June 18, 2019

An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Nuclear Attack May End Modern Life in America Overnight

What is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP)?

EMP-ATTACKAn electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is the electric wave produced by nuclear blasts that is capable of knocking out electronics and the electrical grid up to 1,000 miles away. The disruption could cause catastrophic damage and loss of life if power is not restored or backed up quickly since millions of people would die of starvation and sickness in a few months.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) over the United States could end modern life in America overnight. Whether caused by an enemy attack (a nuclear device detonated above the atmosphere) or by a natural phenomenon (a geomagnetic storm or solar flares), an EMP can cause entire regions of the country to lose electricity permanently. Despite the EMP Commission’s recommendations in 2004 and 2008, hardly any progress has been made in protecting America from an EMP nuclear attack or by solar flares and its catastrophic results. America must prepare to deal with an EMP immediately.

Projection of Iranian EMP Attack on America

While the ability of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to inflict catastrophic damage on U.S. infrastructure has been a known fact for decades, insufficient efforts have been made to mitigate the threat. A survey of congressional, federal, state, local, and international measures to deal with the threat reveals more complacency than action.

In order to prevent the catastrophic destruction that could result from either a nuclear missile detonated at high altitudes or intense solar eruptions that send blasts of radiation towards the Earth, initiatives are needed at all levels—from bilateral partnerships that focus on shared infrastructure to national leadership to state and local action.

History

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Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) was an Italian physicist, who created the world’s first nuclear reactor. He has been called the “architect of the nuclear age” and the “architect of the atomic bomb.”

The knowledge that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is produced by a nuclear explosion was known in the earliest days of nuclear weapons testing. However, the magnitude of the enormous damage produced by an EMP nuclear explosion was not immediately realized.

During the first American nuclear test on July 16, 1945, the electronic equipment was shielded due to Enrico Fermi’s expectation of the electromagnetic pulse. The official report for that first nuclear test stated, “All signal lines were completely shielded, in many cases doubly shielded. In spite of this, many records were lost because of spurious pickup at the time of the explosion that paralyzed the recording equipment.”

In 1962 during Cold War, the U.S. military exploded a nuclear weapon high above an atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The test was called Operation Starfish. It was part of a larger project to evaluate the impacts of nuclear explosions in space. The missile was launched from Johnson Island 898 miles from Hawaii. It was armed with a 1.4 megaton warhead programmed to explode at 240 miles above the earth. When the nuclear weapon detonated, it resulted in an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) powerful enough to impact the electric grid in Hawaii, blowing out about 300 streetlights and resulting in telephone outages and radio blackouts.

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William Robert Graham was born on June 15, 1937 in San Antonio, Texas. He was Chairman of President Reagan’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control from 1982 to 1985 and Science Adviser to President Reagan from 1986 to 1989. Dr. Graham chaired the statutory Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack from 2001 through 2008, which issued several reports, including a report entitled Critical National Infrastructures in 2008. Graham then went on to become one of the nation’s leading experts on the topic, helping advise on both defensive and offensive capabilities.

Dr. William Graham was active in the follow-up to the project, working out of the Air Force weapons lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After the blast, it was his job to understand the data collected and find out just what had happened in Hawaii and what the defense implications were of this phenomenon.

In a later interview, Dr. Graham stated the following: “The effects were bizarre and almost entirely unanticipated. One effect was an electromagnetic pulse, but nobody knew it was going to be anywhere nearly as large it proved to be.  They had all this data and they didn’t understand very much of it, including the EMPs that had been observed and the effects produced…all kinds of electrical disturbances were seen over 1,000 kilometers away in Oahu. The Air Force brought in a bunch of us…and asked us to explain it.  With the leadership of scientists from Los Alamos, we figured it out.  It was a fairly subtle piece of physics.  At that time we were worried it could be used as a precursor attack on the U.S. and suppress our retaliatory capability.  Since the effect wasn’t really understood before 1962, our military systems hadn’t protected against it up to that point.”

The United States military published hypothetical EMP attack scenarios

The United States EMP Commission was created by Congress in 2001. The commission is formally known as the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.

