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Report: U.S. Vulnerable to Catastrophic EMP Attack

Report: U.S. Vulnerable to Catastrophic EMP Attack

The death toll of such an attack would be in the millions.

A new report suggests the United States power grid is vulnerable to an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack and that should scare the hell out of you.

When it comes to the cost of American lives, an attack like this would make 9/11 look small. If a large portion of the United States was deprived of electricity for a significant amount of time, millions would die of starvation, a lack of access to modern medical care and the collapse of law and order.

Daniel Wiser reports at the Washington Free Beacon:

Report: United States Increasingly Vulnerable to Potentially Catastrophic EMP Attack

The threat of a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States is increasing just as American infrastructure has become more vulnerable, according to a new report.

“Our nation has further increased its reliance on technologies that depend upon the availability of electricity and digital electronics to manage and monitor the network of systems that deliver our basic goods and services,” said the report from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

As a result, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack “could severely disrupt everything we take for granted, from food and water distribution to functioning sewer, medical, healthcare and banking systems.”

EMP events can be generated by natural causes, such as a solar storm, or an intentional attack through a cyber assault or the detonation of a nuclear weapon above earth’s atmosphere. Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are all said to be developing EMP weapon technology.

Some experts have suggested that an EMP assault “could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse.”

FOX News interviewed an expert on this subject a few months ago. Peter Vincent Pry is the executive director of the Force on National and Homeland Security:

Mark Weatherford of the Washington Examiner offers some perspective here:

Preparation, not panic, is best way to meet threat of potential EMP attack

It’s an unsettling scenario: An attack on the U.S. homeland in the form of an electromagnetic pulse — a massive blast from a high altitude (most likely nuclear) weapon intended to cripple our electrical control system infrastructures and the electronic devices we depend on.

In this digital age, where electronic technology is prevalent in nearly all aspects of our daily lives, it’s a threat that must be monitored closely — by government and industry leaders alike. As frightening as this doomsday scenario sounds, most experts consider it a low-likelihood event where consequences can vary significantly depending on how such a weapon is delivered.

As with any emerging threat, it’s unknown how an attack of this magnitude would be executed and what effect it would have on society. Our country’s infrastructure faces threats equal to, or greater than, an EMP attack on a daily basis.

This is part of the reason it’s so maddening to hear candidates asked about Fantasy Football in presidential debates. America is facing major security threats which many people haven’t heard of and don’t understand.

Featured image via YouTube.

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Comments

It might be wise to consider right now that the death toll from the attack at the Twin Towers on 9/11 was surprisingly low, considering how many people were at the site, and that the blow, which was intended to destroy our stock exchange, failed in that respect.

The Towers had been attacked by the same type of terrorists 10 years before, and head of security had gamed the scenario of an attack by airplane. He died, but nearly all the people in the buildings below where the planes hit, escaped, due to his planning. By the time of the second major terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, the stock exchange had been dispersed so that the trades were not lost, and the exchange re-opened within days.

There has been talk about our vulnerability to an EMP attack for years. Somebody will eventually try it. The only question is whether our infrastructure will be hardened before or after the attack. I favor, before.

Our susceptibility to an EMP attack has been well understood for many, many years. Every year we actually grow MORE vulnerable, as more and more of our car and truck engines are computer controlled, and those computers are not EMP robust.

But that isn’t the only way we could be attacked with similar results. Massive transformers service our electrical grid, and MOST…if not ALL…of those transformers have no current replacements. Producing those replacements would take months or even years following an attack on the ones in service now. And taking them out is a ridiculously simple process involving nothing more than a crescent wrench. (See what I did there with “crescent”…???)

    Yeah, I think an EMP is a less likely scenario than a coordinated series of attacks at critical points. We know from various blackouts in the past that bringing down critical parts of the power grid can cause a cascading failure effect. And our telecomm infrastructure also has similar choke-points.

    And then there is the evidence suggesting that trial runs have already taken place: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalf_sniper_attack

    Thank God we have our own power grid in Texas.

    MattMusson in reply to Ragspierre. | November 7, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    If you are worried about your car or truck – stockpile replacement fuses and relays. Actual EMP tests on Actual civilian vehicles show that 3/4’s were still operational after fuses and relays were replaced.

    Most continued to show CHECK ENGINE lights.

      Faraday cages can be easily built using metallic window screening material. They provide some protection against EMPs.

      Question might be how big do you want that cage to be, what should it contain, and where will you keep it. Just a point of interest: In 2013, during the election of the new pope, the Vatican enclosed with a Faraday Cage the building where the College of Cardinals stayed, to inhibit electronic messages being sent out.

