Electromagnetic pulse threat to infrastructure (U.S. House hearings)

In 2012 and again in 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings on the threat of electromagnetic pulses — from either the sun or nuclear blaststo critical U.S. infrastructure.  The testimony at these hearings could be mistaken for a grade B science fiction movie.  But it’s not a Hollywood thriller.  Below are excerpts from the transcripts of the 2012 and 2014 hearings.

Chair, Michael McCaul (Texas). Some would say it is a low probability, but the damage that could be caused in the event of an EMP attack both by the sun, a solar event, or a man-made attack would be catastrophic. We talk a lot about a nuclear bomb in Manhattan, and we talk about a cybersecurity threat, the grid, power grid, in the Northeast, and all these things would actually probably pale in comparison to the devastation that an EMP attack could perpetrate on Americans. We have extraordinary capability in this country to do great things. We are a responsible Nation with our power and with our might. But a nation, a rogue nation, with that type of capability in the wrong hands could be devastating.

Side note: House Rep McCaul has just come out with a 2016 book “Failures of Imagination: The Deadliest Threats to Our Homeland–and How to Thwart Them”.   Yet this book doesn’t mention the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). He doesn’t explain why EMP is no longer a threat, so he’s lost credibility with me, and I won’t be buying his book and reviewing it.

VICE CHAIRMAN SCOTT PERRY (Pennsylvania): In 1962, the United States conducted a test named STARFISH Prime where the military detonated a 1.4-megaton thermonuclear bomb about 25 miles above Johnston Atoll in the in the Pacific. In space, six American, British, and Soviet satellites suffered damage, and 800 miles away in Hawaii, burglar alarms sounded, street lights blinked out, and phones, radios, and televisions went dead. While only 1 percent of the existing street lights were affected, it became clear that electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, could cause significant damage.

EMP is simply a burst of electromagnetic radiation that results from certain types of high-energy explosions or from a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. A frightening point is that EMP can be generated by nuclear weapons, from naturally-occurring sources such as solar storms, or specialized non-nuclear EMP weapons.

Nuclear weapon EMPs are most catastrophic when a nuclear weapon is detonated at a high altitude at approximately 30 kilometers, or 20 miles, above the intended target. The consequences of such an attack could be catastrophic. All electronics, power systems, and information systems could be shut down. This could then cascade into interdependent infrastructure such as water, gas, and telecommunications. While we understand that this is an extreme case, we must always be prepared in case a rogue state decides to utilize this technology.

Currently the nations of Russia and China have the technology to launch an EMP attack, and we have speculated that Iran and North Korea may be developing EMP weapon technology

Since most critical infrastructure, particularly electrical infrastructure is in the hands of private owners, the Federal Government has limited authority to mandate preparedness. DHS has no statutory authority whatsoever to regulate the electric grid.

Trent Franks (Arizona): With each passing year, our society becomes increasingly dependent on technology and an abundant supply of electricity. Our entire American way of life relies upon electrical power and technology. Our household appliances, food-distribution systems, telephone and computer networks, communication devices, water and sewage plants would grind to a halt without it. Nearly every single facet of modern human life in America is susceptible to being crippled by a major Electromagnetic Pulse or Geomagnetic Disturbance event. We are so reliant on our electric power grid that we specifically consider it ‘‘critical infrastructure’’.

Chairman and Members of the committee, it strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation. In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.

The effects of geomagnetic storms and electromagnetic pulses on electric infrastructure are well-documented, with nearly every space, weather, and EMP expert recognizing the dramatic disruptions and cataclysmic collapses these pulses can bring to electric grids. In 2008, the EMP Commission testified before The Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, that the U.S. society and economy are so critically dependent upon the availability of electricity that a significant collapse of the grid, precipitated by a major natural or man-made EMP event, could result in catastrophic civilian casualties. This conclusion is echoed by separate reports recently compiled by the DOD, DHS, DOE, NAS, along with various other Government agencies and independent researchers. All came to very similar conclusions. We now have 11 Government studies on the severe threat and vulnerabilities we face from EMP and GMD.

We have known the potentially devastating effects of sufficiently intense electromagnetic pulse on the electronic systems and its risk to our National security. More troubling, our enemies know.

More than a year ago, an unknown number of shooters with AK–47s knocked out 17 large transformers during a highly-choreographed assault on the PG&E Metcalf Transmission Substation in California. While the power company was able to avoid blackouts, the damage to the facility took nearly 4 weeks to repair.

This is not an isolated incident and world-wide adversaries are taking notice in the vulnerability of our grid.

We as a Nation have spent billions of dollars over the years hardening our nuclear triad, our missile-defense capabilities, and numerous other critical elements of our National security apparatus against the effects of electromagnetic pulse, particularly the type of electromagnetic pulse that might be generated against us by an enemy.

However, our civilian grid, which the Defense Department relies upon for nearly 99% of its electricity needs, is completely vulnerable to the same kind of danger. This constitutes an invitation on the part of certain enemies of the United States to use the asymmetric capability of an EMP weapon against us.

We also face the threat of a natural EMP event. Since the last occurrence of a major geomagnetic storm in 1921, the Nation’s high-voltage and extra-high- voltage systems have increased in size more than ten-fold.

HON. PETE SESSIONS: The possibility that a single nuclear weapon detonated in space high over this country could unleash intense electromagnetic pulses (EMP), disrupting for many months—if not indefinitely—the supply of power to large area. Until recently, information about EMP was Classified and many of us have little knowledge of the serious danger such threats represents to everything we hold dear.

Dr. William Graham, the chairman of the EMP Threat Commission, believes that, if the power goes out and stays out for even 1 year’s time, as many as 9 out of 10 of us would perish.

we need not face such a horrific prospect. We know how to protect electrical and electronic devices from the effects of EMP. In fact, the Department of Defense has been doing it with respect to the military’s nuclear deterrent and command-and-control systems for over 50 years. There are, in short, proven and easily implementable techniques that can now be applied to ensure the resilience ofthe U.S. electric grid and the things that depend upon it in 21st Century America—which is just about everything.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is the executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a Congressional advisory board dedicated to achieving protection of the United States from electromagnetic pulse and other threats. Dr. Pry is also the director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, an advisory body to Congress on policies to counter weapons of mass destruction. Dr. Pry has served on the staffs of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. from an EMP Attack, the House Armed Services Committee, as an intelligence officer with the CIA, and as a verification analyst at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Mr. PRY.  Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm like the 1859 Carrington Event or the 1921 Railroad Storm, a nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013 are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse.

A natural EMP catastrophe or nuclear EMP attack could black out the National electric grid for months or years and collapse all the other critical infrastructures, communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water, necessary to sustain modern society and the lives of 310 million Americans.

EMP is a clear and present danger:

  • A Carrington-class coronal mass ejection narrowly missed the earth in July 2012.
  • Last April, during the nuclear crisis with North Korea over Kim Jong-Un’s threatened nuclear strikes against the United States, Pyongyang apparently practiced an EMP attack with its KSM–3 satellite that passed over the U.S. heartland and over the Washington, D.C.- New York City corridor.
  • Iran, estimated to be within 2 months of nuclear weapons by the administration, has a demonstrated capability to launch an EMP attack from a vessel at sea. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy commenced patrols off the East Coast of the United States in February.