The EMP Commission was chaired by Dr. William Graham and many notable scientists participated. In 2008, the EMP Commission released the Critical National Infrastructures Report. This report described the likely consequences of a nuclear EMP on civilian infrastructure. Although this report covered the United States, most of the information can be generalized to other industrialized countries. The 2008 report was a follow-up to a more generalized report issued by the commission in 2004.

In written testimony delivered to the United States Senate in 2005, an EMP Commission staff member reported the following: “The EMP Commission sponsored a worldwide survey of foreign scientific and military literature to evaluate the knowledge, and possibly the intentions, of foreign states with respect to electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. The survey found that the physics of EMP phenomenon and the military potential of EMP attack are widely understood in the international community, as reflected in official and unofficial writings and statements. The survey of open sources over the past decade finds that knowledge about EMP and EMP attack is evidenced in at least Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Egypt, Taiwan, Sweden, Cuba, India, Pakistan, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, North Korea, China and Russia. Many foreign analysts–particularly in Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia–view the United States as a potential aggressor that would be willing to use its entire panoply of weapons, including nuclear weapons, in a first strike. They perceive the United States as having contingency plans to make a nuclear EMP attack and as being willing to execute those plans under a broad range of circumstances.”

It also reported the following: “Russian and Chinese military scientists in open source writings describe the basic principles of nuclear weapons designed specifically to generate an enhanced-EMP effect, that they term Super-EMP weapons. Super-EMP weapons, according to these foreign open source writings, can destroy even the best protected U.S. military and civilian electronic systems.”

The United States EMP Commission stated the following very alarming conclusion: “Long-known protections are almost completely absent in the civilian infrastructure of the United States and that large parts of U.S. military services were less-protected against EMP than during the Cold War. In public statements, the EMP experts on the EMP Commission recommended making electronic equipment and electrical components resistant to EMP — and maintaining spare parts inventories that would enable prompt repairs. The United States EMP Commission did not look at the civilian infrastructures of other nations.” In 2011, the Defense Science Board published a report about the ongoing efforts to defend critical military and civilian systems against EMP and other nuclear weapons effects.

Where we are and where we need to be

The sad reality is that America—at all levels of governance—is unprepared for an EMP nuclear attack. Despite the sound recommendations of both the 2004 and 2008 EMP Commissions, U.S. government agencies have not planned for their response to an EMP attack out of the theoretical stages.

This is very alarming considering the official consensus on the severity of the threat and on appropriate solutions as articulated by the EMP Commission. DHS and DOE have both independently identified the United States’ vulnerability to an EMP attack, but have neither created emergency management plans nor taken action to better protect critical U.S. infrastructure from an attack.

The Department of Defense (DOD) has begun to adopt the recommendations of the EMP Commission, but U.S. forces still remain vulnerable. State and local governments remain unaware and unprepared for the threat of an EMP attack.

Dr. James Jay Carafano, Baker Spring, and Dr. Richard Weitz wrote an article titled “Before the Lights Go Out: A Survey of EMP Preparedness Reveals Significant Shortfalls” which was published by the Heritage Foundation on August 15, 2011. The key points of their article are the following:

1. While the ability of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to inflict catastrophic damage on U.S. infrastructure has been a known fact for decades, a survey of congressional, federal, state, local, and international measures to deal with the threat reveals more complacency than action.

2. America—at all levels of governance—is unprepared for an EMP attack. Despite the clear recommendations of both the 2004 and 2008 EMP Commissions, as well as an official consensus among experts, U.S. government agencies have not moved their EMP-response planning beyond the theoretical stages. Initiatives are needed at all levels—from bilateral partnerships that focus on shared infrastructure to national leadership to state and local action.

3. An EMP disaster is the catastrophe that should never happen. The means to address and mitigate the dangers to critical infrastructure are at hand. The United States needs a greater understanding of the danger—and the determination to act.

Dr. James Jay Carafano, Baker Spring, and Dr. Richard Weitz recommended the following:

Build Comprehensive Missile Defenses. Maintaining the capacity to interdict nuclear-tipped missiles is the most effective measure to guard against a HEMP attack. The U.S. missile defenses are not keeping pace with the proliferation of threats. It is time to reverse course. Establishing a robust ballistic missile defense is the most effective means of addressing the future threats to the U.S. and its allies resulting from the proliferation of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. must pursue missile defense programs that can intercept missiles in the boost and ascent portions of flight. Among these programs are the Airborne Laser, which is a modified air-to-air interceptor missile, future versions of the Navy’s Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor, and, above all, reviving the development and deployment of space-based interceptors.

