America and the EMP threat

A congressional committee report states that a large electromagnetic pulse (EMP) inundating America could cause 90% of Americans to die.  The EMP is inevitable.  The dead Americans are not.

Mark Levin invited Dr. Peter Pry on to his show to illuminate this issue.  It's not hard to see why Pry is considered America's foremost expert on this topic.  He has two Ph.D.s and a certificate on nuclear weapon design, worked at the CIA for a decade, worked on the House Armed Services Committee, and then served as director of the EMP Committee.

Pry explained that an EMP can happen in a few different ways: if an adversary attacks America using nuclear weapons, or naturally via a large solar storm.  The reason why a large EMP hitting Earth is inevitable is that solar storms are inevitable.  They happen regularly.  The only question is when a large one will cross Earth's path.  For instance, NASA reported that if a solar superstorm from 2012 had happened just one week earlier, it would have blasted the Earth with a catastrophic EMP.  We are playing this slot machine every day.  Eventually, we're going to hit the jackpot.

Actually, we were already hit by a large solar storm.  In 1859, the Carrington Event melted circuits, caused forest fires when telegraph wires burst into flames, and even destroyed the transatlantic cable placed miles beneath the surface of the ocean.

Electronics nowadays are far more sensitive and thus even more vulnerable to an EMP.  The next Carrington Event will destroy electronics around the entire world.  Refrigerators will stop cooling food.  Gas pumps will stop working.  Even tap water will stop flowing.  Perhaps survivalists who live in rural areas will be okay.  But many Americans live in cities and are no longer equipped with the skills to live on their own.

Of particular worry is the fact that extra-high-voltage transformers, which our electric grid depends on, will be wrecked.  The North American grid has about 2,000 of these transformers.  They are so huge and difficult to make that the worldwide capacity for manufacturing new ones is just 200 a year.  In fact, America doesn't even make these transformers anymore (they are imported).  It would take years to replace our transformers in a best-case scenario.  Thus, Americans would be without electricity indefinitely.  Also problematic is the fact that there wouldn't be electricity to use to restore the electric grid.

Beyond a solar storm, the other possibility is an EMP caused by a nuclear strike.  Specifically, a single nuclear warhead detonated 100 miles above Kansas would create an electromagnetic wave that would propagate down and outward and destroy America's entire electric grid (including the transformers).

The nuclear bomb EMP effect was confirmed by the 1962 Starfish Prime test.  A nuclear bomb was detonated 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean.  It knocked out some electrical equipment almost a thousand miles away in Hawaii.

The Starfish Prime test was done with a "primitive" nuclear weapon.  Since then, some countries have developed specialized nuclear warheads for the exact purpose of creating larger EMP effects.  Dr. William Graham, President Reagan's science adviser, wrote, "In 2004, two Russian generals, both EMP experts, warned the EMP Commission that the design for Russia's super-EMP warhead, capable of generating high-intensity EMP fields of 200,000 volts per meter, was 'accidentally' transferred to North Korea."

Many people assume that America is safe from a nuclear EMP attack due to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.  But the world is changing.  There are numerous "tricky" attack vectors that may appear attractive to an aggressor.  For instance, Iran could undertake the attack for religious reasons.  North Korea could give a nuclear bomb to terrorists.  China could coerce North Korea into attacking and then deny all responsibility.

There is no reason why America must keep playing the slot machine.  It would take only two to three billion dollars to harden the electric grid, to protect the core components, which are difficult to replace.  Then, when an EMP does hit, we can restore electricity.  Given the gargantuan budget America has for the military, this seems to be a straightforward matter.

Lack of EMP preparedness has dragged on for far too long.  Naïve politicians have wanted to ignore the problem away.  But physics doesn't work like that.  Levin and Pry have done an excellent service by reminding America of this danger.  God knows we have enough problems as it is without leaving one more fixable problem on the table.

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