An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe

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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security who advises Congress on the full spectrum of security issues. He is now focused on preventing a nuclear or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) catastrophe–the greatest threat now facing civilization.

Dr. Pry has spent his entire career protecting America from Weapons of Mass Destruction and EMP, first at the Central Intelligence Agency, then at the House Armed Services Committee, on the Congressional EMP Commission and Strategic Posture Commission.  He is the author of the new book, Civil-Military Preparedness For An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe, a Kindle e-book available on

FP: Dr. Pry, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Pry: Jamie, thanks for this opportunity to inform your readers about the threat our nation and families face from a nuclear or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.

The gravity of the EMP threat is still insufficiently understood by most political leaders and the general public, despite the efforts of two Congressional Commissions and several major U.S. Government studies over the past decade to educate and warn that EMP is the most immediate and gravest danger to our nation.   

FP: Let’s begin with the “electromagnetic pulse.” What exactly is it?

Pry: An EMP can be generated by a nuclear weapon, any nuclear weapon, detonated above the atmosphere.  Or an EMP can be generated naturally, by the Sun sending a solar flare or coronal mass ejection that causes a geomagnetic storm on Earth.  In either case, whether the EMP is generated by a nuclear weapon or the Sun, the effects are very similar.  An EMP is like a super-energetic radio wave, harmless to people in its direct effects, but lethal to electronics and electronic systems–and everything, including human life, is directly or indirectly dependent upon electronics.  The EMP by destroying electronics can collapse everywhere, nationwide, all the critical infrastructures–electric power, communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water–that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 300 million Americans.

That EMP can pose such a threat to the nation is not controversial, but the official consensus of the Congressional EMP Commission, that examined the EMP threat and possible solutions for nearly a decade.   Several subsequent major Congressional and U.S. Government studies re-examined the facts.  All independently arrived at the same conclusion as the EMP Commission, including the National Academy of Sciences, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Not one official study by the Congress or the USG dissents from the original conclusions of the EMP Commission.

FP: Why is EMP the greatest threat now facing the civilized world?

Pry:  EMP is in the category of a very small number of threats that can literally end civilization as we know it.  The Congressional EMP Commission estimated that, given our nation’s current state of unpreparedness, within one year of a nuclear or natural EMP catastrophe, about two-thirds of the population, 200 million Americans, could perish from starvation, disease, and societal collapse.  Other credible estimates indicate the loss of life could be even higher, on the order of 90 percent, because it may be optimistic to assume, as the EMP Commission did, that America’s largely urbanized population could learn the survival skills necessary to live without modern technology and the critical infrastructures.  If the EMP is from a great geomagnetic storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event, the effects would not be limited to the United States but would be global.  If another Carrinton Event happened today, it could collapse electric grids and critical infrastructures worldwide, putting at risk the lives of billions. 

Unfortunately, these threats are not remote theoretical possibilities, but clear and present dangers.  Iran is on the verge of developing, or may already have nuclear weapons.  Iranian military writings openly describe making a nuclear EMP attack on the United States, to eliminate the U.S. as an actor on the world stage.  Iran has practiced missile launches and high-altitude fusing to perform an EMP attack.  Iran does not need a sophisticated ICBM to make an EMP attack, but could launch a short-range missile off a freighter near the U.S. coast–and has practiced doing a ship-launched EMP attack too.  Iran has already twice successfully orbited satellites, and so already has an ICBM capability for delivering to the United States a small warhead, like a nuclear artillery shell.

Former CIA operative Reza Kahlili, who still has sources in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, reports that Iran already has several Russian tactical nuclear warheads, neutron artillery shells, that would be ideal for making an EMP attack, because warheads designed to emit neutrons also emit a lot of gamma rays, which is what causes the EMP effect.  If Iran or terrorist proxies can make a ship-launched EMP attack against the United States, without launching from their own territory, they could deliver an EMP catastrophe upon us anonymously.  The high-altitude EMP detonation leaves no bomb debris for forensic analysis, as would detonating a bomb in a city.  EMP attack leaves no fingerprints.  We might never know who attacked us.

