Cataclysmic EMP Grid Collapse – Former CIA Director Sounds Alarm

(image: William Forstchen novels)

The following are statements made by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director James Woolsey during an interview via regarding America’s power grid security and the fact that it is the nation’s proverbial Achilles heel.

Among all the dangers posed to the grid (cyber-attack, solar flares, conventional bombing of critical substations), an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) may lead to a cataclysmic collapse that could plunge the nation into the dark for months, possibly even years, with no way to restart the system and little (or no) ability to investigate the type or source of the event.

While an EMP detonation may seem far-fetched, it is a “real and credible threat to the grid”.

Here’s what the former CIA director said:

While the interview took place during December 2014, the message remains exactly as relevant and important today. The following paragraphs are excerpted statements by director Woolsey – who is also the co-founder of the United States Energy Security Council and has testified before Congress on multiple occasions on the danger posed by an EMP attack.


Begin –

The destructive force of an EMP could knock out the grid for a year, maybe even longer. That’s because the parts needed to fix the transmission lines and transformers destroyed are bespoke, with many only made in two places, South Korea and Germany.

The EMP Commission, which was set up after 9/11, estimated that within 12 months of an EMP event, two-thirds of the US population would likely perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown. Other experts estimate the likely loss to be closer to 90 percent.

William Forstchen’s novel, One Second After, gives a chilling portrayal of what life may look like after an EMP detonation. It describes a population totally unsuited for living in the dark. Deaths come in waves; first the elderly and then those who depend on medication. Following that are those who die of simple diseases, like typhoid or dysentery, as well as those who have no survival or farming skills, though even subsistence farming would likely be a challenge given the speed in which society would collapse versus the time it takes to actually prepare fields and grow substantial amounts of food. Eventually, the few survivors in the small town who have overcome these deprivations and learned to produce food face continual security issues, having to fight off marauding bands and, interestingly, bullets become a base currency in their economy. It’s pretty bad stuff.

The EMP commission found that it took just one, low-yield nuclear detonation in the center of the country to knock out the entire US electrical grid. The explosion didn’t have to be big; it could be smaller than the blast at Hiroshima, for example. Getting it over Omaha or Kansas is a pretty simple task, easier than you may think. The North Koreans could do it. Recently, declassified documents show that the North Koreans recruited Russian scientists back in the early 1990s to build a nuclear weapon that could deliver a major EMP shot. As you know, the North Koreans now have the bomb, so delivering it may be as simple as hiding a small nuclear device in a satellite and having it detonate while in orbit over the US.

But it’s not just state actors we should be worried about. Terrorist groups, if they can get their hands on some fissile material, and they wouldn’t need a lot, could set off an EMP blast by attaching a small nuclear device to a simple weather balloon and detonating it once it gets 20 miles or so above the ground. In One Second After, the US power grid was knocked offline with just one missile launched from a cargo ship floating in the Gulf of Mexico. It really isn’t that difficult to do this.

(Regarding the Cold War strategy – prevention through deterrence) Back then, the impact of an EMP detonation was secondary to the destructive power of an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. In that scenario, it was impossible to protect anything, so the focus was on deterrence through mutually assured destruction. That’s not the case today. We cannot deter this threat because it could be deployed easily by an irrational state, or potentially non-state, actors. In order to attack us, you don’t need thousands of nuclear missiles here, you just need one. And, as importantly, the effects are instantaneous and cataclysmic. So, once we have been attacked, we would have no ability to understand the origins. We simply wouldn’t know, maybe for years, if it was North Korea or a solar flare that hit us.

– End

While there are EMP naysayer’s and poo-pooers out there, I thought that the statements above might be of interest for some of you, given the source. EMP topics may appear as doom-and-gloom or end-of-the-world to some, however it is a topic that I occasionally address, given its apparent validity.

William R. Forstchen’s new book:
One Year After: A Novel


  1. Good info at Electromagnetic Pulse Protection by Jerry Emanuelson B.S.E.E. Also may want to see Emprimus.

  2. The risk of an EMP attack is precisely why I have decided to gear away from anything electrical as much as possible. I have often thought about how the telegraph lines caught fire after we were hit with the effects of a solar flare back in history (don’t remember the exact time). If the effects are strong enough will the electrical lines catch fire? If it is that bad will any of your electrical still work even if you have solar? I don’t know if an EMP or CME will produce the same effects, but I do know that I don’t have the knowledge to troubleshoot fixing any of it.

    Outside of our generator with about a 30 day supply of gas, I think the only other gadgets I would rely on would be our radio and walkie talkie’s. I don’t even know if the generator will work after an EMP or CME. At least the radio and walkie talkie’s are protected in a faraday cage. Pretty much everything else can be worked around. This is why I am purchasing manual tools and gadgets and learning to use them.

