An electromagnetic pulse triggered by the sun or a nuclear device could produce an electricity blackout that would probably cost the lives of nine of 10 Americans in a year, an expert tells Newsmax.
Dr. Peter Pry also warns that Iran could use a nuclear weapon to produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would succeed in "eliminating us as a civilization."
But there are steps the nation could take to protect the power grid, he says, and the "time for action has long passed."
Story continues below video.
Dr. Pry is the executive director of a congressional advisory panel on EMP events, and past president of EMPACT America, Inc., a bipartisan educational organization dedicated to informing the American public about the dangers of a catastrophic EMP event.
The former director of the CIA under President Clinton says that electricity is the most critical element of our entire infrastructure, more so even than water.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, Pry comments: "Water depends upon electricity. It's purified and delivered to your home and to the cities by electricity. Communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water all depend directly or indirectly upon the electric grid and without the electric grid we don't have any of those things."
One scenario that could produce an EMP is a magnetic super storm "that would be generated by a solar flare that would hurt the earth's magnetosphere," Pry explains. "This would generate a natural EMP that could destroy the electric grid and cause a protracted blackout that could last years. We can't survive even for a year without an electrical grid.
"We estimated that given the current state of unpreparedness, if a blackout lasted a year or more, nine of 10 Americans would probably die from starvation, disease, and societal collapse, and the situation would be equally bad for other nations in the world."
Pry discusses the Grid Ex II test that is about to take place and what we can expect to learn from it.
"It's a tabletop exercise that's being conducted by the electric power industry. They pretend that the event has happened. People sit around tables and talk about hypothetical scenarios but they're not actually going to be throwing switches or practicing turning the grid into a blackout and then trying to turn it back on again, which would be a more practical, more realistic type of an exercise. It's basically a hypothetical exercise.
"This is not new. This has been done before by the National Defense University and by the U.S. Army War College and they've come to the conclusion that if this were to happen it would have catastrophic consequences for the country.
"I am one of those that is sort of critical of Grid Ex II because we already know that there's a threat out there and we've had endless war games already. We've had years of studies looking into this problem. It's time to stop playing games and actually implement the recommendations that the Congressional EMP Commission came up with, the commission on which I serve, to protect our nation from EMP.
"The time for action has long passed. We know how to protect the grid. We should be doing things to protect the grid and not just playing games.
"We've known for 50 years how to protect against both nuclear EMP and natural EMP from the sun."
The opportunity to produce a nuclear EMP is "why we think Iran wants the bomb," Pry says. "They've openly written about attacking the United States and bringing us to our knees, eliminating us as a civilization with a single nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude, which they could do if they get the bomb.
"There was an intelligence report just yesterday that North Korea's working on super EMP weapons with the Russians and their tests are indicative that they probably have that technology.
"How do we protect against this? The technologies are proven for 50 years - Faraday cages, surge arrestors, blocking devices.
"You can build a Faraday cage, for example, around transformers and around the computers that regulate the power in the electric grid. This is basically just a metal box. You can make a Faraday cage at home if you have a metal garbage can with a tight-fitting lid and put some electronic component in it inside a plastic bag so it doesn't touch the edges.
"The Faraday cage basically captures the EMP and circulates it, directs it away from the objects you're trying to protect. It's putting sensitive components inside of something like a metal shed.
"There are surge arrestors that can stop the EMP from getting into big transformers, what we call extra high-voltage transformers. These are crucial to our civilization. They are to modern society what the aqueducts were to the Romans. Modern civilization can't exist without these transformers. They're enormous, the size of a house, they weigh many tons, and they take years to build.
"The worldwide production of these things is like 200 a year and if we were to lose hundreds or thousands of these transformers, it would take years to reconstitute the electric power grid."
Pry says readers can learn more about the EMP threat at the websites empactamerica.org and stopemp.org.
© 2016 Newsmax. All rights reserved.