Report: U.S. civilians not ready for EMP attack on national power grid

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(NaturalNews) Civilians around the world are not ready for the catastrophic effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) type of event that would cause widespread electrical blackouts, though such blackouts could be preventable, say experts.

One such expert, Peter Vincent Pry, the executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum -- both of which are congressional advisory boards -- says improving our technology to avoid an EMP disaster, as well as upgrading the United States' electrical grid, is a financially viable endeavor. But it doesn't seem to be one that lawmakers and policymakers are willing to take.

"The problem is not the technology," Pry said. "We know how to protect against it. It's not the money, it doesn't cost that much. The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way."

He said that, in fact, the more officials plan, the lower the estimated cost gets.

"If you do a smart plan -- the Congressional EMP Commission estimated that you could protect the whole country for about $2 billion," Pry told "That's what we give away in foreign aid to Pakistan every year."

And more to other nations.

Entire power grids destroyed

Pry and other experts estimate that, in the first few minutes following an EMP event, perhaps as many as 500,000 people would die. That is the worst-case scenario that author William R. Forstchen estimated in 2011, whether that EMP event was caused by an act of God -- say, a massive sun storm -- or a nuclear missile detonated in the earth's upper atmosphere.

That's because an EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy that is strong enough to disable and even destroy electrical devices (and entire power grids).

As reported by

The scenario sounds like something in a Hollywood film, but the U.S. military has been preparing its electronic systems for such an event since the Cold War. The protective measures taken to harden facilities against a nuclear attack also help in some cases to protect against EMPs.

The civilian world is another story.

Some states are working to overcome legislative and regulatory gaps left by Congress and the federal bureaucracy. Some private power companies are working to develop technologies that would help protect against EMP events.

A couple of years ago, in 2011, a number of state utilities commissioners recognized the need to invest in equipment and technology that would help defend the power grid against such events; however, experts are increasingly warning that time is running out to do so.

Knocking out power for months or years

Much of the focus of the past several years has been on cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Sophisticated computer hackers who work in secret -- many of whom are backed by nation-states -- can steal identities and money and could even potentially hijack airplanes.

Several nations, including China, Russia, Iran and India, are working to create cyberwarfare capabilities that could cause as much harm to the nation's power grids and other infrastructure as an EMP event, but the latter is more disconcerting because of its potential lethality.

The U.S. has proven that cyber attacks against a nation's power grid are possible. The computer virus Stuxnet, which was developed by the U.S. and Israel to sabotage Iran's nuclear enrichment program, was a demonstration that such attacks not only are possible but can be devastatingly effective.

The fact is, electricity is the lifeblood of modern society; everything depends on it. Food production and transport, medical facilities, communications, water purification, transportation and other vital sectors all need power.

Experts have warned that an EMP attack from a nuclear missile -- considered a very real risk by experts -- or solar activity could knock out power to large swaths of the country and world, and for months or years at a time. And while ordinary Americans might be able to do little to prevent one, they can certainly take the time now to be prepared with storage of their own food, water and provisions, rather than relying on them government to provide for them when society breaks down.


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