    If the Amish can live without electricity, I figure I can too.

    1. @ PG
      You make a good point, the world without electricity will be interesting for sure. Even that generator in the long run will be worthless with no fuel. Also 99% of “solar” power will probably not be working after an EMP. An Electro Magnetic Pulse will fry just about everything that’s has electronics in it, as Solar “stuff”, the control boards, panels, wiring and so on. Additionally if someone is thinking on using that freezer/refrigerator with a generator/solar after an EMP, remember there are electronic components in them also. Personally I am building a faraday cage from a 20′ Conex box, including a full steel floor and doubled coverage at the doors. I will have a secondary solar system stored in there along with radios and communication equipment. Also anything I feel I will need after a SHTF that’s important, like voltage-meters/spare-parts-for-solar/Geiger-counter/rechargeable-batteries/and so on. We can live on very little (or no)electricity if needed.

      You make a interesting observation about the Amish. Unfortunately most Amish communities live within walking/hiking distances of HUGE cities (millions). Where would the first place you would go when TSHTF and you were out of food? Hence we would all be wise to keep that OPSEC on HIGH. If someone knows what you have, there will be hundreds at your door.

      Good idea on those “non-electric” tools. will be good to have a few months after TSHTF, personally I would not do a darn thing for those first few (4-6) months besides security, and eating from a can, the hunger will smell cooking food from miles away and take it from you. Also be careful of that Generator, it makes a lot of noise and can be heard form miles away.


      1. @NRP. I agree the generator is a short term solution. Basically it will be used to give us time to use up the food in the refrigerator and can/dry/cook everything else in the freezer. I figure initially everyone will be using generators if they are still working, so we are not likely to stand out too much. If would suck if the generator is fried but we will work around it. After the food it taken care of, we will just hunker down for 3 to 6 months depending on what is going on. That is what we have the radio for, to get information. Where we go from there will depend on the time of year, etc.

        1. @ PG
          Agreed totally on the “using/canning” of the freezer/refrigerator stuff. I have the same ideas on that.

          Information is going to be key in the situation. Hence solar/battery radios. Also Ham/CB/Short-wave.

      2. Hey NRP,
        There are about 300,000 Amish in the US and the majority do not live near major metropolitan areas. Thought I’d let you know that.

        Due to the lack of farmland due to family land being divided for offspring, the last 2 generations of Amish are venturing into both factory work and service-related work. While some live near towns and suburban areas, they are not urban or near-urban dwellers.

        The 3 top states for Amish communities are Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. They’re spread out into around 40 of our 50 states and have even been migrating into some of the islands and NE section of South America now.

  3. People tend to laugh off N. Korean and Iranian missile tests because they always seem to explode in the upper atmosphere during tests. People want to think that they do not have what it takes to reach us. The EMP scenarios make one reconsider these tests, often shown during the prime time news. A phrase used increasingly is: not if but when.

    The dependence on technology will advance society only to that point at which it stops.

    A good strike would take place in the spring just prior to major planting. That first winter would be a hard one.

    “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
    -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  4. I’m kinda like Peanut Gallery, don’t know how it would affect a gen. does anyone know what parts on a gen would be fried? And would it be possible to build a faraday cage for a gen.?

    1. David, From what I’ve read it would possibly fry some of the components, electronic ignition, voltage regulator and such. I considered buying what parts I thought would be the most likely to go and found that they would cost about the same as another generator. Might not be a bad plan but my funds won’t allow for it. I talked with another friend who lived off grid for a while and he suggested including extra brushes as they would wear out. You could build a cage large enough but it wouldn’t be easy.
      I’ve been looking at using the metal trash cans as some have suggested but the newer ones that I have found have some pretty big holes in the sides and tops where the handles attach.

    2. @ David
      From what I have researched, 95-99% of the newer generators will be fried, the electronics are susceptible to an EMP. If your not using the Gen-Set, build a faraday cage big enough for it, but remember a generator with no fuel is worthless. so in 2-3-4 months after an EMP, what than? At best estimates are the “power” after an EMP would be out for at least a year, maybe longer IF it ever comes back full swing in our lifetime.

      1. A propane generator or dual fuel is a great alternative. You can store propane for years and its relatively cheap. Many of us have thousand gallon tanks already in place.

        Moderate gen sets in dual fuel can be had for 1k or less now days that a less than 6% THD (total harmonic disruption). This means you can run any modern electronics from them, assuming they survived. But regardless lights and simple things without chips or boards would be okay.

