needs and a recognized emphasis on energy surety. This includes users such as military bases, air and sea ports, manufacturing industrial parks, and research universities. For example, consider the following hypothetical set of end-users prevalent at multiple large military installations: • A military installation needing a high degree of energy security and resilience, but which also has available lands for locating solar arrays;