Even more troubling are the prospects of a great geomagnetic storm.  The Congressional EMP Commission estimated that a Carrington Event class geomagnetic storm, that would effect the entire world, occurs about once a century.  It does not take a genius to do the arithmetic that 1859 was more than a century ago, that we are overdue for another Carrington Event.  Most scientists are concerned that another great geomagnetic storm might occur during the next solar maximum.  Every eleven years, the Sun enters a phase, lasting about a year, where it emits many more solar flares and coronal mass ejections, very significantly increasing the prospects for a great geomagnetic storm.  The next solar maximum is only months away now, will begin in December 2012 and last through 2013.  Sooner or later, another Carrington Event is inevitable.

EMP is the greatest threat to the civilized world because of the magnitude and likelihood of an EMP catastrophe.

FP: What is being done about this threat?

Pry:  The good news is that there is no excuse for the United States to be vulnerable to EMP.  The Department of Defense has been hardening military systems against EMP for 50 years, and the technology for EMP protection is transferrable to civilian critical infrastructures.  EMP protection is also affordable, very low cost compared to the cost of vulnerability.  At bare minimum, the U.S. should protect the 300 EHV transformers servicing the major cities, which would cost only $100-200 million, and give us some chance of saving the 200 million lives that would be lost in an EMP catastrophe, at a cost of about one dollar per life.  Robust protection of the national electric grid would cost about $1-2 billion.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimates that robust grid protection could be paid for easily, by merely increasing the electric bill to the average rate payer by 20 cents annually.  The Congressional EMP Commission estimated that robust protection of ALL critical infrastructures could be achieved for $10-20 billion over 3-5 years.  The EMP Commission plan to protect the critical infrastructures from EMP would also mitigate all other hazards–cyber threats, sabotage, natural disasters like hurricanes.  When the EMP Commission made its estimate in 2004 that EMP preparedness could be achieved in 3-5 years, the solar maximum was then eight years in the future, a future which then looked bright for EMP preparedness, since there was plenty of time to implement the EMP Commission’s recommendations.

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  • cjk

    I've been convinced for years now that this is how the USA will be destroyed.

    • EMPCover_com

      It is helpful to know some odds.

      –The chance of a solar super-storm is about double the risk of a house fire.

      –The chance of a nuclear EMP is about the same as the risk of a fire at your house.

      –The chance of terrorists using a non-nuclear EMP for a local EMP attack is about the same as the house fire risk, but the odds are growing as the devices become easier to build and smaller.

      The pictures and and graphics on our EMPCover site help explain this stuff a lot better. For example, we have pictures of EMP devices built into the back of truck trailers. The US Military uses these for testing. (

      Real stuff, not some crazy ranting. Click on the link and you can read the US military brochure that explains the test systems.)

  • David

    A "Faraday cage" is one answer for personal electronics. Voting out of office the people who are opposed to the SHIELD Act is another answer.

  • Kafir Harby

    The EMP is THE perfect weapon to get Teheran on its knees. It throws them back in de dark middle ages, where they belong.

  • harrylies

    Typical neo-con war talk. You are the same people who got soldiers killed in Iraq. Now Iran. A war the readers of "Frontpage" will not serve in.

    • Flynn McMahon

      Judging by your remark there's no war that you would serve in.

    • Stephen_Brady

      "Neo-con" … just another way of saying, "Jews". Of course, you would know that, wouldn't you, Harry?

      • trickyblain

        Neocon is a term given to us by a neocon — Irving Kristol. It's been around since the early 70's and describes a group of academics who bastardized Leo Strauss's philosophy. They include Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kagan, Frum et. al. The neos think (well, thought — they've been largely embarrassed) that the US, as a "benevolent hegemony" should go around the globe knocking off leaders we don't like and the result will be all sunshine and roses and everyone will love us for it. Not so much.

        After the Iraq fiasco, nobody wanted to be called a neo. But that wasn't always the case. And pointing out that many are, in fact, Jewish is as irrelevant as it is an attempt at distracting from why folks are actually critical of them — they are delusional ideologues.

        • Stephen_Brady

          I knw what a neoconservative was. I used to be a neoconservative, in the short window of opportunity that existed after the fall of the USSR. That time is long past, now. Unlike the people who hate neoconservatives, I actually knew several of the founders of the movement.

