Date: October 3-6, 2011
Source: EMPact America
Abstract: EMPact America took part in the historic series of tabletop exercises and conferences focusing on the threat to our electric grid posed by solar storms, which were held by the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C., and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEM) at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland from October 3 to October 6, 2011.
This was the first time such long-term and widespread scenarios were tackled by a representative collection of federal, state, and local government and private sector officials. It was clear that our nation is unprepared to deal with this threat, and the issues discussed at these events should help to spread that message.
While the solar storm scenarios were effective, it is vitally important to address both man-made and solar (geomagnetic) storms together, especially when looking at potential solutions and policy implications. As pointed out by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry and Dr. GeorgeBaker during the NDU events last week, if we harden the nation's electric grid against nuclear EMP, we protect against both nuclear and solar (because nuclear EMP covers the E1, E2, and E3 dangers - (e.g., see EMP Commission Executive Summary for a further explanation) - the same is not true if we only protect against a solar storm (which is basically just an E3-type pulse, and thus would not help/protect us against the fast and devastating E1 pulse). Plus, the solutions covering both are low-cost when/if mitigation is done together.
It's also very important to understand and explain the dangers of using only early warning systems (like satellites) or only missile defense systems in place of the passive hardening of the electric grid. For example, when it comes to the threat posted by severe solar storms and geomagnetic damage to the electric grid, we don't have an early warning system that can save us - and we can't just shut down the whole grid even if we had an adequate warning (there's too much info to address adequately here, but it's important to note); plus, satellites and early warning systems simply can't warn us against a shorter range (non-ICBM), lower-trajectory EMP attack off of the U.S. coast(s), and a missile defense system can't protect us against a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun. When looked at objectively, hardening the power grids (and buying/protecting spares of key components) is the only realistic solution.
NDU is located on a military facility, which has strict procedures and clearance requirements regarding video recording on site. EMPact America was able to record the tabletop exercise held at NDU, but needed to leave the tapes for review of them prior to clearance. We are working with NDU coordinators to get approvals and releases for much of the footage taken at NDU. That said, the events at NDU were generally for non-attribution, and some individual consents may need to be obtained as well.
We also recorded the tabletop exercise held by MEMA at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland, for which we've also been working on our permitted scope of use.
The presentations and briefings at the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) were clearly stated for attribution, and footage from CVC will most likely be the first footage to be released on our website. We are also working with the presenters from all of these events to get permission to post their power points on our site.
Dr. Peter Vincent
Pry, President of
"The National Defense University is to be commended for raising public consciousness by conducting an exercise on the threat to our electric infrastructure from great geomagnetic storms - still a little understood existential threat to our civilization. However, it was evident from the proceedings that a narrow focus on geomagnetic storms led people to contemplate solutions that would prove ineffective in regard to nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or non-nuclear EMP weapons. For example, satellite early warning of a Geomagnetic storm would be useless against an attack by a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP.
"I was therefore disappointed that a nuclear EMP threat was not included as an official addition to the exercise. Planning and training for a blackout of the national grid to protect against a geomagnetic storm would be futile in the face of a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP attack.
"I am equally
disappointed to learn that there was recently a 3-day international academic
exercise held in India to explore a scenario where Europe and the U.S. are
under EMP attack, and to simulate the reactions of the UN, and especially the
United States. Participants included "the best minds" from India, the
UAE, and Sri Lanka. The article does not describe how the simulated U.S. and UN
entities reacted to these EMP attacks; however, India and the international
community are at least fortunate that they do not have to cope with the "political
correctness" that prohibited our own National Defense University from
exploring the consequences of an EMP attack on the United States" (EMPact America, 2011).
And States Hold EMP Response Exercise
Date: October 10, 2011
Source: Burn Pit
Abstract: For most of this week, the Department of Energy and the states of Maryland and Florida will be holding emergency response exercises to determine their readiness in the event of a major failure of the national electric power grid.
The scenarios to be tested vary from a low-level event that would take out a handful of the transformers that control the grid that conceivably could be repaired within a matter of days, to a “worst case” scenario to simulate a total take-down of the grid, an event many experts believe could take four to six years to recover from.
If there is a book or movie about some sort of "End of the World" scenario, there's a good chance I have read it. But EMP is about the scariest of all of them. Sure, folks like how sexy Zombies or asteroid hits are, but an EMP is a bit more likely, and a heck of a lot scarier to me. Here's a video (that appears to have time-warped from the 80's) that lays out the basic premise:
The article goes on to mention a book by William Forstchen, but somewhat inexplicably gives the wrong name for the book. Although the article says it is entitled "The Minute After" the actual title is "One Second After." It really is phenomenal, and I encourage everyone to read it if they can work it into their schedule.
To give you an idea of what we might face, the article lays that out fairly well:
No cell phones, no personal or business computers. No gas stations, no natural gas or water service. Cold storage, down; food processing plants, off-line. No trucking, no railroads, no airplanes, no ATMs, no inter-bank transfers. Americans would revert to eating whatever food they could hunt, fish or forage within walking distance of their homes. City-dwellers would flee en masse, or face starvation.
A report issued in 2004 from the EMP Commission looked at:
(1) the nature and magnitude of potential high-altitude EMP threats to the United States from all potentially hostile states or non-state actors that have or could acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles enabling them to perform a high-altitude EMP attack against the United States within the next 15 years;
(2) the vulnerability of United States military and especially civilian systems to an EMP attack, giving special attention to vulnerability of the civilian infrastructure as a matter of emergency preparedness;
(3) the capability of the United States to repair and recover from damage inflicted on United States military and civilian systems by an EMP attack; and
(4) the feasibility and cost of hardening select military and civilian systems against EMP attack.
(b) Recommendation. The Commission shall recommend any steps it believes should be taken by the United States to better protect its military and civilian systems from EMP attack.Anyway, it is good to see the DoE atleast looking at what will happen. I'm looking forward to seeing how the exercise goes (Burn Pit, 2011).
International Nuclear Terrorism Drills Kick Off In Moscow
Date: September 27, 2012
Source: Xinhua News
Abstract: International exercises in countering nuclear terrorism started here Thursday, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said.
According to a statement on the FSB's official website, Guard-2012 involved 58 countries, as well as observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Interpol, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The exercises, within the framework of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), are aimed at demonstrating anti-terror measures.
The Russian Defense Ministry and state atomic agency Rosatom would demonstrate the country's latest technology for detecting nuclear materials and radioactive substances, the FSB said.
They would also put special relief units through their paces in dealing with a simulated aftermath of a nuclear terrorism attack, it said.
In 2006, the presidents of Russia and the United States jointly launched GICNT at the G8 summit in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.GICNT is an international partnership of 85 nations and four official observers. Its mission is to strengthen international cooperation to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism. The United States and Russia serve as co-chairs (Xinhua News, 2012).