An Excellent Article on the Dangers of EMP

Here is an article sent to me by a friend that I think might be interesting to most of you.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry: America May Never Recover From EMP Attack

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is the Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security for the Congressional Caucus on EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) that endeavors to carry on the work of the EMP Commission. He is also the Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, an advisory body to Congress on policies to counter weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Pry has served on the staffs of the EMP Commission, the Strategic Posture Commission, the Commission on the New Strategic Posture of the U.S., the House Armed Services Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency.

For those unfamiliar with what an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) attack is, please view the segment on the topic from the Clarion Fund’s Iranium by clicking here.

The following is’s national security analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Dr. Pry:

Ryan Mauro: How long will it take to get critical infrastructure back up and running after an EMP attack?

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry:  Given the current state of U.S. unpreparedness, after a nuclear EMP attack that collapses the electric grid and other critical infrastructures, the U.S. might never recover.  The Congressional EMP Commission–that investigated the EMP threat for nearly a decade and produced the most definitive analysis of the threat–estimated that within one year of a nuclear EMP attack, about two-thirds of the U.S. population, about 200 million Americans, would likely perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse.  Iranian military writings openly describe making an EMP attack to eliminate the United States as an actor on the world stage.

Mauro: Have past nuclear tests in the air produced an EMP?

Pry: Past exoatmospheric nuclear tests have produced an EMP, such as the 1962 STARFISH PRIME nuclear test.  The nuclear burst must occur at high altitude, above 30-40 kilometers, to produce the EMP effect.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union conducted high-altitude EMP tests over part of their own territory that collapsed electric grids.  Fifty years of empirical data from nuclear tests and EMP simulators proves that an EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences.

Mauro: How could the U.S. government protect us from this threat? How much would it cost?

Pry:  The Congressional EMP Commission produced a plan for protecting all U.S. critical infrastructures from nuclear and natural EMP (such as would be generated by a great geomagnetic storm, like the 1859 Carrington event) that could be implemented in 3-5 years at a cost of $10-20 billion.  This would provide robust protection.  At minimum, the 300 EHV transformers that service the biggest U.S. cities, where most of the population lives, could and should be protected, at a cost of $100-200 million, or about one dollar for every life that could be saved.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimates that the national electric grid could be protected from EMP at a cost to the average rate payer of 20 cents annually.

Mauro: How much dispute is there over the science behind the horrific scenario you depict? A skeptic once sent me a report by Oak Ridge National Laboratories/Metatech about “myths” regarding the EMP threat.

 Pry: Among the numerous official Congressional and USG studies on nuclear EMP attack–that includes reports by the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the Department of Energy and National Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (which includes the Metatech report), there is an official scientific and technical consensus that an EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences.  Even the most optimistic “best case” scenario involving a nuclear EMP attack by a primitive low-yield nuclear weapon would be an unprecedented catastrophe and could collapse the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures that sustain modern society and the lives of millions.

Indeed, the entire purpose of Congressional Commissions is to, if possible, resolve controversy and achieve consensus on matters of national security concern.  Two Congressional Commissions staffed by our nation’s best experts and supported by the vast resources of the defense department, the intelligence community and the national nuclear weapons laboratories have independently arrived at the same consensus that a nuclear EMP attack would be catastrophic–so as a matter of public policy, the existential character of the nuclear EMP threat is not controversial, but an established fact.

There are some individuals, usually in academia, who claim the EMP threat is exaggerated.  But these people are not EMP experts and are simply ignorant or politically motivated, as when the New York Times ganged up on Newt Gingrich for trying to warn about the EMP threat during his presidential bid.  Nonetheless the press, uneducated about EMP itself, keeps quoting these non-experts.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I know well Dr. William Radasky, the team leader of the Oak Ridge/Metatech report, and he would certainly agree that a nuclear EMP attack on the U.S. would be an unprecedented catastrophe–and this is the conclusion of his report.  If you read the report, it warns that an EMP event could collapse the electric grid and other critical infrastructures and require 4-10 years to recover.  Can you imagine trying to survive for years in the aftermath of a nuclear EMP attack that deprives you and millions of your fellow citizens of food, water, transportation and other necessities for life?  Sounds pretty catastrophic to me.

But it should not take a genius to realize that when a falling tree branch can cause the great northeast blackout of 2003, any nuclear EMP attack would certainly have catastrophic consequences.  Iran, North Korea, China and Russia all certainly understand this, as reflected in their military writings.