An EMP attack is a high-tech means of killing millions of people the old-fashioned way—through starvation, disease, and societal collapse.

A single nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude will generate an electromagnetic pulse that can cause catastrophic damage across the entire contiguous United States to the critical infrastructures—electric power, telecommunications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water—that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 310 million Americans. Nature can also generate an EMP causing similarly catastrophic consequences across the entire contiguous United States— or even across the entire planet—by means of a solar flare from the Sun that causes on Earth a great geomagnetic storm. Non-nuclear weapons, often referred to as radio frequency weapons, can also generate an EMP, much more limited in range than a nuclear weapon, that can damage electronics, and could cause the collapse of critical infrastructures locally, perhaps with cascading effects over an area as large as a major city.

Any nuclear warhead detonated at high altitude, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) or more above the Earth’s surface, will generate an electromagnetic pulse. The immediate effects of EMP are disruption of, and damage to, electronic systems and electrical infrastructure. EMP is not reported in the scientific literature to have direct harmful effects on people. Because an EMP attack would detonate a nuclear warhead at high-altitude, no other nuclear effects—such as blast, thermal radiation, or radioactive fallout—would be experienced by people on the ground or flying through the atmosphere. However, because modern civilization and life itself now depends upon elec Gamma rays, and the fireball from a high-altitude nuclear detonation, interact with the atmosphere to produce a super-energetic radio wave—the EMP—that covers everything within line-of-sight from the explosion to the Earth’s horizon.

Even a relatively low-altitude EMP attack, where the nuclear warhead is detonated at an altitude of 30 kilometers, will generate a damaging EMP field over a vast area, covering a region equivalent to New England, all of New York, and half of Pennsylvania. A nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers (~250 miles) over the center of the United States would place an EMP field over the entire contiguous United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.

It is a myth is that rogue states or terrorists need a sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missile to make an EMP attack. In fact, any missile, including short- range missiles that can deliver a nuclear warhead to an altitude of 30 kilometers or more, can make a catastrophic EMP attack on the United States, by launching off a ship or freighter. Indeed, Iran has practiced ship-launched EMP attacks using Scud missiles—which are in the possession of scores of nations and even terrorist groups. An EMP attack launched off a ship, since Scuds are common-place and a warhead detonated in outer space would leave no bomb debris for forensic analysis, could enable rogue states or terrorists to destroy U.S. critical infrastructures and kill millions of Americans anonymously.

The EMP generated by a nuclear weapon has three components, designated by the U.S. scientific-technical community E1, E2, and E3.

E1 is caused by gamma rays, emitted by the nuclear warhead, that knocks electrons off of molecules in the upper atmosphere, causing the electrons to rotate rapidly around the lines of the Earth’s magnetic field, a phenomenon termed the Compton Effect. The E1 component of nuclear EMP is a shockwave, transmitting thousands of volts of energy in mere nanoseconds of time, and having a high-frequency (short) wavelength that can couple directly into small objects, like personal computers, automobiles, and transformers. E1 is unique to nuclear weapons and is too fast and too energetic to be arrested by protective devices used for lightning.

The E2 component of a nuclear EMP is comparable to lightning in its energetic content and medium (milliseconds) frequency and wavelength. Protective devices used for lightning are effective against E2.

E3 is caused by the fireball of a nuclear explosion, the expanding and then collapsing fireball causing the Earth’s magnetic field to oscillate, generating electric currents in the very large objects that can couple into the low frequency, long (seconds) wavelength part of the EMP that is E3. The E3 waveform can couple directly only into objects having at least one dimension of great length. Electric power and telecommunications lines that run for kilometers in many directions are ideally suited for receiving E3. Although E3 compared to E1 appears to deliver little energy, just volts per meter, this is multiplied manifold by power and telecommunications lines that are typically many kilometers long, building up E3 currents that can melt Extremely High-Voltage (EHV) transformers, typically designed to handle 750,000 volts. Small electronics can also be destroyed by E3 if they are connected in any way to an E3 receiver—like a personal computer plugged into an electric outlet, which of course is connected to power lines that are ideal E3 receivers, or like the electronic servo-mechanisms that operate the controls of large passenger airliners, that can receive E3 through the metal skin of the aircraft wings and body. Protective devices used for lightning are not effective against E3.

The Soviets executed a series of nuclear detonations in which they exploded 300 kiloton weapons at approximately 300, 150, and 60 kilometers above their test site in South Central Asia. They report that on each shot they observed damage to overhead and underground buried cables at distances of 600 kilometers. They also observed surge arrestor burnout, spark-gap breakdown, blown fuses, and power supply breakdowns.

A high-yield nuclear weapon is not necessary to make an EMP attack. Although a high-yield weapon will generally make a more powerful EMP field than a low- yield nuclear weapon, ALL nuclear weapons produce gamma rays and EMP. The EMP Commission found, by testing modern electronics in simulators, that ANY nuclear weapon can potentially make a catastrophic EMP attack on the United States. Even a very low-yield nuclear weapon—like a 1-kiloton nuclear artillery shell—will produce enough EMP to pose a catastrophic threat. This is so in part because the U.S. electric grid is so aged and overburdened, and because the high-tech electronics that support the electric grid and other critical infrastructures are over 1 million times more vulnerable to EMP than the electronics of the 1960s.

The EMP Commission also found that, contrary to the claim that high-yield nuclear weapons are necessary for an EMP attack, that very low-yield nuclear weapons of special design can produce significantly more EMP than high-yield nuclear weapons. The EMP Commission found further that Russia, probably China, and possibly North Korea are already in possession of such weapons. Russian military writings call these ‘‘Super-EMP’’ nuclear weapons, and credibly claim that they can generate 200 kilovolts per meter—many times the 30 KVs/meter attributed to a high-yield (20 megaton) nuclear weapon of normal design. Yet a Super-EMP warhead can have a tiny explosive yield, perhaps only 1 kiloton, because it is specially designed to produce primarily gamma rays that generate the E1 electromagnetic shockwave component of the EMP effect. Super-EMP weapons are specialized to generate an overwhelming E1, and produce no E2 or E3 but do not need to, as their E1 is so potent.

In 2004, credible Russian sources warned the EMP Commission that design information and ‘‘brain drain’’ from Russia had transferred to North Korea the capability to build a Super-EMP nuclear weapon ‘‘within a few years.’’ In 2006 and again in 2008, North Korea tested a nuclear device of very low yield, 1–3 kilotons, and declared these tests successful. South Korean military intelligence, in open-source reporting, independently corroborates the Russian warning that North Korea is developing a Super-EMP nuclear warhead. North Korea’s proclivity to sell anything to anyone, including missiles and nuclear technology to fellow rogue nations Iran and Syria, makes Pyongyang’s possession of Super-EMP nuclear weapons especially worrisome.

Geomagnetic storms rarely affect the United States, but regularly damage nations located at high northern latitudes, such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Damage from a normal geomagnetic storm can be severe. For example, in 1989 a geomagnetic storm over Canada destroyed the electric power grid in Quebec. The EMP Commission was the first to discover and report in 2004 that every hundred years or so the Sun produces a great geomagnetic storm. Great geomagnetic storms produce effects similar to the E3 EMP from a multi-megaton nuclear weapon, and so large that it would cover the entire United States—possibly even the entire planet.

