Apocalypse Unknown is a new book by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry. It’s a big, heavy, expensive ($50) volume with the front cover showing a tiny Earth alongside a huge sun in the process of throwing off a coronal mass ejection.
When I buy a new book, I always worry it will be a complete rehash of what I’ve already read. That wasn’t the case here. The Department of Homeland Security asked Dr. Pry to suggest some National Planning Scenarios involving EMP threats, and he has included four of these. Some aspects of these threats were new to me. For example, low altitude nuclear detonations release Source Region EMP (SREMP) which can propagate through power lines to destroy transformers well outside the region affected by the blast. Weather balloons can lift nuclear weapons to 30 kilometers, high enough to create an EMP-affected region 1,200 kilometers in diameter. The region encompassed by a coronal mass ejection can be much larger than the Earth, so a solar storm like the Carrington Event could easily knock out power worldwide. Prolonged loss of power due to any of these events would probably lead to the Fukushima syndrome at some of the 104 nuclear power plants in the US, with burning of fuel rods and widespread radioactive fallout.
On the bright side, Dr. Pry lays out three independent, affordable proposals for hardening the grid to EMP. He points out that China and Russia have already hardened their systems, and several other countries have started to do so. He feels that with Homeland Security’s heightened interest in the EMP threat, there is a good chance that we will finally be able to move ahead in dealing with an EMP.
Of course, those who consider us the Great Satan may regard our increased efforts towards self protection as a reason to speed up their own timetables.