Top U.S. authorities warn that North Korea may soon have capabilities to deliver a miniaturized nuclear device over America with unimaginably disastrous results. Such an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, detonation in orbit above our mainland would destroy much of our nation’s electric grid, bringing modern civilization to a cold, dark end.
In what Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., refers to as a “scud in the tub” scenario, a relatively small and primitive 500-kiloton atomic bomb launched from an ordinary-looking freighter ship and exploded in the atmosphere 25 to 300 miles above Chicago will overwhelm all systems or circuits that draw or transmit electricity over a large distance.
Power grid disruptions would shut down all water pumping and sanitation stations; lights and refrigerators; TV, radio and Internet communications; and manufacturing industries.
All equipment that relies upon complex electronic microcircuitry would cease to function, including banking transactions, air traffic control operations, aircraft and ground transportation vehicles, law enforcement communications, gasoline pumps, heating and air-conditioning, and tiny implanted medical devices.
Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula, told reporters on October 24 that North Korea is now capable of producing a nuclear warhead small enough to be launched atop a KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile.
Noting that North Korea has struggled for years to develop nuclear warheads and long-range missiles, he believes they are likely to have gained sophisticated know-how on warhead-miniaturization technology through relationships with Iran and Pakistan.
While extensive tests would need to be conducted before North Korea could be certain that their weapon is effective, the general believes that they are close to reaching this final proof stage, Gen. Scaparrotti said. “I think, given their technological capabilities, that the times they’ve been working on this, that they probably have the capabilities to put this together . . . I don’t believe they have, I don’t know that they have at this point.”
He added that while “we have not seen it tested . . . I don’t think as a commander we can afford the luxury of believing perhaps they haven’t gotten there.”
Scaparrotti’s views underscore U.S. concerns that Pyongyang continues to conduct both nuclear detonation and missile tests in defiance of international condemnation. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) tested nuclear explosive devices in 2006, 2009, and 2013.
In December 2012 they successfully launched a KSM-3 satellite to orbit which was compatible in size and weight to a small nuclear warhead. The trajectory of that launch had characteristics of one that might deliver a surprise EMP attack on the U.S. from the south over the South Pole.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal last August, former CIA Director James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the CIA EMP Commission, paint a devastating picture of consequences that might follow in the aftermath. In 2008 the EMP Commission estimated that a power grid blackout could cause 90 percent of the U.S. population to perish from starvation, disease, and societal breakdown within 12 months.
In 2009 a congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States co-chaired by former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger concurred, urging immediate action to protect the grid.
Study conclusions of the Academy of Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Intelligence Council agreed.
As for action on that urgency — just about zilch.
Although President Obama signed an executive order last year to guard critical infrastructure against cyber attacks, our national power grid vulnerability remains ignored. And while in a rare display of bipartisanship, Rep. Trent Franks and Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., introduced a Secure High-voltage Infrastructure from Lethal Damage, or “SHIELD Act” in June 2013, that legislation is stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A year ago Rep. Franks and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, introduced the Critical Infrastructure and Protection Act (CIPA), which directs the Department of Homeland Security to adopt a new National Planning Scenario focused upon federal, state, and local emergency responses to an EMP emergency. Broadly regarded as a “necessary first step” in protecting the nation’s power grid, that legislation has yet to come up for a vote as well.
The good news is that knowledge of means to protect the electrical power grid from EMP damage exists, and could be accomplished quite simply and inexpensively. Pry and Woolsey indicate that insulating the grid from an EMP can be accomplished for about $2 billion.
The bad news is that this isn’t being done to any major degree, either by utility companies or by government. As Peter Vincent Pry recently told Newsmax: “The time for action has long passed. We know how to protect the grid. We should be protecting the grid — and not just playing games.”
Larry Bell is a professor and endowed professor at the University of Houston, where he directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and heads the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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