Geomagnetic storms, even great geomagnetic storms, generate no E1 or E2, only E3, technically called the magnetohydrodynamic EMP. Nonetheless, E3 alone from a great geomagnetic storm is sufficient to end modern civilization. The EMP produced, given the current state of unpreparedness by the United States and every nation on Earth, could collapse power grids everywhere on the planet and destroy EHV transformers and other electronic systems that would require years to repair or replace.

Modern civilization cannot exist for a protracted period without electricity. Within days of a blackout across the United States, a blackout that could encompass the entire planet, emergency generators would run out of fuel, telecommunications would cease as would transportation due to gridlock, and eventually no fuel. Cities would have no running water and soon, within a few days, exhaust their food supplies. Police, Fire, Emergency Services and hospitals cannot long operate in a blackout. Government and industry also need electricity in order to operate.

The EMP Commission warns that a natural or nuclear EMP event, given current unpreparedness, would likely result in societal collapse.

Terrorists, criminals, and even lone individuals can build a non-nuclear EMP weapon without great trouble or expense, working from Unclassified designs publicly available on the internet, and using parts available at any electronics store. In 2000, the Terrorism Panel of the House Armed Services Committee sponsored an experiment, recruiting a small team of amateur electronics enthusiasts to attempt constructing a radiofrequency weapon, relying only on unclassified design information and parts purchased from Radio Shack. The team, in 1 year, built two radiofrequency weapons of radically different designs. One was designed to fit inside the shipping crate for a Xerox machine, so it could be delivered to the Pentagon mail room where (in those more unguarded days before 9/11) it could slowly fry the Pentagon’s computers. The other radiofrequency weapon was designed to fit inside a small Volkswagon bus, so it could be driven down Wall Street and disrupt computers— and perhaps the National economy. Both designs were demonstrated and tested successfully during a special Congressional hearing for this purpose at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Radiofrequency weapons are not merely a hypothetical threat. Terrorists, criminals, and disgruntled individuals have used home-made radiofrequency weapons. The U.S. military and foreign militaries have a wide variety of such weaponry. Moreover, non-nuclear EMP devices that could be used as radiofrequency weapons are publicly marketed for sale to anyone, usually advertised as ‘‘EMP simulators.’’ For example, one such simulator is advertised for public sale as an ‘‘EMP Suitcase.’’ This EMP simulator is designed to look like a suitcase, can be carried and operated by one person, and is purpose-built with a high energy radiofrequency output to destroy electronics. However, it has only a short radius of effect. Nonetheless, a terrorist or deranged individual who knows what he is doing, who has studied the electric grid for a major metropolitan area, could—armed with the ‘‘EMP Suitcase’’— black out a major city.

A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. An EMP weapon can be used by state actors who wish to level the battlefield by neutralizing the great technological advantage enjoyed by U.S. military forces. EMP is also the ideal means, the only means, whereby rogue states or terrorists could use a single nuclear weapon to destroy the United States and prevail in the War on Terrorism or some other conflict with a single blow. The EMP Commission also warned that states or terrorists could exploit U.S. vulnerability to EMP attack for coercion or blackmail: ‘‘Therefore, terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may obtain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack.’’

The EMP Commission found that states such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have incorporated EMP attack into their military doctrines, and openly describe making EMP attacks against the United States. Indeed, the EMP Commission was established by Congress partly in response to a Russian nuclear EMP threat made to an official Congressional Delegation on May 2, 1999, in the midst of the Balkans crisis. Vladimir Lukin, head of the Russian delegation and a former Ambassador to the United States, warned: ‘‘Hypothetically, if Russia really wanted to hurt the United States in retaliation for NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, Russia could fire an SLBM and detonate a single nuclear warhead at high altitude over the United States. The resulting EMP would massively disrupt U.S. communications and computer systems, shutting down everything.’’

China’s military doctrine also openly describes EMP attack as the ultimate asymmetric weapon, as it strikes at the very technology that is the basis of U.S. power. Where EMP is concerned, ‘‘The United States is more vulnerable to attacks than any other country in the world’’: ‘‘Some people might think that things similar to the ‘Pearl Harbor Incident’ are unlikely to take place during the information age. Yet it could be regarded as the ‘Pearl Harbor Incident’ of the 21st Century if a surprise attack is conducted against the enemy’s crucial information systems of command, control, and communications by such means as… electromagnetic pulse weapons… Even a superpower like the United States, which possesses nuclear missiles and powerful armed forces, cannot guarantee its immunity…In their own words, a highly computerized open society like the United States is extremely vulnerable to electronic attacks from all sides. This is because the U.S. economy, from banks to telephone systems and from power plants to iron and steel works, relies entirely on computer networks… When a country grows increasingly powerful economically and technologically…it will become increasingly dependent on modern information systems… The United States is more vulnerable to attacks than any other country in the world.’’

Iran—the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism—in military writings openly describes EMP as a terrorist weapon, and as the ultimate weapon for prevailing over the West: ‘‘If the world’s industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults, then they will disintegrate within a few years… American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot.’’

The threats are not merely words. The EMP Commission assesses that Russia has, as it openly declares in military writings, probably developed what Russia describes as a ‘‘Super-EMP’’ nuclear weapon—specifically designed to generate extraordinarily high EMP fields in order to paralyze even the best protected U.S. strategic and military forces. China probably also has Super-EMP weapons. North Korea too may possess or be developing a Super-EMP nuclear weapon, as alleged by credible Russian sources to the EMP Commission, and by open-source reporting from South Korean military intelligence. But any nuclear weapon, even a low-yield first generation device, could suffice to make a catastrophic EMP attack on the United States. Iran, although it is assessed as not yet having the bomb, is actively testing missile delivery systems and has practiced launches of its best missile, the Shahab–III, fuzing for high- altitude detonations, in exercises that look suspiciously like training for making EMP attacks. As noted earlier, Iran has also practiced launching from a ship a Scud, the world’s most common missile—possessed by over 60 nations, terrorist groups, and private collectors.

A Scud might be the ideal choice for a ship-launched EMP attack against the United States intended to be executed anonymously, to escape any last-gasp U.S. retaliation. Unlike a nuclear weapon detonated in a city, a high-altitude EMP attack leaves no bomb debris for forensic analysis, no perpetrator ‘‘fingerprints.’’ Under present levels of preparedness, communications would be severely limited, restricted mainly to those few military communications networks that are hardened against EMP.

Today’s microelectronics are the foundation of our modern civilization, but are over 1 million times more vulnerable to EMP than the far more primitive and robust electronics of the 1960s, that proved vulnerable during nuclear EMP tests of that era. Tests conducted by the EMP Commission confirmed empirically the theory that, as modern microelectronics become ever smaller and more efficient, and operate ever faster on lower voltages, they also become ever more vulnerable, and can be destroyed or disrupted by much lower EMP field strengths.

Microelectronics and electronic systems are everywhere, and run virtually everything in the modern world. All of the civilian critical infrastructures that sustain the economy of the United States, and the lives of 310 million Americans, depend, directly or indirectly, upon electricity and electronic systems.

