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August 21, 2008

Electromagnetic Pulse Risk not Total

The Wall Street Journal and other sources have been discussing the threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack on the USA.

The counter to these claims are that only 1% of the lights in Hawaii were effected by the Starfish Prime test (1.4 megaton thermonuclear weapon detonated 250 miles above Johnston Island in the Pacific in 1962).

The 1962 bomb affected street lamps, circuit breakers, cars and radio stations in Hawaiian, 800 miles to the north. Still, even there the effect was far from comprehensive. Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Michael P. Bernardin said that "the 30 strings of failed streetlights [from Starfish Prime's EMP] represented only about one percent of the streetlamps on Oahu at the time." And noted physicist Richard Garwin said the Starfish detonation "had barely noticeable effects on military systems."

Starfish Prime is discussed at Wikipedia

Stanley Jakubiak's statement and research suggests that actual EMP damage would not be total

Testing of commercial off the shelf (COTS) equipment has allowed us to make some observations regarding the vulnerability of COTS equipment to a range of EMP environments that may be of some use in assessing the impact of an EMP environment on the unprotected commercial infrastructure. In general, it is possible that some equipment upset can occur when the EMP environment field strengths are between 3 – 8 kilovolts per meter (kV/m). When the field strengths reach above 8 kV/m the risk that some equipment will upset becomes more probable. In the range of 7 – 20 kV/m there is a possibility that some equipment will be damaged, above 20 kV/m damage is probable. Results from some recent testing of COTS computer equipment in September 1998 reconfirmed these observations.


So the Super-EMP threat is only credible at this time from Russia and China (20 megaton bombs that have amplified EMP effects that could have strong effects across a country). It is clear that EMP does cause problems and many places would have blackout issues if a large EMP (particular nuclear EMP devices) were used. Blackouts would be extensive but not total and full recovery would take time.

Systems hardening should be done but it should be performed with a prudent cost conscious upgrade plan.


There is vulnerability but the 90% death figure is an overblown threat assessment.

Many people have camping gear and would be able to heat water to purify. The obesity of many Americans would come into play to provide more time to prevent starvation. Only a fraction of even unprotected equipment will be disabled in terms of an attempt at nationwide disruption. There is shielded equipment that would not be effected.

There is a level of spare parts and hydro, coal and nuclear would be relatively easy to get back on line. There are some spare parts to get some level of water service back. It would be disruptive and a problem but there would not be a complete blackout. Plus there are old equipment at some older power plants and military
bases from the cold war days, or some buildings just may have some Faraday cage (electromagnetic shielding) type setup.

Since it would cost 1-5% to properly remediate, then there should be upgrades to key infrastructure against other vulnerabilities at the same time.

There is the Critical infrastructure protection program. (CIP)

The CIP researchers are aware of the issue and written papers on it. There is sufficient money going to the Departmennt of Homeland Security (DHS) and CIP. It is a matter of how much gets spent on pork and how much actually goes to fixing the problems. There have been about 2100 identified key installations that have been identified as needing protection. They should get some remediation over the next 5 years and for the military to get less complacent and back closer to cold war levels of pre-prep.

FURTHER READING
The EMP study (which may be making the issue seem bigger than it is and guiding more money than is needed at the problem) suggests:

The cost recommendations for decent levels of hardening of key aspects of the electrical grid and generation systems (Less than $3 billion for some decent protection.)