          However, libertarians and liberals, along with racists of all stripes, have seized upon the fact that a Jew, Irving Kristol, is most associated with its foundation. In common usage, today, neoconservatism has been reduced to an anti-Semitic slur.

        • PaulRevereNow

          So what would be your policy towards Iran, in its rush to build nuclear weapons?

  • Schlomotion

    Mesmerism is a parapsychologcal scam in which the con man attempts to convince the dupe that through the power of magnetic force, the dupe will be either harmed or healed. Frontpage endorses the resurgence of one such mesmerist outfit called The United West led by the political scammer (read: academic activist) Tom Trento. Jamie Glazov is playing the part of Madame Blavatsky.

    The group that wants to "protect" us from the evil forces of Iranian magnet power should know that there is already a talisman in existence:

    This looks like the fallback position. If protecting Americans from nonexistent "terrorists" bottoms out, the counter-jihadists can protect us from magnet power. Can they really make fun of Al Gore now? Pass the tin foil.

    • reader

      Yes, 9-11 was non-existent – just like your Jew-hating and shilling for the muslim brotherhood. Very clever of you, tro schlo. You should be riding together with president Hussein on his canadian made bus.

    • Ghostwriter

      Amazingly enough,you described yourself in your opening sentence. You're not fooling anyone. Your anti-semitism is obvious even to a kindergartner.

    • PaulRevereNow

      You would have said that the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was caused by President Theodore Roosevelt, playing with a divining rod on the south lawn of the White House; that earthquakes are non-existent; and that the Mayor of San Francisco was running a scam to get U.S. Army troops to protect the city from runaway cable cars.

  • Looking4Sanity

    If it comes, it will come from Mexico. Drugs and illegal aliens are the least of our worries…there's a mind boggling thought to contemplate.

  • Mark

    That's great. The link in the article takes you to Amazon where they are selling the "Civil-Military Preparedness For An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe [Kindle Edition]. I think I would rather have a hard copy. :)

    • trickyblain

      lol – nice one!

    • John

      Amazon also sells a hard copy at around $12.

  • Mark Goldes

    The solar storm aspect of the EMP threat is one of Three Ticking Time Bombs.

    See the Aesop Institute website for a more extensive treatment, including how we might prevent the worst with new technology that can safeguard the critical transformers.

    The truly massive effort mentioned, if we are wise, can help to reboot the economy.

  • PaulRevereNow

    Dr. Pry's organization is EMPact America, at If anyone reading this post wants to volunteer with them, their contact info is:

    PO Box 124
    Elma, NY 14059

  • Flowerknife_us

    The Dept.of Homeland Security has no interest in the subject???? That is the scariest aspect of this whole story. A big fat flaming WHY needs to be asked. With all that is openly known on the subject(Iran), the ignorance is either criminal or intentional. Neither being a comfort.

  • EMPCover_com

    Good news and bad news from our research…. The good news on EMP is that terrorists are unlikely to get control of a megaton bomb needed for a major attack. Even North Korea has only been able to make "small" nuclear bombs.

    Bad news: A country or terrorist exploding a small nuke could still target a key regions. In our EMP simulator, we show how smaller bombs could be targeted at major population areas on the east coast.
    (It makes better sense if you look at the simulator on our site.)

    This makes some rural areas **less** safe. The EMP effect is a bit of a horseshoe shape. If a rogue nation targets New York or Washington, DC, there will be an equal spill over westward.

    Again, it makes better sense if you see the maps on our simulator.

  • mrbean

    The greatest threat from EMP or a sun flare is a cascading electrical grid failure. A cascading electrical grid failure is a failure in a system of interconnected grids in which the failure of a part can trigger the failure of successive parts. Such a failure may happen in many types of systems, including power transmission, computer networking, finance and bridges. Cascading failures usually begin when one part of the system fails. When this happens, nearby nodes must then take up the slack for the failed component. This overloads these nodes, causing them to fail as well, prompting additional nodes to fail in a vicious cycle. Bringing electrical grids blackouts back online after a cascaded failure is extremely difficult and risky while under unbalanced loads.

  • jose

    Did the bamas buy a 'portable' generator?;(

  • concerned

    Be ye also ready for in such an hour as you think not….

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