Expert: US at Risk From Devastating Effects of EMPs

Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014 01:30 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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The United States could protect its electrical grid for about $2 billion from an electromagnetic pulse that could destroy society, Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, told Watchdog.org.

An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is a burst of energy capable of disabling and destroying electronic devices.

"An EMP attack from a nuclear missile launched by a country like North Korea … would indiscriminately cripple whole regions," according to Watchdog.org, which cites author William R. Forstchen’s 2011 estimate that 500,000 people would die within the first few minutes of an EMP on the electric grid.

Breitbart reported last year that an "EMP catastrophe would blackout the national electric grid for months or years, stopping the operation of all the critical infrastructures – communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water–that sustain modern society and the lives of the American people."

Such a scenario could result from both natural causes or a nuclear missile detonating in earth’s upper atmosphere, Watchdog.org said, citing Forstchen.

Explosions on the sun’s surface, known as solar flares, can affect the earth and disrupt communications signals traveling through the upper atmosphere, Watchdog.org said.

A 1989 solar flare caused a blackout in Quebec, damaged electrical systems as far away as New Jersey and caused billions of dollars in damage, according to Breitbart.

In 1859, a coronal mass ejection, CME, an EMP that accompanied a solar flare, damaged telegraph systems in Europe and North America and destroyed "primitive electronics – none of which were necessary for societal survival" as they are today, Breitbart reported.

In the summer of 2012, a solar flare 35 times the size of Earth narrowly missed striking the planet, according to Watchdog.org, and a similar solar flare is expected to peak in early 2015.

"An EMP from a super solar flare would behave similarly to one generated by a nuclear missile that detonated" in the upper atmosphere of earth, according to Watchdog.org.

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has warned that an EMP "could deal society a deathblow," Politico reported last year.

"This could be the kind of catastrophe that ends civilization — and that’s not an exaggeration," Gingrich told members of the Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus.

"The reason I began focusing on this a decade ago is there are very few events you can’t recover from," Gingrich said. "You can recover from 9/11, you can recover from Pearl Harbor. This is really different. This creates such a collapse of our fundamental productive capacity that you could literally see a civilization crash and tear itself apart fighting … internally."

In the forward of the 2009 science fiction novel "One Second After," Gingrich wrote that millions of people would die in the first week of the fallout of such an event, and that it would "throw all of our lives back to an existence equal to that of the Middle Ages," Politico notes.

Pry said officials know how to address the cybersecurity threat of an EMP, according to Watchdog.org.

"The problem is not the technology," Pry told Watchdog.org. "We know how to protect against it. It’s not the money, it doesn’t cost that much. The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way."

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