        Also look into surplus military generators like the MEP series. This series of gen sets are EMP hardened. I run a modest sized one myself and its very robust and under rated, an MEP 831. Its diesel and as we all know one can store large amounts of diesel for a very long time when stabilized.

        just food for thought

        1. @ SM
          Interesting you mention a Propane Gen-set, That’s was my newest acquisition, was just under $850 7500KW from Home Depot, on sale. I like 99% od rural land owners an on a 500 gallon tank, that should run that poor little gen for a year or two….

          Been looking for a Diesel Gen-Set, may need to look into one of those MEP units. Thanks

        2. NPR the I out I have bought from them before. They are fair and the surplus iteams are exactly what they say ther are.

  5. Here’s a question rather than a comment … regarding Hiroshima … what was the EMP: impact resulting from the explosion?

    1. @ Roger
      All nuclear explosions create an EMP. The difference in Hiroshima was the explosion was a “low level” explosion. Meaning the EMP effect was less that the destruction of the blast. It was exploded at 1968’±50′. An effective “new age” EMP would be detonated well above 20-30 miles causing the “Compton scattering”. So yes Hiroshima had an EMP effect, but that was not the intent of the “bomb”.

      1. Also need to understand that the modern circuit, ie: semiconductors were not around during this time. They only came into existence I think in the 1970’s. EMP may have had an effect on basic electrical functions (motors/lights) or not. Nobody really understood the emp burst until they started doing nuclear testing and the pulse blew lights in Hawaii 1500 miles away from the island test site, if my understanding is correct.

  6. I would say – the Hiroshima was not an EMP due to it not being detonated “In The Air”

    1. I’m pretty sure that that it was an airburst. I think I recall that it was dropped with a parachute to slow it’s descent. The B29 needed time to make its getaway. Even if it was a ground burst there would be an EMP. It just wouldn’t travel as far.

      1. The EMP we are talking about REQUIRES a detonation at ALTITUDE. A close to ground explosion does NOT produce the magnified EMP effect being discussed here. Using the BEST balloon available to lift an EMP device as high as it can, would NOT be high enough for the creation of an effective EMP. Low orbit detonation is the only effective way to create an substantial EMP, using the Earth’s energy fields to magnify the effect. A terrorist would be much better off setting their bomb off at ground level, if they cannot lift their device to the right height.

        1. The EMP effect is only intensified at higher altitudes. It is always present though for any nuclear explosion. Hiroshima was a realitively small detonation compared to today’s weapons. The electronics of 1945 were not as sensitive to EMPs and Japan’s society in 1945 did not rely as much on electronics. So an EMP was present for this attack but the effects of the EMP were not that significant.

  7. Always good to have plans for dealing with the effects of an EMP. Do not pull all of your goodies out of the Faraday cage right away. Best to wait out any secondary pulses and establish communications with family/friends later.

    Also, thanks for using the “One Year After” image. I had no idea it was releasing tomorrow!

    1. @ Tex
      I agree, don’t even open the Faraday Cage for a month if you can keep from doing so, any country/terrorist could easily wait a week or so and hit us with a second, just to “polish off” what might be left of electronics.

      One Year After, should be a interesting read. I have it on “pre-order” and will arrive Thursday, guess who’s probably not going to work on Friday?? HAHAHAHA

      1. “One year later” due to arrive tomorrow. Ordered it last week. Can’t wait.

        Adapt and Overcome.

  8. I cannot wait to read One Year After! I have it on pre-order too.

    I am worried about all these “Syrian” refugees. Have you seen the pictures? They are mostly young men. Where are the womens, children and elderly? Hmmm.
    I wonder if they are part of a bigger plan. It just seems fishy.

    1. I agree, I heard if they were listed as Christians they weren’t going to be allowed in the US. Definitely sounds like an Odumbo plan!

    2. I just heard on the news this morning that 80% of the invaders are males between the ages of 18 and 21!

        1. We should liberate and annex Syria. Then instead of Europe and the US the refugees could go to… umm… Syria.

    3. These are mostly Sunni Moslems that you see on the tv. A very conservative sect.

      Sharia is their law and defines their culture.

      You may have heard that the Koran prohibits the killing of innocents. It does not pertain to non believers (Christians) or apostates (not the same sect Moslems ).

      What you read of the horrendous killings by ISIS is simply Sharia law being applied.

      Sharia is the Moslem religion.

      Be afraid of what is to come.

      1. Im not afraid, what i will be if anything does happen is quite pissed and ready to cause problems, this is a small comunity, anyone starts some $hit they better plan on being found, im not alone and info travels fast.