Of special concern is the vulnerability to EMP of the Extra-High-Voltage (EHV) transformers, that are indispensable to the operation of the electric grid. EHV transformers drive electric current over long distances, from the point of generation to consumers (from the Niagara Falls hydroelectric facility to New York City, for example). The electric grid cannot operate without EHV transformers—which could be destroyed by an EMP event. The United States no longer manufactures EHV transformers. They must be manufactured and imported from overseas, from Germany or South Korea, the only two nations in the world that manufacture such transformers for export. Each EHV transformer must be custom-made for its unique role in the grid. A single EHV transformer typically requires 18 months to manufacture. The loss of large numbers of EHV transformers to an EMP event would plunge the United States into a protracted blackout lasting years, with perhaps no hope of eventual recovery, as the society and population probably could not survive for even 1 year without electricity.

Another key vulnerability to EMP are Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition systems (SCADAs). SCADAs essentially are small computers, numbering in the millions and ubiquitous everywhere in the critical infrastructures, that perform jobs previously performed by hundreds of thousands of human technicians during the 1960s and before, in the era prior to the microelectronics revolution. SCADAs do things like regulating the flow of electricity into a transformer, controlling the flow of gas through a pipeline, or running traffic control lights. SCADAs enable a few dozen people to run the critical infrastructures for an entire city, whereas previously hundreds or even thousands of technicians were necessary. Unfortunately, SCADAs are especially vulnerable to EMP.

EHV transformers and SCADAs are the most important vulnerabilities to EMP, but are by no means the only vulnerabilities. Each of the critical infrastructures has their own unique vulnerabilities to EMP:

The National electric grid, with its transformers and generators and electronic controls and thousands of miles of power lines, is a vast electronic machine—more vulnerable to EMP than any other critical infrastructure. Yet the electric grid is the most important of all critical infrastructures, and is in fact the keystone supporting modern civilization, as it powers all the other critical infrastructures. As of now it is our technological Achilles Heel. The EMP Commission found that, if the electric grid collapses, so too will collapse all the other critical infrastructures. But, if the electric grid can be protected and recovered, so too all the other critical infrastructures can also be restored.

Transportation is a critical infrastructure because modern civilization cannot exist without the goods and services moved by road, rail, ship, and air. Cars, trucks, locomotives, ships, and aircraft all have electronic components, motors, and controls that are potentially vulnerable to EMP. Gas stations, fuel pipelines, and refineries that make petroleum products depend upon electronic components and cannot operate without electricity. Given our current state of unpreparedness, in the aftermath of a natural or nuclear EMP event, transportation systems would be paralyzed.

Traffic control systems that avert traffic jams and collisions for road, rail, and air depend upon electronic systems, that the EMP Commission discovered are especially vulnerable to EMP.

Communications is a critical infrastructure because modern economies and the cohesion and operation of modern societies depend to a degree unprecedented in history on the rapid movement of information—accomplished today mostly by electronic means. Telephones, cell phones, personal computers, television, and radio are all directly vulnerable to EMP, and cannot operate without electricity. Satellites that operate at Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) for communications, weather, scientific, and military purposes are vulnerable to EMP and to collateral effects from an EMP attack. Within weeks of an EMP event, the LEO satellites, which comprise most satellites, would probably be inoperable.

Banking and finance are the critical infrastructure that sustain modern economies. Whether it is the stock market, the financial records of a multinational corporation, or the ATM card of an individual—financial transactions and record keeping all depend now at the macro- and micro-level upon computers and electronic automated systems. Many of these are directly vulnerable to EMP, and none can operate without electricity. The EMP Commission found that an EMP event could transform the modern electronic economy into a feudal economy based on barter.

Food has always been vital to every person and every civilization. The critical infrastructure for producing, delivering, and storing food depends upon a complex web of technology, including machines for planting and harvesting and packaging, refrigerated vehicles for long-haul transportation, and temperature-controlled warehouses. Modern technology enables over 98 percent of the U.S. National population to be fed by less than 2 percent of the population. Huge regional warehouses that resupply supermarkets constitute the National food reserves, enough food to feed the Nation for 30–60 days at normal consumption rates, the warehoused food preserved by refrigeration and temperature control systems that typically have enough emergency electrical power (diesel or gas generators) to last only about an average of 3 days. Experience with storm-induced blackouts proves that when these big regional food warehouses lose electrical power, most of the food supply will rapidly spoil. Farmers, less than 2 percent of the population as noted above, cannot feed 310 million Americans if deprived of the means that currently makes possible this technological miracle.

Water too has always been a basic necessity to every person and civilization, even more crucial than food. The critical infrastructure for purifying and delivering potable water, and for disposing of and treating waste water, is a vast networked machine powered by electricity that uses electrical pumps, screens, filters, paddles, and sprayers to purify and deliver drinkable water, and to remove and treat waste water. Much of the machinery in the water infrastructure is directly vulnerable to EMP. The system cannot operate without vast amounts of electricity supplied by the power grid. A natural or nuclear EMP event would immediately deprive most of the U.S. National population of running water. Many natural sources of water—lakes, streams, and rivers—would be dangerously polluted by toxic wastes from sewage, industry, and hospitals that would backflow from or bypass wastewater treatment plants, that could no longer intake and treat pollutants without electric power. Many natural water sources that would normally be safe to drink, after an EMP event, would be polluted with human wastes including feces, industrial wastes including arsenic and heavy metals, and hospital wastes including pathogens.

Emergency services such as police, fire, and hospitals are the critical infrastructure that upholds the most basic functions of government and society—preserving law and order, protecting property and life. Experience from protracted storm-induced blackouts has shown, for example in the aftermath of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, that when the lights go out and communications systems fail and there is no gas for squad cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, the worst elements of society and the worst human instincts rapidly takeover. The EMP Commission found that, given our current state of unpreparedness, a natural or nuclear EMP event could create anarchic conditions that would profoundly challenge the existence of social order.

MICHAEL J. FRANKEL, Senior Scientist, Penn State University, Applied Research Laboratory  

Another important analytic insight provided by the Commission was its understanding and raising the alarm for the prospect of simultaneous failures of the system. All engineers design their systems against single-point failure.

Nobody designs against multiple failures. Here and there you may find some engineers who design against two simultaneous failures. But these failures can be affected not just by EMP. They could be affected by cyber. The important thing is that if there are simultaneous failures over large areas, the analysis of the Commission was things are very likely to fail, and restoration will take a very long time.

While not often considered in tandem, it is more correct to consider EMP vulnerabilities as one end of a continuous spectrum of cyber threats to our electronic-based infrastructures. They share both an overlap in the effects produced—the failure of electronic systems to perform their function and possibly incurring actual physical damage—as well as their mode of inflicting damage. They both reach out through the connecting electronic distribution systems, and impress unwanted voltages and currents on the connecting wires. In the usual cyber case, those unwanted currents contain information—usually in the form of malicious code—that instructs the system to perform actions unwanted and unanticipated by its owner. In the EMP case, the impressed signal does not contain coded information. It is merely a dump of random noise which may flip bit states, or damage components, and also ensures the system will not behave in the way the owner expects.

This electronic noise dump may thus be thought of as a ‘‘stupid cyber’’. When addressing the vulnerability of our infrastructures to the cyber threat, it is important that we not neglect the EMP end of the cyber threat spectrum. And there is another important overlap with the cyber threat. With the grid on the cusp of technological change in the evolution to the ‘‘smart grid’’, the proliferation of sensors and controls which will manage the new grid architecture must be protected against cyber at the same time they must be protected against EMP. Cyber and EMP threats have the unique capability to precipitate highly multiple failures of these many new control systems over a widely distributed geographical area, and such simultaneous failures, as previously discussed, are likely to signal a wider and more long-lasting catastrophe.