Develop a national plan to respond to space weather emergencies. As a 2008 report by the National Academies, “Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts,” makes clear, “Modern society depends heavily on a variety of technologies that are susceptible to the extremes of space weather—severe disturbances…driven by the magnetic activity of the sun.” The first step in addressing this issue must be educating the public and policy communities at the federal, state, and local levels about the risks and response options. Additionally, any effective plan will require enhanced, reliable long-range space weather forecasts.

Forge a bipartisan consensus in Congress to act on this issue. The response to the EMP Commission’s findings has been uneven within the United States government, with the Department of Defense taking the initiative and the Department of Homeland Security apparently sitting idle. Congressional inaction has contributed to this uneven response.

Establish bilateral partnerships with other nations. If the unthinkable happens, the U.S. and other developed nations must be able to accept foreign aid in the event of catastrophes. The U.S. should consider hosting international disaster exercises to increase the ability of countries friendly with the United States to readily accept aid from one another when disaster strikes. For some critical infrastructure the U.S. should promote establishing an industry-led, multinational rapid-response capability. Such a capability should be able to respond worldwide. Further, this could provide an effective mechanism to share best practices and integrate responses. This capability should be funded and controlled by the private sector to respond to threats to shared international critical infrastructure, such as telecommunications and the Western Hemisphere electrical grid.”

An EMP disaster is the catastrophe that should never happen. The means to address and mitigate the dangers to critical infrastructure are at hand. The United States needs a greater understanding of the danger—and the determination to act.

A high-altitude nuclear blast would cause widespread power outage and destroy electronics and millions will die

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Scott Aaronson is the secretary of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, a group of chief executives from 21 electric companies working with the Energy Department to examine the threat of an EMP nuclear attack on America.

Bill Gertz wrote an article titled “Government, Industry, Studying Threat of Nuclear Attack on Electric Grid” which was published in the Washington Free Beacon on May 19, 2016. He explained that U.S. power companies are studying ways to protect electric grids against a high-altitude nuclear blast and other directed energy attacks that could severely disrupt electricity transmission.

Gertz said that Scott Aaronson, managing director for cyber and infrastructure security at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in May 2016. He said that a consortium of U.S. electric companies is working with the Department of Energy (DOE) to study how to protect electric power grids from a nuclear blast-produced electromagnetic pulse attack or solar flares that could damage transformers and other electric components and shut down power for millions of Americans. Aaronson stated the following: “There are a lot of threats to the grid … from squirrels to nation states. And frankly, there have been more blackouts as a result of squirrels [gnawing wire insulation] than there are from nation states.”

The hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affair was called to examine threats to critical infrastructure ranging from cyber-attacks and criminal activities to terrorist sabotage and nation state nuclear attacks. Aaronson, whose institute represents all investor-owned U.S. electric companies, said in testimony that electromagnetic pulse is a concern and could be caused by a high-altitude nuclear blast or a directed energy weapon.

Gertz explained that the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, a group of chief executives from 21 electric companies and nine major industry associations, is working with the Energy Department to examine the threat. Aaronson, the council’s secretary, stated that the threat study is based on research done by the Pentagon and national laboratories. Aaronson told the members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affair the following: “This project is designed to enhance our understanding of system impact should such an attack occur and to explore the effectiveness of mitigation strategies, including hardening and recovery. The project will allow grid-specific research to inform the application of technologies that will increase grid resilience and accelerate recovery.”

A previous Government Accountability Office (GAO) study in March 2016 requested greater efforts to deal with the threat of an EMP attack against the electric grid. The report said that both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should work more closely with electric companies on the problem. The GAO report concluded that “DHS and DOE, in conjunction with industry, have not established a coordinated approach to identifying and implementing key risk management activities to address EMP risks.” This is outrageous in view of the national security threat of an EMP nuclear attack upon America by any of its enemies!