    4. Consider that they are “bugging out”, “INCH”ing along while carrying their GOOD (Get Out Of Damascus) bags. It’s not very surprising that many of them are young males. All in all they are the most fit for an arduous journey. But I do agree their is something fishy in Denmark, and France, and Italy and everywhere else the refugees are going to wind up. The odds of all of them being legitimate are very slim.

      1. Can you say “Cloward Piven Strategy”. Flood and overwelm the system till it collapses.

        Adapt and Overcome.

    5. If you watch some of the news film footage the young men are covering up their faces when the camera is panned towards where they are setting.
      Caught that on last nights news.

  9. “In 2009, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States re-examined the EMP threat from terrorists and rogue states, and likewise independently concurred with the EMP Commission’s warning and recommendations. Through 2010, several other major U.S. government studies, including by the Department of Energy and an interagency study led by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, have again re-examined the nuclear and natural EMP threat, concurred with the EMP Commission’s warning, and urged immediate implementation of the EMP Commission’s recommendations.

    Most recently, in December 2012, the National Intelligence Council, which speaks for the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, published an unclassified report Global Trends 2030 that warned an EMP is one of only eight “Black Swan” events that could change the course of global civilization by or before 2030. So there is an official consensus on the EMP threat within the U.S. Government studies, with no official study dissenting from the view that EMP is a potentially catastrophic threat that needs to be addressed urgently.

    The EMP Commission warned that, given our current state of unpreparedness, within 12 months of a catastrophic EMP event, some two-thirds to 90 percent of the total U.S. population, more than 200 million Americans, would perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse.” (Source: ACD)

    And although there is clear justification and research funds spent to study EMPs, the SHIELD Act was never passed by Congress.

  10. i can tell you this, the military has for several years been quietly upgrading capabilities to resist EMP’s. Look at all the surplus stuff coming out from earlier 2000’s like the MEP series generator sets that are EMP hardened.

    Radio equipment and vehicles too? Also read an article about comm assets being upgraded and more assets being pre positioned in places like norad. Uncle has taken steps to shield himself, perhaps you should as well?

  11. I wonder how well a cheap metal shed would protect equipment if insulated internally. Sounds like it could work. Have a generator in it along with gardening equipment might just be the way to go. Thoughts ???

    1. It would work (in my opinion) so long as all sides, all around (including a metal floor – which you might have to put in yourself) (no windows) are metal with conductivity together… And if there is a window – it can be covered with metal screen – so long as the screen is also electrically connected to the metal shed.

    2. Think of a faraday cage as if it is a tin can, nada in, nada out, no holes. It’s dose not have to be “grounded” as most people think, just completely surrounded in metal.
      So yes a metal shed could work, if modified correctly.

  12. I wonder what genius will come up with EMP safe cars and other electronics for preppers. Just a thought.

  13. I dont think fuel will be a problem for 6 months to a year. Every non-running car out there is a fuel station until it goes bad. Nobody will be driving that can because that would be a magnet to be attacked.

    Side question, anyone know how deep you need to bury a generator to protect from EMP?

    1. Interesting question Anonymous
      I never though about burying, I just use a Faraday Cage for the stuff I want to protect.

  14. Mythbusters just did a show on Star Wars. One of the things they tested was lightsaber hits for low ground versus the high ground. The interesting part of this is the suits they constructed to conduct hits from the “electric sabers” were from woven copper cloth. Very impressive and you know the mesh size has to be very tight. I’m thinking that the cloth might have possibilities for EMP shielding. I wonder about the shed concept as most of them are built rather loosely. I guess the way to tell is if you can get radio or cell reception inside with it closed. Not really a guarantee though. I would love to be able to store my generator from Home Depot in one and know that it was shielded. I’ve got the same one as NRP and would hope to be able to build a wood gas generator to fuel it with after the propane runs out.

  15. There are a number of problems with this scenario.

    First a EMP device (certainly the large ones) are nuclear bombs. Drop a nuclear bomb over the U.S. and there will be 2000 going back the other way. An EMP attack has to be the stupidest way to attack a nuclear power possible.

    Second, One EMP bomb will not do it. Experts have said in order to achieve 90% damage it would take 24 nukes in a grid pattern over the U.S. This is not easy and probably neither the U.S. nor Russia could do it today if they wanted to.

    Third, an EMP wave is a line of sight destruction. If you are sitting behind that little aluminum shed in your back yard playing on your computer when the EMP device goes off your computer will be unaffected. This will apply to billions of other electronic devices and infrastructure. If there were a single EMP attack today probably 75% of electronics and infrastructure would be unaffected.

    Forth, an EMP destroys electronics by creating a voltage and current surge. In the electric distribution grid this would not destroy transformers which are quite stout it would likely simply burn out the weakest link in the external connection leaving the transformer intact and working. It would not burn out the transmission lines, although it could cause them to randomly open (burn open). But this is easily fixed and of little consequence.