Another important legacy of the EMP Commission was to first highlight the danger to our electric grid due to solar storms, which may impress large—and effectively DC—currents on the long runs of conducting cable that make up the distribution system. While this phenomenon has long been known, and protected against, by engineering practices in the power industry, the extreme 100-year storm first analyzed by the Commission is now widely recognized to represent a major danger to our National electrical system for which adequate protective measures have not been taken and whose consequences—the likely collapse of much of the National grid, possibly for a greatly extended period, may rightly be termed catastrophic. At this point, the only scientific controversy attending the likelihood of our system being subject to a so-called super solar storm, is related to the time-constant. But these events have already occurred within the last century or so, they will occur again. We should be ready.

The final report of EMP Commission contained 75 recommendations to improve the survivability, operability, resilience, and recovery of all the critical infrastructures, and in particular of the most key of all, the electrical grid. Most of these recommendations were pointed towards the Department of Homeland Security. While there have been some conversations, it has been hard to detect much of an active resonance at all issuing from the Department. They have not, as far as I know, even designated EMP as a one of their 10 of 15 disaster scenarios for advanced planning circumstances. And this at a time when they do include a low-altitude nuclear disaster—certainly disastrous but not one that would produce wide-ranging EMP.


For severe space weather, the most recent events occurred roughly 90 and 150 years ago, but the timing of the next such occurrence, as with all extreme natural disasters, is unknown.

Mr. PERRY. If we do harden and protect the grid, but this affects potentially all electric and electronic devices, so even though we harden the grid and power stations and can produce power and so on and so forth, will the systems in individual homes and businesses, like refrigerators and heating and cooling systems, will they be affected to the point where they will all need to be replaced, or even while we have power to our homes, none of the lights will come on and so on so forth?

Mr. PRY. It depends on the scenario. If you are talking about a geomagnetic storm, it puts at the wavelength of that, which we call E3, or magnetohydrodynamic EMP is so long that it needs to couple into long lines, like power lines, railroad tracks. It won’t couple into automobiles, refrigerators, personal computers, and things of that sort. So under that scenario, yes, if you basically keep the electric grid on, you will be able to recover the rest of the society pretty promptly. In the nuclear case of a nuclear EMP, it has an electromagnetic shock wave that we call E1. This can couple into personal computers, automobiles, and the like, and so you will have deeper societal damage; but then, again, it depends on the kind of weapon used. If it is a primitive, first-generation nuclear weapon, you know, it is not likely to do that across the whole country. It would be more limited to a several-State-size region. If it is the worst-case kind of a nuclear weapon, like a super EMP weapon, which is what we think Russia, China, and probably North Korea have, you know, then you are talking about a scenario where you are having massive, deep damage to personal computers, and refrigerators, and lights and the rest. But if you don’t have the bulk power system surviving, there is no hope of recovery under those circumstances. Under that worst-case scenario, what you are doing is you are mitigating a catastrophe and turning it into a manageable disaster, a situation where you won’t have massive loss of life, hopefully.

Mr. PERRY. How would you rate the likelihood that the United States will face an EMP event from either a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse, a HEMP, or a massive solar storm?

Mr. FRANKEL. I will take that one. You guys can as well. I think that the likelihood that the United States will face at some point a so-called massive solar storm, and thus our entire system will be under the footprint, if you will, of a massive solar storm, is about 100 percent. It will happen. The uncertainty here, I believe, is the time constant. It could happen next year, it could be 100 years, but probably not 1,000 years. The probability that we will be faced with a nuclear HEMP I would say is unknown. I don’t call it high. I don’t call it low. I would say it is an unknown probability.

Ms. CLARKE. I just wanted to clarify for the record from Dr. Pry and Dr. Frankel. I see that both of you served as staff on the EMP Commission in 2004 or thereabouts, but I am trying to get a sense of what organizations you are representing today, and how can we learn more about those organizations?

Mr. FRANKEL. I am representing only my status as a senior scientist at the Penn State University.

Mr. PRY. We both served on the Congressional EMP Commission through its life, from 2001 to 2008. I am currently the executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, which was an effort to continue the EMP Commission, because the Commissioners, including the chairman, believed it was terminated prematurely before its work was completed. So this task force is an attempt to continue the EMP Commission in some way. Dr. Graham, for example, who is the chairman of that Commission, is the chairman of my task force, and I am here today representing the task force.

Mr. PERRY. Dr. Pry. You mentioned in your testimony a satellite passing over the Washington-New York corridor. I would like you to describe the importance or the potential importance of that, and in that context also please describe the National electric grid interconnection, what regions of the country are most vulnerable to grid collapse as a result of EMP attack.

Mr. PRY. Well, the KSM–3 satellite was orbited by North Korea in December 2012, about 3 months before we had our gravest nuclear crisis with North Korea when in February 2012 they ignited— they conducted their third nuclear test, violating international law, and when the United States international community moved to impose additional sanctions to punish North Korea for this, they started threatening to make nuclear strikes against the United States. There was a nuclear crisis so grave during the period from February 12 through the end of April that, you know, the President was sending B–2 bombers over the demilitarized zone to do practice bombing runs and demonstration exercises; strengthened the National missile defense, including moving a THAAD interceptor to Guam just in case Kim Jong-Un tried to deliver on these nuclear threats. In the midst of this crisis, the KSM–3, which was still orbiting, its orbit followed the exact orbit that the Soviets had come up with in the Cold War for a secret nuclear weapon to conduct a surprise nuclear attack called a fractional orbital bombardment system. It is basically a space launch vehicle that uses a nuclear weapon disguised as a satellite, and instead of launching over the North Pole and following a normal ballistic trajectory toward the United States, it launches south and crosses over the south polar region and comes up from—approaches from the south because we don’t have any ballistic missile early warning radars in that location or interceptors, and we are blind to the south and defenseless, and so you would be able to detonate a warhead and do an EMP attack and catch us by surprise. That was the plan during the Cold War, and the trajectory and the altitude of this satellite were precisely the same as the kinds of fobs that the Soviets had used. Between April 8 and the 16th of April, it went from the center of the United States, and on the 16th was passing over the Washington, DC/New York corridor, which is the ideal location for putting down a peak field, because if you look at where our EHV transformers are located, they are most deeply located, the largest numbers of them, the map is just almost a solid block of red because it is so densely concentrated, the EHV transformers in that area. If you wanted to take down the eastern grid, that would be the best place to place a peak EMP field. Taking out the eastern grid is really all you have to do because 75 percent of our power is generated in the eastern grid. The western grid is the next most important, and the Texas grid is the third most important. But that was the KSM–3 threat and its relationship to the grid system.

Mr. PERRY. Speaking of those, the transformers, it has been noted that the Extremely High-Voltage, the EHV transformers which are indispensable to the electric grid, are expensive and hard to replace. If you know, what is the lead time for manufacturing new or replacement transformers, and given that there are limited manufacturers in the United States, where are the suppliers located?

Mr. PRY. There are two places that manufacture these for export, South Korea and Germany, and we are still dependent on them.

