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grid security; long term power failure; electronics, electronic circuitryModern electronics and circuit boards are very delicate and easily disrupted and/or permanently damaged by fluctuating electrical currents.

EMP:  Technology’s Worst Nightmare

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a super-energetic radio wave that can destroy, damage, or cause the malfunction of electronic systems by overloading their circuits.  An EMP weapon detonated at high altitude would be harmless to people but catastrophic to our critical infrastructures–electric power, telecommunications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water–that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 326 million Americans.

Given the current state of U.S. unpreparedness for an EMP event, it is estimated that within 12 months of an EMP event, two-thirds to 90 percent of the U.S. population would likely perish from starvation, disease, and societal breakdown.

WHEN, not if…

Nature generates EMP-like effects that can cause similar catastrophic consequences as nuclear EMPs by means of super solar storms which cause large geomagnetic disturbances on Earth.  These natural events occur on average every 150 years; the last recorded Carrington-class solar storm was 155 years ago.  The 1859 Carrington event is the largest super solar storm on record.

A single nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude will generate an electromagnetic pulse that can cause catastrophic damage across the entire contiguous United States, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.

While much more limited in range than a nuclear weapon, non-nuclear weapons, often referred to as radio frequency weapons, can also generate EMPs that can damage electronics, and could cause the collapse of critical infrastructures locally, perhaps with cascading effects over an area as large as a major city.

National Security Threat

The nuclear EMP threat is not merely theoretical – it is real, a clear and present danger.  Nuclear EMP attack is the perfect asymmetric weapon for state actors who wish to level the battlefield by neutralizing the great technological advantage enjoyed by U.S. military forces.  EMP is also the only means whereby rogue states or terrorists could use a single nuclear weapon to destroy the United States and prevail with a single blow.

Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have already incorporated EMP attack into their military doctrines, and openly describe making EMP attacks against the United States.

Rouge states and terrorists could use any missile, including short-range missiles that can deliver a nuclear warhead, to exact a catastrophic EMP attack on the United States.  Indeed, Iran has practiced ship-launched EMP attacks using Scud missiles – which are in the possession of scores of nations and even terrorist groups.

Protecting the homeland means more than protecting our borders.

The Congressional EMP Commission, since disbanded, spent eight years developing a plan to protect all infrastructures from EMP – a plan that would also mitigate threats from cyber-attack, sabotage, and natural disasters that could be implemented in 3-5 years at a cost of $10-20 billion.

The Congressional EMP Commission estimated in 2008 it would cost $2 billion to harden the grid’s critical nodes (i.e., roughly 2,000 large and medium-sized transformers and their associated SCADA systems, etc.).  Modest when compared with the unimaginably high costs associated with trying to remediate after an EMP event.  Yet, it has been an excuse for inaction.


The above TV documentary from National Geographic is based on Dr. Peter Pry’s book entitled Electric Armageddon: Civil-Military Preparedness for an Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe (2013).  Dr. Pry serves as one of our experts at the Secure the Grid Coalition.

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