So lets give the Iranians, who have a decades long track record of hatred of the US, who have killed thousands of our soldiers, who have funded proxy terror groups and continue to do so, who have vowed to wipe us and our allies off the map, lets give them nuclear weapons and a few hundred billion dollars. What kind of blithering moron thinks that is a good idea? How is that not treason?

American Human | November 7, 2015 at 11:05 am

1 – EMP largely affects digital equipment.
2 – Electrical infrastructure would not be significanly degraded for longer than a few minutes because power plants i.e. turbine areas, control rooms etc., are sufficiently shielded from these types of effects.
3 – It would require an enormous (and I mean enormous) nuclear explosion many tens of miles above the earth to have a significant effect on more than a small area of the country.
3 – Don’t believe what you see in the movies about everything losing all power immediately. The EMP, itself, is not a physical force it is an electro/magnetic wave.
4 – Military equipment is designed to withstand EMP and recover quickly.
5 – Think of the logistics involved in someone a)making a bomb big enough to do this damage, b) getting it into the country, and c) flying it over the country at 60,000 feet or so and not being detected.

My engineering opinion.

    “1 – EMP largely affects digital equipment.”

    It effects all low power equipment, analog included. Most of it is not hardened to withstand EMP.

    “2 – Electrical infrastructure would not be significanly degraded for longer than a few minutes because power plants i.e. turbine areas, control rooms etc., are sufficiently shielded from these types of effects.”

    I think you need to do a bit more study. For example, a hardened control room will be of no value when the transformers are taken out. Transformers for which there are no replacements available and there will be none until long after the event.

    ” 3 – It would require an enormous (and I mean enormous) nuclear explosion many tens of miles above the earth to have a significant effect on more than a small area of the country.”

    The requirement is well understood. You under estimate the area, and you presume only one device is exploded. If you consider the effect on the infrastructure and are willing to accept a death toll in the millions, then perhaps you could characterize the result as insignificant.

    “3 – Don’t believe what you see in the movies about everything losing all power immediately. The EMP, itself, is not a physical force it is an electro/magnetic wave.”

    Those things that will fail, will fail immediately. Not sure what your point is here.

    ” 4 – Military equipment is designed to withstand EMP and recover quickly.”

    True, some is designed to withstand EMP, but not all. Doesn’t really help when 90% of your population is starving to death

    ” 5 – Think of the logistics involved in someone a)making a bomb big enough to do this damage, b) getting it into the country, and c) flying it over the country at 60,000 feet or so and not being detected.”

    You seriously underestimate the ability to do this. You also assume only one device when multiple devices are certainly a possibility.

    My engineering opinion. One that is held from a significant study of the issue.

      faboutlaws in reply to Barry. | November 7, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Congress has studied the EMP problem many years ago. They heard from the best experts available. And they agree with you to the letter.

        MattMusson in reply to faboutlaws. | November 7, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        Actually no. Real tests on real automobiles showed 3/4’s continued to be driveable. Most required some new fuses or relays.

        http://www.empcommission.org/docs/A2473-EMP_Commission-7MB.pdf

          “Actually no. Real tests on real automobiles showed 3/4’s continued to be driveable. Most required some new fuses or relays.”

          Did you read the report? It confirms precisely what I say with regards to the electrical system. I did not write an essay on a comment thread. There are many problems. Will 3/4 of all cars still operate? Possibly. Testing does not simulate a real EMP occurrence however. Where do you plan to go when after 3 days there is no food, no power, no water, no gas pumps….

    clafoutis in reply to American Human. | November 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    ” . . . and not being detected. . .”

    Seriously, considering the dismal record of American intelligence?

    alaskabob in reply to American Human. | November 7, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Suggest you read up on USSR Project K emp tests. Max yield of test weapons 300 kilotons. Major transformers in USA if damaged could not be all replaced for years. Iranians testing container ship misslile launches… As for MAD, does one really think that this would stop devout jihadists from pulling the trigger. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain in a MAD scenario especially if it ushers in the 12th Imam. This idea that when countries are flush with money and good times, that no one wants war overlooks mayor forces at play as to why wars are fought. And this issue is over religion… and the duty to bring the world to its knees to bow to Allah. WWI wasn’t an economic based war… it was a “test of strength” amongst the powers of the day… that one turned out badly.

These warnings are coming faster and faster, now almost monthly now. It’s almost like it’s a subliminal suggestion.

Isn’t the main way for an EMP attack to happen the detonation of a nuclear weapon? Therefore, doesn’t it have, in practice, all the prerequisites for a nuclear attack, plus on top of that some sort of dastardly scheme to maximize the consequences according to research restricted to a tiny amount of nuclear powers around the world? And, isn’t it really simple for the US to deliver EMP attacks right back and wipe out huge swaths of the Earth’s increasingly urbanized and trade-dependent population if it so wishes?