There is a DHS briefing going around that says we have limited capabilities to manufacture EHV transformers in the United States. In fact, we currently don’t really have demonstrated capability to manufacture these transformers in the United States yet. They have to be made by hand the way they were made back in Nikola Tesla’s day, the inventor of the EHV transformer. So every one of them is custom made, every one of them has a unique role to play in the grid. They aren’t mass produced. It is not easy. There is a lot of artisanship that goes into the making of these transformers.

Brazil tried to become independent of making its own EHV transformers a decade ago, and it took them 5 years before they were able to start attempting to make their first transformers, and they didn’t perform well. So now Brazil gave up on that, and it has to import them.

So it remains to be seen if the United States can actually manufacture any of its own EHV transformers. We haven’t manufactured one and put them out in the field and seen if they last and stand up to this. It takes 18 months under normal conditions to build one of these transformers.

Ms. CLARKE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to add to the DHS question that I had raised earlier that one of the observations of the Sandy event was the unintended consequence of the grid going—the electricity going out was that people forgot that fuel stations are run through—by electricity, and so we ended up having a fuel crisis at the same time. So there is sort of a collateral damage piece to this that I hope is acknowledged as we go through this discussion about what happens in areas when just in a short period of time electrical shortages occur or the grid goes out, because even if you were trying to move physical assets, if you don’t prepare for things like fuel stations that are run by electricity, you will have a massive issue.

Mr. FRANKS. We realize that if indeed we did lose our grid, in a worst-case scenario, and we are not projecting a worst-case scenario, but if it did happen, really the aftermath where society would begin to tear ourselves apart seems to be the most frightening aspect of it to me. So the cost of doing nothing is significantly high, and I think you have demonstrated that well, but could you give us a sense of how expensive it would be to harden our bulk power system enough to recover from a major event; in other words, where we keep our main components intact, and we can bring our grid back on-line? I have been told that a couple, $3 billion over 5 years might do it, and that might be less than $1 per year per ratepayer. Am I accurately expressing that?

Mr. PRY. Yes. In fact, your estimate is high compared to the Congressional EMP Commission’s estimate, which was that it would cost about $2 billion over 3 to 5 years to harden the bulk power system, and $10–20 billion over that same period, you know, would protect all of the critical infrastructures.

Mr. BECK. The U.S. electric grid is the most complicated in the world both by physical design; by the overlapping regulatory authority, 50 States, a Federal Government, 3,500 electric companies, et cetera. When we did the international study, it was pretty easy, and one of the things where lessons learned was easy was because you could look at Finland, which has one company and one regulator, right? So a much easier thing to deal with. Here it is—that does make it very difficult, and so I have to—in all honesty, and not to try to duck the question, but the answer is somewhat complicated because there are all these agencies, and there isn’t just one agency that is in charge.

Mr. FRANKEL. Yes, certainly the Department of Homeland Security, I think, has the primary responsibility, but we should also not forget the Department of Energy. They have offices of energy assurance, and they should also be playing some role. Right now I don’t discern exactly what it is, but somewhere between those two, with DHS in the primary role, I think that is where you look for leadership. I want to at least mention the Department of Defense not in a leadership role in this instance, but they are doing a lot of relevant work developing hardening techniques. Worried about their own networks and things of that sort, but they have very important technology support to contribute to that sort of thing. But in the end it is not their responsibility, and it is not their mission, and they are not going to do it. You need to look at those two Departments for leadership.

Mr. PRY. I agree with what has been said. The Department of Homeland Security, especially when you are looking at the role from the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act for planning, training, and resource allocation for emergency planners and responders—under the Department of Homeland Security, within the Department of Homeland Security, the logical regulatory authority to work most closely over the electric grid should be the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. FERC, and this would be addressed by the SHIELD Act that Mr. Franks is sponsoring in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I think this is really like the—almost equally important with the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act in terms of its passage, because the reality and the reason we have this problem is because the electric power industry exists in a 19th Century regulatory environment. I mean, there is no Federal agency that has the kind of regulatory authority relative to the electric power industry that, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration has over the airline industry, you know. I think all Americans and even Tea Party Republicans would agree that, you know, we need an FAA so you have independent inspectors who will go out and see, you know, is there metal fatigue in the wings of this aircraft, and when that airplane can’t fly, and that if an airplane crashes, you have an FAA to inspect the crash and find out what happened so that it never happens again. We do this because hundreds of lives are at stake, and we need to maintain the public safety. That is why we have an FAA. But the U.S. FERC doesn’t have that power. It can ask the NERC, which represents the industry, and previously was a trade association, by the way, and unofficially is a lobby for the electric power industry, and NERC is the one that is in charge. They regulate themselves through the NERC. The FERC can ask them to come up with a plan.

The great 2003 Northeast blackout was caused by a falling tree branch that caused cascading—it took them 10 years for NERC to come up with a plan, vegetation management plan. So not just—you know, cyber 5 years; they were asked for a plan some 5 years before they started moving on that. So U.S. FERC, I say, would be the tip of the spear for dealing with the electric power industry.

Mr. Pry. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a super-energetic radio wave that can destroy, damage, or cause the malfunction of electronic systems by overloading their circuits. EMP is harmless to people biologically, passing through their bodies without injury, like a radio wave. But by damaging electronic systems that make modern society possible, that enable computers to function and airliners to fly for example, EMP can cause mass destruction of property and life.

It would take about 3.5 years to harden the grid.

Thousands of emergency planners and first responders at the Federal, State, and local level want to protect our Nation and their States and communities from the EMP threat, but they are seriously hindered and even prohibited from doing so because the EMP threat is not among the 15 canonical National planning scenarios utilized by the Department of Homeland Security.

House 112-115. September 12, 2012. The EMP threat: Examining the consequences. House of Representatives. 64 pages.

Mr. LUNGREN. An EMP is a burst of electromagnetic radiation typically generated by a high-altitude nuclear explosion or a non-nuclear device. Nuclear weapon EMPs are most effective when detonated high in the altitude above the intended target. Depending on the yield of the weapon and the height of the explosion, nuclear EMPs can destroy large portions of the U.S. power and communications infrastructure

Geomagnetic radiation generated by a naturally occurring solar storm can also damage the same infrastructure. An EMP attack would destroy the electronics and digital circuitry in the area of impact, thereby denying electric power to our homes, businesses, and military.

Our country is dependent on electricity to power our health, financial, transportation, and business systems. If our power system was ever lost for an extended period, according to Dr. William Graham, the chairman of the EMP Commission, it would have catastrophic and lethal consequences for our citizens and the economy. It would also potentially degrade our military defenses.

America’s digital dependence grows every year and we rejoice in that. But the fact of the matter is that along with that dependence comes our EMP vulnerability. What I mean by that is America has gotten used to the digital world. It powers and is implicated in so much of our everyday life, that if it were in fact attacked in a serious way, it would result in some cases, unforeseen circumstances. What I mean by that is most people don’t think about them.