    Fifth, there are indeed some very specialized transformers in the electric grid. Numbered in the dozens perhaps while there are literally tens of thousands of the older transformers which are easy to repair if need be and easily (re)manufactured right here in the USA. This doesn’t even include the smaller transformers you typically see on a telephone pole in your neighborhood. These smaller transformers are all identical and very easy to repair if they are damaged.

    Last, the kinds of repairs that would be required are the same kind that utility crews are accustomed to repair today. Within hours of an EMP attack there would be a thousand crews out fixing the system.

    Here is where I think the popular thinking on this goes wrong: IF you accept that the grid would all go down at once and IF you accept the premise that our utilities would be powerless to fix it, and IF you assume that little to no effective emergency distribution of food and other necessities would happen THEN yes millions would die and we would be huddled in the dark. I do not accept those premises.

    1. @ GoneWithTheWind
      This is exactly why I like Ken’s Blog so much. Everyone is welcome to post their opinions at will, and open discussions are always welcome.

      I for one will hope you are exactly correct, and we never ever ever see an EMP or 24 of them. That said I will not put the possibility totally out of the question that, lets say NK would just LOVE to fry the US, and yes we would stuff a few Nukes up their #^&%#, but there are some crazy leaders in the world. Like Iran for one or Kim Jong-un.

      Second scenario would be some rouge group get ahold of a couple of little nukes, lets say ISIS for example. One would have to surmise they would certainly love to “Let’s see what these baby’s will do”, and getting them into the US would be not much problem with wide open borders we currently have.

      I do have slight doubts about the speed that a “utility crew” could repair the grid though. I have worked construction for decades, and have yet to find a “utility crew” that moves faster than the average slug on a winter morning. My thinking is it would take years, sorry to late for most refrigerated foods and distributions of goods/fuel/medications/so-on.

      As I said before and will repeat, I hope like HELL your right my friend.

      1. I fear a nuke, either a few nukes be they smuggled in or lobbed by a missile or a full scale attack. I fear NK willattack South Korea or Japan but probably not us. They could sell nukes to terrorists who would use them in the U.S. Ditto for a few other emerging nuclear powers. I really, really fear a nuclear attack. I think the risk has never been higher or more likely. One or two small nukes in Manhattan on a Monday morning would kill a million maybe two million people. This would have to be a terrorists dream attack because of the death and destruction it would cause. A nuclear attack and what would happen next is what keeps me up at night.

        1. @ gonewiththewind
          I agree with you totally, Rather it be an EMP, or a few “suitcase nukes”, say one in 10 cities. the effect would be deviating. I mean, look at what happened to the country at 9-11, the entire country shut down, could you imagine if that had been a nuke that took out 1/2 of the city? Than multiply it times 10 or 20.
          NOT good.
          PS; Obummer, just gave Iran nukes. The same people that chant “death to America”. Something to think about.

    2. @gonewiththewind

      My response to your assertions,

      First, Mutually Assured Destruction is no longer assured as a deterrent for an EMP nuke. Today’s nations are using proxies to fight their covert wars. We cannot rely on “MAD” for this threat because it could be deployed easily by an irrational state, or potentially non-state, actors. In order to attack us, you don’t need thousands of nuclear missiles, you just need one. And, as importantly, the effects are instantaneous and cataclysmic. So, once we have been attacked, we would have little or no ability to reliably understand the origins. We simply wouldn’t know, maybe for years, if it was North Korea or Iran or someone else.

      Second, Experts agree that one nuclear EMP could do it, at altitude.

      Third, You are quite incorrect. I visualize you using a metal Spartan shield held towards the sky to deflect the EMP (grin). No, hiding behind a metal shed won’t protect your devices. But if they were inside a fully enclosed metal shed, the devices would probably fare well.

      Fourth, You are correct about voltage and current surge. This will instantaneously destroy semiconductors and electronic devices, especially connected to the grid as well as standing alone while a portion of the device acts as an antenna to receive the pulse.

      Fifth, The sheer number of transformers that may need replacement (in a world that is now dark and without electricity) will be a task that will overwhelm all power crews combined. There are not enough of them (and transformers). Not to mention the world’s technology will have been blown back to the 1800’s. There will be bigger problems afoot.

      1. Again if you simply accept the assumptions that are made about this magical EMP than what you say is true. A transformer depends upon a complete circuit in order to have current flow. As soon as the EMP hits if it is strong enough to do serious damage to power distribution circuits it will indeed burn out the weak links. Once the connectors for the transformers are burned out current cannot flow through the transformer. Simple as that. The current cannot be induced in the coils inside the transformer because the metal container the transformer sits inside of is in fact a faraday cage. Any current induced outside of the transformer is simply not able to get to the transformer because of the burnt out weak links.