So, what’s changed about this in the last half-century?

    alaskabob in reply to JBourque. | November 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    The present US policy of wink-nod to nuclear proliferation , more can play the game. Also local well planned non-nuke emp weapons can have a big effect. With a porous border policy such weapons can make it into US.

    faboutlaws in reply to JBourque. | November 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    The US and Israel both have non-nuclear EMPs. I think they operate by explosives in the atmosphere which contain certain mixtures of metals to produce the electrical pulse, but I’m not sure because of the secrecy behind them.

      alaskabob in reply to faboutlaws. | November 7, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      The piezoelectric principle. The weapons can even be made into canon shells. The US knew of emp testing by the Russians in the 1960’s but couldn’t replicate the full potential until at a meeting in Sweden or some such… and after a few drinks… the Russians thought nothing of discussing emp since they thought all they knew was common knowledge. Bottom line… US bomb casings too “pure” versus Russian. Thank you Stoly! I was in SoCal when that “jet contrail” appeared by LA… FAA reported no planes in the area and Janes considered it a nuke missile boat launch… as in NOT OURS! “Nothing to see here.. move on”.

    faboutlaws in reply to JBourque. | November 7, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    I believe that a hundred kiloton device shot from off the East coast by a small ICBM on a merchant ship that has an elevator to bring the rocket up to the deck at the last minute(Iran is reputed to have three of these ships) will suffice. The nuke would be aimed to go off at a 300 mile altitude over St. Louis. It would take out the electrical system for most of the continental US, Canada and northern Mexico. Thousands and thousands of large transformers will be destroyed by the pulse where there are only a few hundred spares around the world and many of those would be 50hz instead of the 60hz in North America. It would take years to replace them. Years ago Congress was warned that 90% of Americans would die. I am reminded of a distasteful comment I read years ago: guns-buy one and get everything else free. That’s how it could end. Only those people who have guns and are willing to use them have a chance of survival.

    Barry in reply to JBourque. | November 7, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    “So, what’s changed about this in the last half-century?”

    Mutual assured destruction (mad) was between states with the resources to field significant numbers of nuclear weapons. We would know before the missiles arrived that they are on the way and from where. Our missiles would begin their flight before theirs even arrived, thus “MAD”.

    With an EMP device, the missile could be launched by a state with limited resources, by covert operators, from our own country (several scenario’s). We would have at most a few minutes warning and no certainty who was responsible, short of some intelligence.

    That is the difference.

      SDN in reply to Barry. | November 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

      The other difference is in the motivations of the possible adversaries. The Soviets and Chinese wanted to achieve a conquest where there would be something left. Islamists aren’t operating on that principle.

From what I have read, the issue in this kind of attack or solar event is the power grid. Coal is the least vulnerable. The idiot government led by both democrat and republican (mostly dems) is killing coal making the vulnerability higher. Colorado for example is 70% coal currently. The Colorado government supported by both parties passed legislation pushing a change to natural gas in part because the (current) costs are low and second due to irrational global warming alarmist nonsense.

Current planning shows populations from surrounding states moving into Colorado to survive as large parts of Colorado’s grid should survive. That will no longer be true once the conversion is in effect.

I guess one thing is true. “Climate Change” (stupid government actions to “mitigate”) kills.

    Barry in reply to pyawakit. | November 8, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    ” Coal is the least vulnerable.”

    It’s all vulnerable. It makes little difference in how the electricity is generated when the grid is dead.

I seem to be saying this a lot lately with news stories:

No Duh!

You don’t have to destroy the individual items (although a lot would be destroyed, and a lot of items would likely catch fire in the process, destroying more property.

With the power out, you have to go back to cranking to get just about everything. Now, there ARE some items that can be converted. LONG ago, when I was still working for my family’s manufacturing plant, I studied how most of the machines ran before large-scale power distribution.

You can do a LOT with hydro-powered items, if you can build the mechanisms to drive the items correctly.

But you are going to lose most of the modern conveniences for a while in the time that it takes them to get the power grid running stable again. That, at least, is a decent reason to have at least one solar panel on the roof, and at least a couple of weeks of dry/canned goods food on hand pretty much at all times.

Those with chronic medical conditions would almost certainly be without medical care and medication for months or longer perhaps. Even if a hospital could get them in, they would have no way to assess them robustly. They’d likely have no access to their records. And they wouldn’t have re-supply of medication etc.

holdingmynose | November 8, 2015 at 6:35 am

How about reporting on something really important such as Dr. Carson’s misstatements in his autobiography.

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