Ryan Mauro: How far away is Iran and other enemies of the U.S. from having the capability to carry out this kind of attack? Some experts say that Iran would still need a year to construct an actual nuclear bomb after acquiring the necessary highly enriched uranium and would need years after that to develop a nuclear warhead that can fit onto a ballistic missile.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry:  Any state or group possessing any nuclear weapon and any missile capable of reaching an altitude over 30-40 kilometers can make an EMP attack.  An ICBM is not necessary.  An EMP attack can be delivered by a short-range missile launched from a ship, such as a commercial freighter, operating near U.S. shores.  Iran has practiced such a delivery mode.  Iran already has missiles, such as Scuds and its Shahab-III, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

Officially, the Obama Administration claims that Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons.  Personally, I have written several articles warning that Iran might already have the bomb.  Our intelligence on Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not good.  Historically, our intelligence community has a bad record on predicting the advent of new nuclear weapon states and was taken by surprise by the development of nuclear weapons by Russia, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Supposedly, Iran has been trying to develop nuclear weapons for 20 years, yet during World War II, the U.S. Manhattan Project developed the world’s first nuclear weapons using 1940’s era technology in just three years.  Why should Iran, with access to the now declassified Manhattan Project papers and copious other U.S. documents on nuclear weapons design and helped by North Korea and others and equipped with modern technology, not be able to accomplish in 20 years what the U.S. accomplished during the 1940’s in just three?

The difficulty of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead for missile delivery is often exaggerated.  Pakistan deployed nuclear warheads on its Ghauri missile just one year after its first nuclear test.  Israel, according to the respected Wisconsin Project, has developed a sophisticated array of nuclear weapons, including thermonuclear warheads and weapons miniaturized for delivery by missiles and artillery–all without nuclear testing.

Ryan Mauro is’s National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.



13 thoughts on “An Excellent Article on the Dangers of EMP”

  1. GoneWithTheWind

    It isn’t that simple. Studies have shown that to destroy 90% of our electrical infrastructure it would require 24 high atmosphere nukes in a grid pattern over the U.S. This is because the power drops of radically with the distance and also because the damage only occurs in line of sight so any obstruction would create sizable pockets with no damage. But for the doom and gloom crowd the facts get worse. Most people like to think an EMP simply burns everything out making it all useless. Not true. Our electric grid would be severed at the weak links leaving the wiring, transformers and generations systems intact. The best situation would be that the utilities and power generation facilities would replace/fix the weak links and be up and running within a week. Worst case is most of the system up within weeks with 10%-20% or so taking longer. The one issue that is never examined is why would anyone, terrorists or enemy country, attack us with an EMP device. For them it is the worst of all worlds. It IS a nuclear attack which would result in a massive nuclear retaliatory attack. It wouldn’t destroy us or destroy our ability to counter strike. Where is the upside for the attackers?

    1. Could you please provide me with information on what studies you are reading? That is very different that the information I an recieving.

    2. I agree with MilSpec.

      Even if let say a few were launched from the 3 coasts to take out the east, west and southern region it would still leave an island of the United States. With 2/3 of the US down the other 1/3 could not support the rest. It would still be years in the recovery.
      This country can’t go a week without all of the delivery systems and power consuption without total koas.

      The Civil unrest alone would decrease the population. There would be an imediate die off.

      In the first weeks the people tied to some sort of life support would die. The elderly, very young and sick would go quickly from exposure of the weather in any season.
      Immediatly social break down and riots would start. That will cause a huge die off as people injure and kill for food and supplies they dont already have. Then there would be the people who will kill to keep what they have and defend themselves.

      Now on the point of retaiation to the state that made the attack. WE would have to know who did it. It’s called Terrorism for a reason. A smart Terrorist would stay quiet that they did it and just let us collapse and be off the world stage. They would be stupid to say that there country did it and get fired upon. Actual true non state terrorists dont have a set home so how could we target them. Look at how long it took us to get Bin Laden. Better yet how long did it take us to catch Saddam who was part of a government.
      So your retaliation idea has holes in it as well as the inability to cripple us. It doesnt take alot to bring a house down. just take out enouph of it and the rest will fall under the weight.

    3. Yes, please cite your sources. This is all good news, but doesn’t comport with what others have written. Moreover, you seem puzzled why anyone would attack us. Simple: Let’s say the nuts in NK think they are losing power – they would not hesitate to go out in a blaze of unglory. Or perhaps your calculations don’t match with what they think is technically possible, so, yes, they go ahead and do their dirty deed. Finally, you talk about a retaliatory attack. In this case, if NK is going down anyway,they do it. Or you have a STATELESS rogue group. Against whom do you retaliate? I appreciate the good news, but it is insufficient.