Computer simulations carried out in March 2010 by Oak Ridge National Laboratory demonstrated that an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear device detonated at high altitude or a powerful solar storm could destroy or permanently damage major sections of our National power grid. According to this Oak Ridge study, the collapse of our power system could impact 130 million Americans, could require 4 to 10 years to fully recover, and could impose economic costs between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

The National electric grid has almost no backup capability in the event of a power collapse from electromagnetic pulses. According to FERC testimony presented this morning, existing bulk power reliability standards don’t even address EMP vulnerabilities. In addition, with most of the Nation’s power system under private ownership, who view an EMP event as unlikely or so we are told, there is been little preparation for a long-term power collapse. Although the impact of an EMP event has been examined, studied, and debated, I am fearful that little progress seems to have been made in mitigating the EMP threat. Although the United States has conducted numerous exercises to test our readiness against natural events such as hurricanes, we have never conducted an exercise to help us prepare for the severe consequences of a National power outage from an EMP event. I am informed that the Defense Department takes this seriously and, therefore, has taken steps to protect many of their critical infrastructure from an EMP event. Either they are wasting a lot of money because it is not a serious event—we should stop them from doing it and save us billions of dollars—or it is a serious threat to our National defense capabilities, and we ought to look in the same way in terms of our domestic capabilities. That is, what sustains our standard of living, but in some ways, a way of life for the American public.

I don’t want to be an alarmist on this. I want to be a realist on this. That is why we have asked a number of people to testify here today. My thought is that the more information, the greater awareness the American people have and that we as leaders have, the better we will be prepared to deal with this, as long as we understand what the true consequences are.

With most of the Nation’s power system under private ownership, who view an EMP event as unlikely, there has been little preparation for a long-term power collapse.


Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a serious threat to the continued existence of the United States as a major military, economic, and social power. Indeed, EMP is a major threat to the continued existence of the United States in any form.

High-altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) is the generation of a very intense pulse of radio waves using a nuclear weapon or device exploded in space near the Earth. The radiation from the nuclear bomb excites and agitates the Earth’s ionosphere which generates a large zone of intense radio waves that can disable electronic equipment and communications equipment throughout the Nation.

A HEMP attack consisting of a single high-yield nuclear weapon exploded a couple of hundred miles above the United States would disable electronics and communications through most of the Nation. Most of our Nation’s electronic infrastructure uses solid-state electronics and microprocessors that are quite vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse. The failure of much of our electronics infrastructure would cause serious problems in supplying food, water, electric power, and communications to our population. In addition, the functions of business, government, and law enforcement would be greatly impaired. Panic, rioting, and the failure of law and order would probably occur.

I have devoted many years of my life to bringing the EMP threat to the attention of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Donald J. Schellhardt and I have submitted two formal petitions to the FCC calling for a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) and a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on EMP. Refer to Note 4. In addition, we have filed other formal comments with the Commission on this subject. The FCC has declined to take any positive action on EMP. I am rather puzzled that the FCC refuses to act to protect our communications infrastructure from EMP. The subject is certainly interesting and it would be desirable to avoid the great damage that would result from any EMP attack. There is ample evidence that EMP is a real and serious threat to the Nation. Certainly, if an EMP attack did occur, the Nation would not be friendly towards the decision makers who refused to protect against EMP attacks and their consequences.

HOSTILE NATIONS. We can all easily imagine several nations that would be quite happy if the United States were to collapse in response to an EMP attack. In their view, EMP would be a rather convenient method for deleting a major competitor. While launching a missile with a warhead from a ship is not an easy task, it is certainly easier than other methods of eliminating the United States. Also, the structure of the United States may become so shattered by an attack that other nations could actually colonize parts of the former United States.

AMATEUR RADIO can perform local and long-distance communications during and after these chaotic events. Congress should establish legislation that would allow amateur radio operators to establish minimum-sized amateur radio antennas despite opposition of homeowner associations, condominium managements, and rental landlords.

Mr. LUNGREN. We have several panels of distinguished witnesses before us today. The sole witness of our first panel is Congressman Trent Franks. He represents Arizona’s second Congressional district, serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, where he currently chairs the Constitutional Law Subcommittee. In addition, Congressman Franks serves as the co-chair of the Congressional EMP Caucus, and has studied this issue for several years.

HON. TRENT FRANKS ( ARIZONA). As a Nation, we have spent billions of dollars over the years hardening our nuclear triad, our missile defense capabilities, and numerous other critical elements of our National security apparatus against the effects of electromagnetic pulse, particularly the type that might be generated by a high-altitude nuclear warhead detonation over our country by one of America’s enemies. However, our civilian grid, which the Defense Department relies upon for nearly 99 percent of its electricity needs, is completely vulnerable to the same kind of danger. This constitutes an invitation on the part of certain enemies of the United States to use the asymmetric capability of EMP against us. There is now evidence that such strategies are being considered by certain of those enemies. We recently witnessed, as you said, Mr. Chairman, the chaos that attends a prolonged power outage when the derecho storm impacted the District of Columbia and the surrounding area. Our sick and elderly suffered without air conditioning. Grocery stores were unable to keep food fresh. Gas lines grew. Thankfully, the derecho had only a regional and limited impact.

In 2004 and 2008, the EMP Commission testified before the Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, that the U.S. society and economy are so critically dependent upon the availability of electricity that a significant collapse of our grid precipitated by a major natural or manmade EMP event could result in catastrophic civilian casualties. This conclusion is echoed by separate reports recently compiled by the DOD, DHS, DOE, NAS, along with various other agencies and independent researchers.

While there are those certainly who believe that the likelihood of terrorists or rogue nations obtaining nuclear weapons and using them in an EMP attack is remote, the recent events of the Arab Spring our intelligence apparatus did not foresee, show us that regimes can change very quickly. Iran’s increasingly obvious efforts to gain nuclear weapons should serve as a grave and urgent warning to all of us.

Catalyzed by a major solar storm, a high-altitude nuclear blast, or a non-nuclear, device-induced Intentional Electromagnetic Interference, this invisible force of ionized particles has the capability to overwhelm and destroy our present electrical power grids and electrical equipment, including electronic communication networks, radio equipment, integrated circuits, and computers. The reality of the potentially devastating effects of sufficiently intense electromagnetic pulse on the electronic systems/sources of many of our critical defense and National security components is well-established, and beyond dispute.

Automated hardware is particularly important when one considers the shortcomings of procedural safety measures alone in response to an EMP event. According to solar weather experts, there is only 20–30 minutes’ warning from the time we predict a solar storm may affect us to the time it actually does. This is simply not enough time to implement procedures that will adequately protect the grid. Furthermore, these predictions are only accurate one out of three times. This places a crushing dilemma on industry, who must decide whether or not to heed the warning with the knowledge that a wrong decision either way could result in the loss of thousands or even millions of lives and massive legal ramifications beyond expression.

Because of new understandings of how EMP interacts with the Earth’s electromagnetic field, and that it is intensified over large land mass, we now believe that if a warhead with a nuclear yield of just 100 kilotons detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over America’s heartland, the resulting damage to our electric grid and infrastructure would be catastrophic across most of the continental United States. Such a result would be devastating to our electricity, transportation, water and food supply, medical care, financial networks, telecommunication and broadcasting systems and our infrastructure in general. Under such a scenario, both military and productive capability would be devastated. The immediate and eventual impact, directly and indirectly, on the human population, especially in major cities, is unthinkable. It should be remembered that EMP was first considered as a military weapon during the ‘‘Cold War’’ as a means of paralyzing U.S. retaliatory forces. America’s EMP commission began their 70-page executive summary describing a one- or two-missile EMP attack as one of the few threats which look as if it could defeat the U.S. military.

