Source: Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse Speech, June 9, 2005.
This shows the Johnston Island test of 1.4 megatons at a height of 870 KM, which effected electrical equipment in Hawaii over 1300 KM away.
Some years ago I was so impressed by the danger to our country posed by electromagnetic radiation (EMP) that I wrote a blog on it . This danger is greater today, especially with North Korea ‘s development of missiles and nukes, China’s growing nuclear arsenal, Iran’s accelerated nuclear development, not to mention what terrorist groups may buy, steal, or acquire. We must prepare our military generally, our civilian infrastructure, and ourselves for an EMP attack.
The delivery of such nukes over the United States need not be by long range missiles. Short range missiles launched from an innocent looking freighter off the American shore will do the job.
A good summary of EMP is in the Wikipedia here.. EMP can be created by one nuclear weapon exploded high above the country. The resulting burst of electromagnetic radiation can destroy all electrical and electronic equipment on the ground if they are not hardened against it. Airplanes would crash, and cars would stop running. Computers, telephones, cell phones, radio, television and all other electrical and electronic equipment would not operate. Nor would refrigerators, lights, electrical stoves, air conditioning, and electrical heat. People would soon begin to starve and die from lack of medicine. In short, without all things that make for modern and not so modern living, cities and towns would become a state of nature—the survival of the fittest, or most savage. Law and order would collapse, roving gangs would form to scavenge food, weapons, and women, and neighborhoods would have to organize for their own defense. In effect, the country would be plunged back into the Dark Ages.
You need not imagine this scenario. William R. Forstchen’s novel, One Second After, presents this horrendous possibility for just one family and one town, and I highly recommend it for its realism.
What then is our government doing to avert this catastrophe? Any military or civilian planning? There is not a word of it today from Congress, the military, or the major media. Bit, it was once of some concern, and that resulted in the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The report says in part
Electrical power is necessary to support other critical infrastructures, including supply and distribution of water, food, fuel, communications, transport, financial transactions, emergency services, government services, and all other infrastructures supporting the national economy and welfare. Should significant parts of the electrical power infrastructure be lost for any substantial period of time, the Commission believes that the consequences are likely to be catastrophic, and many people may ultimately die for lack of the basic elements necessary to sustain life in dense urban and suburban communities. In fact, the Commission is deeply concerned that such impacts are likely in the event of an EMP attack unless practical steps are taken to provide protection for critical elements of the electric system and for rapid restoration of electric power, particularly to essential services. The recovery plans for the individual infrastructures currently in place essentially assume, at worst, limited upsets to the other infrastructures that are important to their operation. Such plans may be of little or no value in the wake of an EMP attack because of its long-duration effects on all infrastructures that rely on electricity or electronics.We have now no such preparation or national level approach. People should be preparing and stocking up on essentials much more so than they would for a deadly hurricane. They are not being told to do so. It is as though there is an official conspiracy of silence so as to not panic the public.
The ability to recover from this situation is an area of great concern. Automated control systems have allowed many companies and agencies to operate effectively with small work forces. Thus, while manual control of some systems may be possible, the number of people knowledgeable enough to support manual operations is limited. Repair of physical damage is also constrained by a small work force. Many maintenance crews are sized to perform routine and preventive maintenance of high-reliability equipment. When repair or replacement is required that exceeds routine levels, arrangements are typically in place to augment crews from outside the affected area. However, due to the simultaneous, far-reaching effects from EMP, the anticipated augmenters likely will be occupied in their own areas. Thus, repairs normally requiring weeks of effort may take much longer time than planned.
To the extent it is reasonably possible, we should prepare for and protect against the consequences of an EMP event. Cold War-style deterrence through mutual assured destruction is not likely to be an effective threat against potential protagonists who are either failing states or trans-national groups. Therefore, preparing to manage the effects of an EMP attack, including understanding what has happened, maintaining situational awareness, having plans in place to recover, challenging and exercising those plans, and reducing vulnerabilities, is critical to reducing the consequences, and thus probability, of attack. The appropriate national-level approach should balance prevention, protection, and recovery.
Of course, the possibility of such an attack is very small, but not zero. But, the most improbable does happen. Need I mention 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. However unlikely an EMP attack is, we must balance that risk against the cost to the country and to us if it happens.