Only the costs for some of the larger or more system-specific initiatives are estimated here (in 2007 dollars).
- There are several thousand major transformers and other high-value components on the transmission grid. Protective relays and sensors for these components are more than that number but less than twice. A continual program of replacement and upgrade with EMP-hardened components will substantially reduce the cost attributable uniquely to EMP. Labor for installation is already a part of the industry work force. The estimated cost for add-on and EMP-hardened replacement units and EMP protection schemes is in the range of $250 million to $500 million.
- Approximately 5,000 generating plants of significance will need some form of added protection against EMP, particularly for their control systems. In some instances the
fix is quite inexpensive and in others it will require major replacements. The estimated cost is in the range of $100 million to $250 million.
- The addition of nonsynchronous interfaces to create subregion islands is not known with reasonable certainty, but it might be in the order of $100 million to $150 million per island. The pace of creating islands and their priority will be established by DHS in consultation with NERC and FERC. Moving to at least six or more fairly rapidly is a fair assumption. There will be annual operating costs of around $5 million per island.
- The simulation and training centers are assumed at three — one for each interconnect
— for a cost in the range of $100 million to $250 million plus annual operating costs of around $25 million per year.
- Protection of controls for emergency power supplies should not be too expensive since hard-wired manual start and run capability should be in place for many, which is adequate. Furthermore, the test, adjust, and verification will be carried out by the entity that owns the emergency power supply as part of normal operating procedures. Retrofit of protective devices such as filters might be accomplished at a cost of less than $30,000 per generator for newer generators with vulnerable electronic controls. Hardening the connection to the rest of the facility power system requires a protected internal distribution system from the backup generator.
- Switchable ground resistors for high-value transformers are estimated to cost in the range of $75 million to $150 million.
- The addition of new black start generation with system integration
and protected controls is estimated to cost around $12 million per installation. Probably no more than 150 such installations will need to be added throughout the United States and Canadian provinces. Adding dual fuel capability to natural gas-fired generation is done for the economic purpose of the owner, yet it has the same value as the addition of black start generation. The addition of fuel storage for the existing black start units is relatively small, about $1 million each.
- The addition of emergency generation at the multitude of sites including fuel and transportation sites is probably around $2 million to $5 million each.
- The cost for monitoring, on a continuous basis, the state of the electric infrastructure, its topology, and key elements plus for assessing the actual EMP vulnerability, validation of mitigation and protection, maintenance, and surveillance data for the system at large cannot be estimated since it falls under many existing government-funded activities, but in any event, it is not considered significant.
- Research and development activities are a level-of-effort funding that needs to be decided by DHS. Redirection of existing funding is also likely to occur.
- Funding for the initiatives above is to be divided between industry
and government. Government is responsible for those activities that relate directly
and uniquely to the purpose of assuring continuation of the necessary functioning of U.S. society in the face of an EMP attack or other broadly targeted physical or information systems attack. Industry is responsible for all other activities including reliability, efficiency and commercial interests. Industry is also the best source for advice on cost effective implementation of the initiatives.

No cost is quoted, but $1 billion each in preventative hardening of key water, food and transportation.

The unclassified DOD report on the starfish prime test

1964 Nasa report on high altitude EMP

Personal Protection Steps Against EMP

What can your everyday civilian do to protect themselves against the possibility of an EMT attack?

1. Have a lot of battery operated devices on hand and the batteries to use them. Further, these appliances should have cords and antennas 30 inches or less in length. The reason for this is simple: Metal pulls in EMP and makes it more dangerous. Thus, less metal is good. Further, keep these appliances away from metal.

2. Stay 8 feet from large scale metal fixtures yourself. In fact, when EMP is concentrated by metal it can actually be dangerous to man in and of itself.

3. Harden your equipment (another way of saying, protect it from EMP). Some considerations include the use of tree formation circuits (not standard loop formations), induction shielding around components, self-contained battery packs, loop antennas, and Zener diodes. In addition, grounding wires for each separate instrument into a system could help as well.

4. A new device called the Ovonic Threshold Device (Energy Conversion Devices of Troy, MI) is a solid state switch that opens a path to ground when a massive surge of EMP is encountered by a circuit. This would help in a big way.

5. Use a Faraday Box to store equipment in. Makeshift Faraday boxes can be made from metal filing cabinets, ammunition containers, and cake boxes. That said, the device you are protecting must not touch the metal container (use insulation: paper, cardboard, whatever). Further, there can be no holes. Last, if the box seems less than adequate, you may wrap it in aluminum foil for more protection.

6. Wrap your rooms in aluminum foil. Well, it's certainly extreme, but thought it worth mentioning. After you do so, cover it with some type of fake wood, etc.
[Some drywall boards have a metal sheet, so select such boards when remodelling]

7. Cars are already a metal box. Thus, most of them would survive. That said, gas would be a problem. So have a lot of that and food on hand (remember that refrigerators and water sanitizing devices would go out).

Only the EMP from a near hit surface burst can cause trouble for hardened silo.
156 kA, 56 kA secondary peak. Lightning up to 1km distance generated from a 10 megaton blast.

The peak electric field from Starfish prime (1.4 megaton blast) on
Honolulu would have been 5.6 kV/m energy density 0.01j/m**2 [This is 10% of the worst case field, so there is high variability in the EMP effect]

The US would be able to launch nukes from silos, bombers and submarines after any EMP attack.
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