I have read many articles and written several articles myself on the danger of any EMP attack on America, but I ran across what I think is the best scientific description and analysis of the three components (E1, E2, and E3) from a nuclear EMP that I have read.
The article is, “EMP Attacks—What the U.S. Must Do Now“, by James Carafano, Ph.D. and Richard Weitz, Ph.D. What is said in this article is founded on well documented information. The article gives 48 references.
Here is the opening paragraph from this article (bold emphasis mine).
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack represents one of the greatest threats imaginable—to the United States and the world. An EMP occurs when a nuclear device is detonated high in the atmosphere—a phenomenon of which America’s enemies are well aware. The electromagnetic discharge can permanently disable the electrical systems that run nearly all civilian and military infrastructures. A massive EMP attack on the United States would produce almost unimaginable devastation. Communications would collapse, transportation would halt, and electrical power would simply be non-existent. Not even a global humanitarian effort would be enough to keep hundreds of millions of Americans from death by starvation, exposure, or lack of medicine. Nor would the catastrophe stop at U.S. borders. Most of Canada would be devastated, too, as its infrastructure is integrated with the U.S. power grid. Without the American economic engine, the world economy would quickly collapse. Much of the world’s intellectual brain power (half of it is in the United States) would be lost as well. Earth would most likely recede into the “new” Dark Ages.
That paragraph does not shock me because I have read that an EMP would be a complete national catastrophe many times before. Even so, I found information in this article that I did not know until now. For example, I did not know that a Faraday cage or a grounding device will not protect electronic equipment from the E1 first phase of an EMP.
Apparently, the only way to protect electronic equipment from the E1 (free-field energy) pulse is if specialized technology is integrated into the equipment when the competent is manufactured. Even then the electronic device could fail if the EMP was stronger than the shield.
The article also gives a hair curling detailed analysis of what would happen in the U.S. after a successful EMP attack. In short, few Americans would survive.
We were quite stupid to have put ourselves in such a vulnerable position where our very survival is totally dependent on electronics and an electricity grid that is highly vulnerable to be taken down. Doing nothing about this vulnerability over the years even borders on insanity and a national death wish. Our electronics and the national grid could be taken from us in seconds by a hostile nation with a nuke or even by a solar storm. With America’s total dependence on the grid and just in time inventory, our national security was compromised for a little more productivity.
We know that Russia and China have the capabilities to deliver an EMP attack against the United States. North Korea and Iran also have or will soon have EMP attack capabilities. It is totally irresponsible to do little or nothing to fix our infrastructure vulnerabilities. The security issues have to be fixed if we intend to survive as a nation. The cost of fixing this security risk should be a distant secondary issue.
The only defense we now really have against a nuclear EMP is our own nuclear response against those that might attack us. Even so, our nuclear weapons capability is aging and is diminishing with every new arms reduction treaty. What we have left can still do great damage to a nation like Russia or China, but it would not totally destroy those nations. These nations think they can survive a nuclear attack by America. That is why Russia and China are actively developing vast underground shelters for such an eventuality. After a successful EMP attack on our grid and electronics dependent infrastructures, our country would be crippled. America would have little further capabilities to fight a war after the initial retaliation.
We know that Iran and North Korea are also trying to develop nuclear EMP capabilities so we have to do something about their threat. Nor, can we totally discount an Islamic bomb from Pakistan delivered into the hands of Islamic terrorists.
Those on the Far Left that think that Iran and North Korea are not a threat to America are a Marxist cult of fools. Somehow, those on the Far Left seem to think they will reap benefits if the America that they so despise is brought down. The reality is that they would be among the first to reap the consequences after a grid failure. Maybe grid failure will be God’s way of dealing with the cult occupying the urban Sodom and Gomorrah of the coastal plains.
The article goes into great detail about how an EMP would impact America. You might want to read it to find out the catastrophic gruesome details.
This paper also tells of four things that America needs to do to minimize the threat:
- Prevent the threat. Regardless of the mitigation and response measures, a massive EMP impact could have a devastating impact on the United States. Washington must pursue an aggressive protect-and-defend strategy, including comprehensive missile defense; modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent; and adopting proactive nonproliferation and counterproliferation measures, both unilaterally and in partnership with allies.
- Provide resilience. Measures must be adopted to ensure the resilience of the U.S.–Canadian electrical grid and telecommunications systems, including developing limited redundancy and identifying means for the timely replacement of essential damaged parts or their rapid substitution.
- Plan for the unthinkable. The U.S. must have robust pre-disaster planning—with practical exercises that include top officials who rehearse a wide variety of contingency scenarios—that integrates federal, state, local, private-sector, non-governmental organizations, and international support.
- Protect the capacity to communicate. The U.S. must have the means to establish assured emergency broadcast as well as interactive communications both within the U.S. and across the globe. An EMP strike can easily obliterate America’s electrical, telecommunications, transportation, financial, food, and water infrastructures, rendering the United States helpless to coordinate actions and deliver services essential for daily life. In the words of Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, EMP “is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies. The time to prepare is now.
All are easier said than done. Just providing the necessary resilience would be an enormous effort that would take many years. I do not have any short-term easy solution for an EMP. This problem should have been dealt with decades ago so. Because we have done nothing, we have put ourselves in a place where we will be at risk for years to come. What needs to be done immediately is decentralization of critical infrastructures. We also should build up strategic regional stockpiles. In addition, our ultra high voltage transformers and power generators need to be protected from the E2 and E3 components of an EMP.
The protection of our transformers can be done at reasonable cost through the installment of various safety devices. We could have and should have already started on this project to protect our transformers but Congress is more interested in pleasing special interests that are giving them campaign contributions.
The long-term solution might be a completely different type of computer chip. One with computing based more on light or biology. Also, replacing copper wires with fiber optics should remedy much of the communications risks in the not too distant future.
Most people in America could not now survive without having electricity and electronics. So, we better find ways to protect our critical infrastructures. Even if mankind were to somehow eliminate all nuclear weapons in the world, a large solar EMP is still a regular natural occurrence. A solar storm strong enough to take down our grid happens about every 100 years on the average. Unless people want to see “The Day the Earth Stood Still” play out in real life, they need to get their representatives working on our vulnerabilities.
Having said all that, I hope you do realize that for over a decade our government has not even been following the recommendations of their own hired experts reporting to them on this threat. Therefore, until the government takes this threat seriously and does something about it, America is still only one EMP attack away from complete national catastrophe.
Editor Note: This is a modified version of my article posted on Dec 3, 2010 on my old blog. In the last 7 1/2 years since the article was written our government has still done almost nothing to protect American’s from any EMP threat.