Warning Raised of Electromagnetic Threats from Rogue States

A group of scientists is raising the alarm over the potential for a rogue state to shut down a nation's entire power framework by detonating a nuclear warhead high in Earth's atmosphere, BBC News reported yesterday (see GSN, Aug. 18).

The United States is working on ways to shield its electricity network from an attack involving an electromagnetic pulse, according to Avi Schnurr, president of the International EMP Council. The United Kingdom, though, needs to move past "thinking and planning," he told a British Parliament defense panel on Monday.

The detonation of a nuclear warhead carried 20 miles above the planet by a medium-range missile could emit a pulse that might paralyze a nation's energy system for months or years and result in an "economic shutdown," according to the coalition of scientists.

Among the effects could be failure of electricity, water and telephone systems, gridlock in cities and the exhaustion of fuel reserves, Schnurr said. It could take four to eight years for a nation to recover, he added.

Nations such as Iran and North Korea pose the greatest threat for use of such a weapon, according to the scientists. Pyongyang is known to operate a nuclear-weapon program and to seek increased missile capabilities, while Tehran says its atomic efforts have no military component (see related GSN stories, today; BBC News, Oct. 13).

October 14, 2009
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A group of scientists is raising the alarm over the potential for a rogue state to shut down a nation's entire power framework by detonating a nuclear warhead high in Earth's atmosphere, BBC News reported yesterday (see GSN, Aug. 18).