  16. @gone with the wind,
    I read your post twice to be sure I understood your comments. Your are correct when you say that an EMP develops voltage and surge currents ( in conductors is implied). However, my experience designing high power electrical power circuits ( an electrical engineer for 25 years) leads me to disagree with the remainder of your article. My only reason to reply to your article is to encourage other readers to continue protecting their electrical equipment from an EMP. I have specifically designed equipment to protect them from external electromagnetic interference(damage).

    To further your knowledge about Faraday cages please review Gausses Law in physics for closed structures(volumes). Be well, be safe.

    1. When you were in High school I was working inside a faraday cage.

      I was not wrong about the transformers and power lines and I’m suprised an electrical engineer would disagree. The common belief about electric distribution lines/transmission lines is that they would “burn up” in an EMP. The simple fact is that if you put enough current into the line it will open but as soon as it’s open there would be no more damage. Current can no longer flow. So all large scale circuits (unlike micro circuits) will simply fail at their weakest link, period. No burning up, no more current flow, nothing.

      Transformers sit inside of one of the best faraday cages ever designed. So 100% of the current that can damage a transformer in the event of an EMP must come from the outside. If you are familiar with electric distribution transformers you would know that their weak link is right where they are attached to the power lines. The transfomers themselves are extremely robust not the simple wire wound transformers used in home electronic equipment. The windings are not going to burn out easily and the external connection will melt first. Transformers by their design naturaly resist a current pulse so long before the transformer is affected the external connections willgive out.

      It’s usually at this point in the discussion of transformers that someone will say (correctly) that powerline and substation transformers often burn out. True. Power distribution transformers are over designed and can easily handle 200% of their design current for short periods and over 100% for long periods. But over time, hours sometimes, they overheat and fail. But the point is they have to actually operate for a long time well above their design specs before they fail. An actual EMP would create a relatively brief pulse (much longer then a current spike much shorter than a sustained overload) and this pulse would burn up the external connection long before the transformer could overheat.

      1. 400 Chernobyls, Solar Flares, EMP, and Nuclear Armageddon

        “The federal government recently sponsored a detailed scientific study to more fully understand the extent to which critical components of our national electrical power grid might be effected by either a naturally occurring GMD or a man-made EMP. Under the auspices of the EMP Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and reviewed in depth by the Oakridge National Laboratory and the National Academy of Sciences, Metatech corporation undertook extensive modeling and analysis of the potential effects of extreme geomagnetic storms upon the U.S. electrical power grid. Based upon a storm of intensity equal to the Great Geomagnetic Storm of 1921, Metatech estimated that within the US induced voltage and current spikes, combined with harmonic anomalies, would severely damage or destroy over 350 EHV power transformers critical to the functioning of the U.S. grid, and possibly well over 2000 EHV transformers worldwide.[4]”

        1. Agreed. Arrogance is an indicator of self-adoration; self-worship of ones’ ideas and opinions. “I’m right because I said I am, so shut up”.

      2. “So all large scale circuits (unlike micro circuits) will simply fail at their weakest link, period. No burning up, no more current flow, nothing”

        Incorrect, actually.

        The “pulse” of energy from an EMP doesn’t care about a “weakest link” as you describe. It will continue to travel at slightly less than the speed of light (atmosphere) even as components fail. The weak links, conductors, and the large scale circuits (transmission lines) you describe will all absorb the frequency wave (energy) from an EMP, relative to distance and magnitude of the energy pulse.

        1. What you are describing is the pulse in the atmosphere not the resulting electrical charge such a pulse would generate in a power line or other circuit. In order for current to flow it must have a complete circuit. The power lines do indeed have a complete circuit and a hige EMP would indeed generate enough current to burn through or open that circuit. But it is that very fact that saves the infrastrucure. As soon as the weak link in that power line burns through there can be no more current flow. Thus almost all of the transmission lines would be left intact.

  17. While I do believe an EMP is possible, I am more worried about our grid being hacked and shut down. There was an article just the other day but of course I can’t find it now.(maybe on Drudge Report) Said there are 100 of attempts everyday and some do get through. Like they are testing the system to see what is possible and how to take down the whole system. Would be like a virus waterfall out of control cascading across the country. Even if it only took the grid down for a month or 2, it would be catastrophic!!

    1. @ mikey
      Actually it’s a lot worse that just the attempts “they”, whoever “they” are, have actually hacked into the systems and have made small shutdowns, it’s on record. It WILL happen someday, just flip the switch and poof, it all goes away.

  18. Ask yourself the question, does your gun safe contain any electronics? I understand some may. Will they open after an EMP? Something to think about

    1. @ roger
      Exelent point, remember the story of the person that could not get the car out of the garage with the power out? Little red handle people HAHAHAHA, no electronic locks on something you could not get into without power. Or if the lock was fried

  19. @gonewiththewind,
    i agree with you that power circuits are designed with surge power (high current) capacities (short duration) greater than the continuous current capacity, this done in all circuit design. Circuits are also designed for both short duration and continuous heat dissipation capacities. All this is true for surge voltages as well but now let’s go a little deeper into design so that the mode of failure is better understood. Arcing and arching at high frequency is not so well understood by some.

    Simple arching is due to the fact even though the surge voltage may not be really high there will be a system failure due the concentration of the electric fields at sharp corners for example at the terminal lug at the wires end ( or a nuts corner).

    RF arching from induced voltages that travels along the surface of a wire, or thru a ceramic insulator. Insulators are not really insulators at high frequencies and this exactly what we get from an atomic blast or a CME. I hope this gives some insight into the problem of protecting the grid. Of great interest would be to read about the CME that happened in 1859 to the telegraph system installed back then. Best wishes.

  20. It seems to me that even the experts don’t fully know what to expect. All I know is that electricity is a funny thing and hard to predict what will happen when certain scenarios play out.

    Last summer we had a tree fall onto the power lines about 100 feet from our house. From what I was told, it pulled out the third wire forcing all the voltage through the remaining two wires, which in turn caused us to have a massive surge. Strange that it fried all of the alarm clocks in the house but did not damage any of the computers. Also lost the furnace and several major appliances. What surprised me was that 5 computers in the house and not one was damaged. All in all it was about $6000 worth of damage. The electric company even had to replace the main power line into the house. Now we also have two neighbors that live closer to where the event happened but they were unaffected, and the neighbors beyond our house were also unaffected.

    I think it was after this event that I abandoned the idea of adding solar. I would rather add sure things to our preps. Solar is too large of an expense to take a risk on it not functioning when we need it the most. For all that have solar I hope things work out. For me I have decided to focus on core survival needs. Food, water, shelter, heat, the basics really.

  21. A few additional points:

    Regarding the scenario of a single nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude over the United States that would cause a protracted blackout of the entire nation from electromagnetic pulse (EMP), potentially killing up to 9 of 10 Americans from starvation disease and societal collapse,

    The plausible scenario originates from the blue ribbon Congressional EMP Commission, comprising the foremost scientific and technical experts on EMP and grid security in the Free World, who studied the EMP threat and solutions for nearly a decade (2001-2008), and who continue trying to educate policymakers and the public through the EMP Task Force.

    Likewise, the bipartisan Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, chaired by former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger, examined independently the nuclear EMP threat from rogue states and terrorists and arrived at the same conclusion as the EMP Commission. There is a consensus among every major U.S. Government study of the nuclear EMP threat that it would cause protracted blackout of the electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures–such that a single unsophisticated nuclear weapon could pose an existential threat to the United States.

    North Korea and Iran have both practiced anonymous nuclear EMP attacks against the United States by satellite, and by using a freighter as a missile launch platform (the “Scud in a bucket” scenario), precisely to keep their fingerprints off an attack to escape U.S. retaliation, and so defeat deterrence.

    The North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command takes the nuclear EMP threat from North Korea and others so seriously that NORAD Commander, Admiral William Gortney, recently announced they and other commands are moving major capabilities back into Cheyenne Mountain because it is EMP protected. NORAD is spending an additional $700 million to further harden the mountain against nuclear EMP attack.

    And according to a NASA report of July 23, 2014, Earth narrowly missed a geomagnetic super-storm in 2012. According to NASA, likelihood of recurrence of a Carrington Event is 12 percent per decade. This virtually guarantees that we will experience a natural EMP catastrophe within our lifetimes or that of our children. And there is no deterring the Sun.

  22. Note to self– add to preps list–
    Candles,matches, paper, pencils, lots of batteries.

  23. I have to say If the military deems it prudent to invest into the hundreds of millions of dollars to protect against this threat; The former director of the CIA believe this to be serous threat as well, I’m listening.

    Be it hacked, EMP attack or simply a CME similar to that one that hit Canada or CONUS in the early 1900’s.

    It’s always seems prudent to have back up life support systems in place at ones home. Being prepared for major stuff like above mentioned will pay off for floods, hurricanes, regional power outages, etc.

    Having worked in the gulf coast after Katrina and through and after RITA I will say one cannot be to cautious. Having the ability to eat, drink, provide security and have shelter is essential.

    No one is as concerned for the well being of my family as I am. I do not count on neighbors, extended family, military, police or any branch of the government to do whats best for me and mine.

    Not that they are all malicious by any means, just don’t think my family is as precious as I do. It’s my responsibility as a husband and father before God to take care of my family.

  24. The problem with committees, commissions and focus groups is that they are given some assumptions and then must create a possible scenario from that point. The assumptions are a worse case EMP, ie 100% effective that “destroys” all electronic and power transmission completely. This is not a realistic scenario. The second problem with a government committee is that they are looking to support/protect special interest groups. There is a lot of money at stake. Power distribution system to be built up or rebuilt, new systems in powerful congressional districts. This is a political consideration that has inserted itself into a security issue.
    I will absolutely accept that IF we have the mother of all EMPs regardless of the source/cause that the entire grid will be seriously compromised. I alsoaccept that it could happen either manmade or natural. What I do not agree with is the premise that it will be the mother of all EMPs, I would expect something far less spectacular or effective OR that it is extremely likely to happen. There are very realand more likely risks that we should prepare for and defend against. The problem is that those expenditures won’t occur in the right congressional district so the EMP crisis must be hyped. This is not too different from the earthquake crisis we hear about all the time. The risks are real, earthqaukes will absolutely occur but should we spend billions to rebuild and reinforce all schools and government buildings (that is the typical recommendation). The unions and construction workers say yes, the congressmen in those districts where the money will be spent say yes. But is that the best choice for our tax money. My point is that some of the hype about EMP and earthquakes is driven by the desire to spend the taxpayers money in certain congressional districts. To some extent we are being duped.

  25. Attention those of you who will listen, The following will have a major if not catastrophic on not just the electric grid but to a much bigger problem…The U. S. has approx. 100 nuclear reactors in the country, approx 85 are East of the Mississippi doing a little research will prove that a mass meltdown of those reactors would blanket the Eastern U.S. Those West of the Mississippi would fare much better especially in the Far Western and Northwestern states. But the mindset is that the backup generators for those nuclear reactors would be working a solar or manmade EMP event would also kill the back up generators. But what about removing the fission material….. there would not be enough time, nor very likely responding personnel……..Also there is currently only one Federal backup system in the U.S. so good luck with that idea………No one wants to address this not even the big prepper websites.

      1. Here’s a map I found to be interesting:
        It shows all the electrical power generating facilities in the US. Now, if you think one EMP event can’t cause problems, think about loosing power generation in a 100, 200, or 500 mile diameter area. Coal fired generators, gas fired generators, hydroelectric dams, everything with wires and controllers would become scrap metal. They aren’t going to be ‘fixed’ in a few days.

    1. And despite all the robustness/fortification upgrades and cost/investment studies to protect our grid against an EMP, expert testimony to past and current congressional forums and numerous goverment grid down drills, not one dollar is budgeted for protecting against the destruction of the american populace, unless its military. Not one measure has been taken. So think about it…the cost is in the millions, not billions and our infrastructune critical components are foreign sourced. They, our govt, prefers a culture of death, not life

  26. have several means to cook outdoors for food and water purification. Invest in enough fire bricks for a multi purpose rocket stove, a solar oven (no scent/smell), a burn barrel, propane, gas line antifreeze. Acquire thousands of coffee filters for water filtration in addition to a Berkey. They’re $1.28 for 200 at Wallys.

  27. Just finished reading “One Year After” it was a very good read. Paints a good picture of how tough the rebuilding will be. Also he mentioned in the preface that there will be 1 more book to end the series. Should be out in a several months.

  28. Here is Dr. Peter Pry’s latest assessment: . . . . . Here is part of what he had to say about it: “Nuclear HEMP attack is part of the military doctrines, plans and exercises of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran for a revolutionary new way of warfare against military forces and civilian critical infrastructures by cyber, sabotage, and HEMP.
    Significantly, because HEMP attack entails detonating a nuclear weapon at such high altitude that no blast or other prompt effects injurious to humans are delivered, only the HEMP that immediately damages only electronics, potential adversaries do not appear to regard nuclear HEMP attack as an act of nuclear warfare.
    Ignorance of the military doctrines of potential adversaries and a failure of U.S. strategic imagination, as noted in military writings of potentially hostile powers, is setting America up for an HEMP Pearl Harbor. . . .
    The HEMP threat is not merely theoretical, but well-established empirically, including by real world blackouts: “With few exceptions, the U.S. national electric grid is unhardened and untested against nuclear EMP attack. In the event of a nuclear EMP attack on the United States, a widespread protracted blackout is inevitable.” (EMP Commission Chairman, Dr. William R. Graham)”

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