Gertz pointed out the following: “North Korea is one nation said to be working on a nuclear EMP attack capability, which would involve launching a long-range missile and detonating a nuclear device over the United States. Iran could use EMP attacks if it successfully develops nuclear weapons in the future. Russia and China have missiles and nuclear weapons capable of high-altitude detonation. High-altitude EMP strikes are considered an attractive nuclear strike option because they would produce less blast damage and radiation than ground strikes. They also require less precise missile guidance systems. The U.S. electric power system is made up of three grids—western, central and eastern—and is controlled by operational technology that security experts say is outdated and can be penetrated by hackers. Aaronson did not say what steps should be taken to protect or harden the grid against EMP strikes. A fact sheet produced by the Edison Electric Institute states that shielding transformers for the entire grid system would cost $20 billion, 10 times what some advocates have estimated.”

Gertz explained that Aaronson said that the main threat to the electric grid is the disruption of the power transmission system involving some 35,000 substations that he described as a “soft target and “the threats continue to evolve.” Another vulnerability explained by Aaronson is that “the electric grid involves the 200 to 700 large power transformers that if damaged or destroyed would disrupt power for long periods.” Aaronson said that if these transformers were damaged by cyber or physical attacks or EMP, they could be replaced by stockpiled spare transformers. Replacing a large transformer could take up to 18 months and would have to be procured from foreign suppliers, although Aaronson said that “under duress there are ways to procure transformers more quickly.”

The potential consequences are almost unimaginable

Peter Kelly-Detwiler wrote an article titled “Failure to Protect U.S. Against Electromagnetic Pulse Threat Could make 9/11 Look Trivial Someday” which was published by Forbes on July 31, 2014. He pointed out that in America today there have been an enormous increase of dependency on electronics, computers, and microelectronics.

Kelly-Detwiler explained the following: “An attack may never happen.  But the more vulnerable the U.S. is to such an attack, the more likely it is to be used against us.  In the former days, we worried about Russia.  Now we have to be concerned about North Korea and Iran. These could be launched from a not-so-elaborate container ship.  The rocket doesn’t have to be accurate.  It just has to go up.  It’s well within the capability of even an earlier Scud missile, of which thousands have been produced – it just has to have nuclear weapon on top. We have data indicating that the Iranians have launched their versions of Scuds off of the Caspian Sea – not from land, but from the sea – and launched them over land.”

He also stated the following: “And we’ve also seen them launch missiles that have gone up and apparently exploded near their highest altitude – when you put those two ideas together – that is an EMP attack. Why is this so important?  Because a single missile with a warhead that actually doesn’t have to be all that large and has the potential to take out the U.S. power grid, destroy our electronics networks, and create an existential crisis like nothing the world has ever witnessed.”

The 2008 Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack stated the following:

“The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a high altitude nuclear explosion is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences…A single EMP attack may seriously degrade or shut down a large part of the electric power grid in the geographic area of EMP exposure effective instantaneously. There is also the possibility of functional collapse of grids beyond the exposed one, as electrical effects propagate from one region to another…Should significant parts of the electric 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 EMP 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.

Kelly-Detwiler pointed out that America has become so efficient, technology-dependent, and highly leveraged that utilities would lack sufficient trained service personnel to address a disaster of this magnitude. An EMP nuclear attack would pass unnoticed through us, even as it fried the iPhones and Galaxies in our pockets, knocked out our telecommunications system, rendered our cars and computers without the ability to function, and took out our power grid. Kelly-Detwiler stated the following: “We would have little idea of the dread potentially awaiting us, because there would be no communications. No mobility. Nothing that our highly evolved, sophisticated, and electronic society relies on.”

Conclusion  

The United States—at all levels —is unprepared for an EMP nuclear attack or an EMP provoked by solar flares despite its catastrophic consequences. The clear and sound recommendations of the 2004 and 2008 EMP Commissions have been ignored by the Obama administration and Congress, even though an EMP nuclear attack is an immense threat to our survival.

This is outrageous in view of the national security threat of an EMP nuclear attack upon America by any of its enemies! Time is of the essence. America needs to spend billions to protect its people. Hopefully, the next president would take immediate action.

America must survive and prosper with God’s help!

Frank de Varona is an educator, historian, journalist, and internationally known expert on politics, economics, foreign affairs, and national security issues. He has written 22 books, including five on President Barack Obama. His latest book is OBAMA, HILLARY CLINTON, AND RADICAL ISLAM it can be purchased at CreateSpace

 

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