Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder
High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . Reagan’s Vision Lives!
E-Mail Message 130304
Beware the Ides of March!
No one knows when trouble will strike in a devastating way. And there is nothing magic about March 15 . . . just the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C., after which the “Ides of March” assumed a special identity to reflect a specific day that sent a ripple of History-changing repercussions throughout Roman society and beyond.
Last week a couple of articles from the web warn of events that could bring down America and Western Civilization much faster than the fall of Rome.
Everywhere under the Sun.
On February 22, Smithsonian.com published “Surprising Science: What Damage Could Be Caused by a Massive Solar Storm?” In this article, which you can read by clicking on the preceding title, the Smithsonian Blog joins the National Geographic Magazine’s June 2012 issue in warning about the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from massive solar storms, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). As noted in High Frontier’s December 12, 2012 email report, that article was followed by an October 12, 2012 National Geographic Channel TV program, which provided a ringing warning about the EMP threat from either a massive CME or from a high altitude nuclear explosion and what to do about it.
The 40 minute video of this broadcast, Electronic Armageddon—posted on the High Frontier Webpage, is well worth reviewing from time to time—as warning of events that could end our way of life, or at least return the survivors to the ways of the 19th century.
Nuclear threats from afar?
On February 26, Family Security Matters published on its daily webpage an excellent comprehensive article by Peter Vincent Pry, “Understanding North Korea and Iran,” which reflects on recent North Korean tests of long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. He most notably reminds us that these tests were only the latest in events during the past 20-years that should persuade an intelligent observer that they already could have nuclear weapons that could be mated to long-range ballistic missiles and detonated over any nation in the world by placing them in orbit and bringing them down on command. Moreover, he notes these “miniaturized” relatively low-yield nuclear weapons could be used to produce a high altitude EMP that could bring America to its knees.
As is well known, North Korea will sell essentially anything it has to anyone with money . . . and Iran is reported to be a collaborator that has been an observer on a number of the notable North Korean tests. Neither North Korea nor Iran has allowed diplomacy and economic sanctions to stop their development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. And either could sell or give the fruits of their development to terrorists to attack Americans, including by launching nuclear armed easy-to-purchase short range missiles from vessels off our coasts. Such is the “cacophony of proliferation partners” that poses an existential threat to all we hold dear.
Key bottom lines.
So, as previously discussed, an existential EMP threat is posed by both natural (e.g., massive solar emissions) and manmade (nuclear weapon) events.
In the former case, our satellites could give us a couple of days warning (while the solar storm maximum travels to Earth) during which some actions could be taken to reduce the impact of the arrival of the CME, if the powers that be are prepared. For example, electric utilities could quickly disconnect transformers and put critical equipment in Faraday cages. Here on Earth, at the very least, we’d have some time to prepare for potential power blackouts and related problems.
In case of the threat of a nuclear explosion a hundred or so miles above the U.S., we would have at most minutes to respond—if the attack was from a weapon delivered by a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and we were provided immediate warning. If the attack were launched from a vessel off our coasts, we would have seconds. In either of these nuclear attack cases, we would have a “come as you are” party.
We have previously discussed the long-term effects of such an EMP event that could lead to the death of most Americans within a year, mostly due to the loss of the electric power grid that is essential to most of what we currently depend upon. Even farmers have so automated their operations that a loss of the grid would have a devastating effect on their ability to feed Americans at home—let alone the rest of the world, assuming that there was transportation for distributing the food. They would do well to feed themselves and their immediate neighbors.
Clearly, we should do all we can to assure we do not lose the electric power grid in either case.
Impact on Nuclear Power Plants and a role for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)?
The collateral effects within the power grid itself should motivate development of appropriate countermeasures, perhaps most notably involving the nuclear power component.
In our last email report, we reported that, following a massive Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) from either a CME or a high altitude nuclear burst over the center of the United States, studies suggest about two-thirds of U.S. nuclear power plants and their associated spent fuel pools would likely be without commercial grid power for a period of at least 1-2 years—because of the loss of key transformers which are not produced in the United States. In the worst case, they might never arrive from where they are produced in Germany or South Korea—because our transportation system relies on electricity that no longer may be available if the grid is lost.
The ominous consequences of losing cooling water for lack of electric power could be comparable to—or worse than—the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami event causing a cascading failure in which 3 of the 6 reactors at the Fukushima Power Plant experienced full meltdown, and the overall radiation release was carried by the winds to contaminate much of the surrounding region all the way to Tokyo. This Category 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) is the same as that assigned to the 1986 Chernobyl Ukraine event, but the Fukushima event released much less radiation with less fatal consequences.
A consequence of the density of nuclear power plants from the central United States to the eastern seaboard is that the loss of cooling water at two-thirds of those sites would be far more horrific than Fukushima—beyond the impact of losing the electric power.
As shown in the adjacent figure, all but eight our 104 nuclear power reactors (at 65 sites in 31 states) are located in the eastern half of the U.S. The loss of electric power at two thirds of these sites could expose a major proportion of the population in the eastern half of the United States to radiation effects, given the usual southwest to northeast weather patterns that would distribute the radiation. Variations in wind patterns could affect the entire country. For the current wind flow pattern, click here.
Working in this environment could be more than a little problematic, even for those prepared to employ the means of survival that were common in the 19th century.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should be taking these matters into account in evaluating the risks and potential countermeasures that they can assure are employed within their jurisdiction to assure public safety in the event of an EMP event. At a minimum, they should be better prepared technically to deal with the issues than most of the dysfunctional government organizations reviewed in our last email. If they do their job regarding public safety and the nuclear power industry maybe the stodgy bureaucracies in Washington will follow suit and also do theirs regarding the entire electric power grid.
What to do?
Join us at High Frontier in seeking to alert the public to the existential threats posed by both manmade and natural EMP events—and what can be done about these threats.
We can use your help in spreading the word to grass roots and local authorities to press the powers that be to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do. Will you do your part?
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter!