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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Electronic Armageddon

Explorer on the National Geographic Channel had a show last night called, "Electronic Armageddon."  The show is on the possible impact of a natural or man-made disaster that takes out our electric grid.

Sobering stuff.

It's on again this Saturday, 6/19.

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MikeH. said...

I didn't have a chance to watch so I don't know if this point was mentioned.

I had heard, a couple of years ago, that an EMP event over the U.S. would cook many of the transformers you see attached to utility poles. Even though the electric utility companies have replacement transformers available, they don't have nearly enough to replace the millions that would be taken out.

To push this scenario into a solid number ten pucker factor... those transformers aren't made in the U.S., so even IF we could restore power output from a plant or two, it would take years for all those new transformers to be built and shipped here.

Of course, that's provided that other country isn't suffering it's own EMP woes.


Chief Instructor said...

Mike, I know they had dramatized film of transformers blowing up, but I think they were talking about when Canada got hit by a solar storm in 1989.

To your point, though: Yeah, we don't manufacture diddly any more. If a CME or EMP were to hit us, we'd be truly screwed. It would be time to break out all of our own tap-and-die kits!

I seem to have misplaced my "Transformer-In-A-Box" kit, though... ;-)

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, this is powered by a nuclear bomb and not an easy device to make. So if it were used it would be a nuclear attack, i.e. nuclear war and it would be by China or Russia not some terrorists or North Korea. So the inability to use your radio, TV and computer are the least of your problems. Second:It could not disable the entire U.S. At least not one of them it would take a dozen or more and it would still leave large pockets unaffected. In my opinion these two facts argue against an EMP attack. Why? It would be a major nuclear attack that would really piss us of but not destroy our ability to respond and the only proper response to it would be nuclear. So why would anyone do it? Clearly if they wanted to nuke us they would do just that and not screw around with an EMP. This is like challenging an armed man with an unloaded gun, not very smart.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, from what I've read, a nuke detonated 200 miles above the center of the US would pretty much trash all of us. A psycho regime like N. Korea or Iran have the nukes (or will soon) and the missile power to get one in place if shot from some sort of a close-in platform (like from a ship at sea).

For one of these countries, they know that they would do minimal damage with the "traditional" use one or two nukes they have, so an EMP burst would provide much greater overall damage.

I have no intimate knowledge of this stuff, only what I've seen and read. It seems plausible to me.

Anonymous said...

Not to start an arguement but the effect of a nuke (or EMP) follows the inverse square law. That is the powere decreases geometrically as you get further from the source. A really powerful nuclear EMP device might destroy 100% of all electrical devices at 25 miles and 50% at 50 miles and 25% at 100 miles etc. And of course different electric devices would have different results. What would be required to destroy 50%-80_ of all electronics in the U.S. is about a dozen EMP nukes spaced 500 miles apart in a grid pattern over the U.S. To destroy 90% it might take 100 nukes and it is probably impossible to destroy 100%. I admit that 50% destruction would essentially put us into the stone age but again it isn't an easy task and it would leave our nuclear weapons pretty much intact to retalliate with. And make no mistake we could easily determine who set off 12 or more nukes in the sky miles above us. I do think there is an outside possibility that a very serious solar flare/storm could do the job but it would probably do it to Russia and China as well and it would depend on the time of year. That is in winter the effect in North Dakota might be so mild as to be undetected while in Australia they are reduced to using a didjeridu to communicate.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, go ahead and start an argument! If you have information that shows my understanding to be wrong, I DEFINITELY want to know about it.

My worry is that it comes from one of the small guys who don't care that much if they get turned to dust - Iran, in particular. If what you say is correct - that a single nuke fired 200 miles up would not fry all of our electronics, that's valuable information.

Anonymous said...

My gut tells me that if a terrorist could get a nuke they would smuggle it into the country they hated the most and set it off. That is I don't think they would try to make it an EMP device or anything else. The question is which country. I think Israel is at the top of their list but good luck smuggling a nuke into Israel. There are a few European countries they hate so it could be Paris or London. But given how easy it is to smuggle things into the U.S. we just could be the first choice. NY City would probably be high on the list with DC a close tie. But I wouldn't rule out L.A. or San Francisco or Dallas. Problem is they would want density because they could never get a big nuke and NYCity is dense. According to what I have read the experts are scared witless that a nuke or some other WMD will indeed be used within the CONUS and they obviously have some information we all don't have.