  2. Listen folks, any EMP attack that takes out even a small section of the grid’s high voltage transformers, will likely take out power to dozens of nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools. The pools are sitting right on top of the reactors since there’s no place to take the spent fuel, thats’ a disaster all it’s own. But that spent fuel requires electricity for up to 5 years or more to run water pumps to keep the spent fuel from melting down. The backup generator systems are built to run 2 weeks on diesel without resupply, but any EMP attack is going to likely damage those generator systems so it’s unknown if they’d even start up. If they do manage to start, how long can they be kept fueled if a section of the nation, or the entire country, falls in to complete collapse and chaos. Even if military or civilian fuel depots, trucks and personnel can resupply, it’s only a matter of time before a nuclear accident hits. There is just no contingency plan for a 2 year (or much longer) power outage when it comes to the 100’s of nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools in the US. The entire nation of Japan can’t even deal with 1 plant with all the money, resources and a functional society working on the problem for 2 years. We are all screwed if any EMP attack or catastrophic Solar Flare event were to come to pass because not only will most of the population perish as noted in the article, but the survivors will have to deal with a nuclear disaster that would probably end our species. God help us all.

  3. Gone with the Wind asks what the “upside” for any group/ country launching an EMP might be. In Iran that upside would be the return of the 12th Imam, leading to the return of the Prophet Mohammed. It has been interpreted the 12th Imam will return during a time of “utter chaos and war”, something their Iran’s current President has is strongly suspected of wanting to hasten.

    1. GoneWithTheWind

      You could be correct. But you need to understand the level of nuclear weapons sophistication required to make and deliver EMP devices accurately implies they could make and deliver bigger nukes even hydrogen bombs. Why then use EMP devices which would leave the military mostly intact and will bring down on them a nuclear nightmare. It would be so much wiser for any country wanting to start a nuclear war to actually incapacitate the military of the country they are attacking. What I do fear is a country like NK that is controlled by a midget idiot might succeed in setting off 1 or 2 or 3 nukes. Yes we would destroy their military might in retalliation but he is just stupid enough to do that. Or a country like Iran using two nukes against Israel. Because Israel is so small two nukes would kill more then half their people and most of their infrastructure. Then Israel would retalliate with multiple nukes against Iran and anyone who choose to back/support them. Those two scenarios are likely and scary enough. EMP devices of the U.S.; not likely.

      1. Hi Gone,

        Your point is a very good and important one. Here’s my concern: With a pres like feckless Obama in, would he actually retaliate over an EMP strike? Or would his staff dither and discuss civilian losses of the enemy side? As noted, what about the faux Hidden Imam thing? Does MAD work with these nutjobs in Iran? What if Israel or the US attacks Iran – now they have nothing left to lose. Just some questions….

      2. The other “upside” for the Iranians is the “force de frapp” effect. What you appear to be missing, GWTW, is that, should the Iranian govt feel it is faced with an existential threat (not that I wouldn’t mind them being gone), why would they go quietly into that bad night? From how I read your post, there seems to a contraint on their offensive use of EMP, but not as a retaliatory thing. And that’s assuming they dont’ already have missiles in Venezuela….

  4. Here are a few more points I think are obvious on this whole thing.

    We (The United States of America) are hated by a good portion of the world for our freedoms and our resources.

    If they (insert who ever you want) attacked us with EMP devices and were even partially successful it would pull us off the world stage and from there regions so we could “try” and defend and rebuild our nation. That would be the (#1) first big win for them and a major goal of theres (to get us out of there regions and there way of life and polotics).

    The beauty of an EMP is that it will not effect the Natural resouces which are so important and would now be easier to take (#2). It would only make us implode on ourselves and leave us weaker for the taking by a not so technologically advanced state. They would only have to fight 1/3 of us (#3) as we would already have lost so many do to the grids down and then the following social unrest.

    1. I believe the world needs every bit of arable farm land available and an EMP would be the perfect way to cripple us without destroying our natural resources. The way around retaliation would be to get a NK to do the deed and then another country (China) to jump up and pound them into the ground and even occupy them under the guise of not tolerating this kind of behavior. China has already “punished them and occupied them” for the “good of the world”. Who do we attack now? Of course everyone will be willing to help the U.S. recover,..but at what cost?

  5. The purpose of an EMP is to render us blind and deaf militarily; unable to respond if an attack is launched. To remove us as a threat. Killing millions of Americans or causing a catastrophe would invite retaliation, so the probability is that an EMP would focus on our strategic military facilities, like Cheyenne Mountain, and causing a nationwide grid failure that might last a month at most. Less than doomsday, but pretty bad anyway.

    Putin’s involvement in the Mid East almost guarantees an eventual confrontation. And what better way to unite ISIS and the Arab world, than an attack on Israel? Try to stop him, and we can expect to spend a decade recovering from the slap-down.

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