Dr. William Graham, the chairman of the EMP Commission, testified before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, and stated: ‘‘EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. ‘‘…A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication. For example, an adversary would not have to have long-range ballistic missiles to conduct an EMP attack against the United States. Such an attack could be launched from a freighter off the U.S. coast using a short- or medium-range missile to loft a nuclear warhead to high altitude. Terrorists sponsored by a rogue state could potentially execute such an attack without revealing their identity.’’ Dr. Graham has said that a major catastrophic EMP attack on the United States could cause an estimated 70–90 percent of the our Nation’s population to become unsustainable.

It is impossible for me to even wrap my mind around that figure.

But for terrorists, this is their ultimate goal, and I believe EMP is their ultimate asymmetric weapon. In 1988, Osama bin Laden called it a religious duty for al-Qaeda to acquire nuclear weapons. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has stated: ‘‘My worst nightmare is terrorists with nuclear weapons. Not only do I know they are trying to get them, but I know they will use them.’’ This is indeed the greatest danger of all. If a rogue state like Iran steps over the nuclear threshold, rogue regimes and terrorists the world over will have access to these monstrous weapons.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again made it clear where he stands on Israel when he declared, ‘‘[Israel] is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene.’’ Jewish author, Primo Levi, was once asked what he had learned from the Holocaust. He replied, ‘‘When a man with a gun says he’s going to kill you—believe him.’’

At this moment, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who, in the same breath, both denies the Holocaust ever occurred, and then threatens to make it happen again, is arrogantly seeking a gun with which he vows to wipe the state of Israel off the map.

He has also said: ‘‘The time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.’’ He has said point-blank, ‘‘The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world.’’ Unfortunately, he talks like a man who knows something the rest of us don’t. It is not enough, to casually dismiss his fanatical rhetoric. When analyzing the nature of any threat, we must always seriously assess two things: A potential enemy’s intent and his corresponding capacity to carry out any such intent.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his regime have stated very clearly their intent to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth and America and the West brought to their knees. Nuclear warheads could give them the capacity to effectively proceed in that endeavor.

Mr. Chairman and Members, these things should not surprise us. We are now 65 years into the nuclear age, and the ominous intersection of jihadist terrorism and nuclear proliferation has been inexorably and relentlessly rolling toward America and the free world for decades. But, when we add the dimension of asymmetric electromagnetic pulse attacks to that equation, we face a menace that may represent the gravest short-term threat to the peace and security of the human family in the world today.

Is a regime change in Pakistan possible? Will there be blowback from our involvement in Libya? What about the current crisis in Syria? Will North Korea ever supply or sell its nuclear technology or warheads to terrorists? Will Iran develop or obtain nuclear weapons? Iran’s increasingly obvious efforts to gain nuclear weapons should serve as a grave and urgent warning to all of us. If terrorists or rogue states do acquire nuclear weapons, hardening our electric grid would become a desperate priority for our Nation. However, that process will take several years, while a regime change takes only weeks and a missile launch only minutes. The fact that we are now 100% vulnerable means we should start securing our electric infrastructure now. Indeed, by reducing our vulnerability we may reduce the likelihood that terrorists or rogue states would attempt such an attack.

We should always remember that 7 decades ago, another murderous ideology arose in the world. The dark shadow of the Nazi swastika fell first upon the Jewish people of Germany. And because the world did not heed the warnings of men like Winston Churchill and respond to that evil in time, it began to spread across Europe until it lit the fires of World War II’s hell on earth which saw atomic bombs fall upon cities and over 50 million people dead worldwide.

History has repeatedly shown humanity to be susceptible to malignant dangers that approach inaudibly and nestle among us with innocuous countenance until a day of sudden calamity finds us empty-handed, broken-hearted, and without excuse.

Mr. LUNGREN. Where is the failure? Is the failure with the Congress? Is the failure with the Executive branch? Is the failure with critical infrastructure owners? If this is as serious as you suggest, as some of these reports suggest, the lack of attention to it is something that bewilders me. You have been involved in a lot of issues on the Armed Services Committee and so forth, and I am trying to figure out what is it that is lacking on this issue that does not garner the attention of the American people? In other words, is there a lack of consensus about the threat? Is there a serious question about whether this is a serious issue?

Mr. FRANKS. I would only suggest to you that when the EMP Commission came to the Armed Services Committee in 2004, I had been aware of EMP. My background is engineering. I had been aware of it, but I thought it was like something that could be catastrophic, but the chances of it happening were so remote.The testimony was that five other nations were developing this as an offensive capability. Certainly, the Soviet Union had a major EMP component in their nuclear strategy. So there is a … clear consensus of the danger this represents. However, when you go over into the civilian areas, it seemed like there is a general, sort of a lackadaisical, kind of a——

Mr. LUNGREN. Let me ask you about that, because I have found most people who are involved in critical infrastructure in the private sector are serious-minded folks. They do recognize the value of their assets. In most cases, when I am dealing with them on issues, I find them to be forward-thinking and to actually try and protect those assets. They articulate that in a way so that they can justify certain capital investments to their shareholders or their ratepayers. Well, let me ask you this: Do you find the attention to the protection of their assets that you believe to be necessary, and if not, why as the owners and protectors of those assets, is this not taken more seriously?

Mr. FRANKS. I think that is a good question. It has been something that has bewildered me to a degree. It seemed just a few years ago, as this became more well-known that there was a more serious—or at least a more recognizable response. It seemed like in the last year, there has been sort of a pushback in parts of industry. My concern is if they have credible, scientific bases for being unconcerned or not addressing it as vigorously as some of us think that it should be, then I would adjure them to bring that testimony and that evidence to the rest of us. Because I can suggest to you that I haven’t seen it. It may be that there is some concern on the part of major manufacturers of these large components, transformers and others, that are somewhat out of professional pride. That they either don’t want to recognize the danger or somehow they feel like that there would be some requirement of reengineering of some of these major components if they did. But I would suggest that the potential liability here is off the charts. The fix here—and this would probably be one of the more important points to point out—the fix here is fairly simple, at least in terms of protecting our electric-producing grid—not all the elements that are connected to it. That is a huge issue. But at least to be able to keep the lights on—electricity coming—that is a fairly easy fix.

The primary thing that the Shield Act addresses is to make sure that our major transformers are 750 KV corridor are not destroyed, which means that we would be in a catastrophic civilizational challenge where we wouldn’t have electricity and wouldn’t be able to perhaps restore it for months or even years. That is the worst-case scenario. The Shield is designed to prevent that. Some of these ancillary damages on cell phones, radios, things like that, it is difficult to mitigate against that in a short-term fix. We have to harden as we go. But my contention is if we take those components as we rebuild them and replace them and harden them against EMP, which we can do that. It adds about 10 percent to the cost of doing that. Then we can eventually get past this vulnerability. But the main big vulnerability that we have right now is the potential damage to our major transformers that could be caused by either a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse or GMD.

Finally, I would just say that the worst-case scenario is so bad that rather than preparing for it, we must prevent it from ever occurring.

Joseph McClelland, Director, Office of Electric Reliability, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Faced with a National security threat to reliability, there may be a need to act decisively in hours or days, rather than weeks, months, or years. That would not be feasible even under the expedited process. In the meantime, the bulk power system would be left vulnerable to a known National security threat. Moreover, existing procedures, including the expedited action procedure, could widely publicize both the vulnerability and the proposed solution, thus increasing the risk of hostile actions before the appropriate solutions are implemented.

In addition, a reliability standard submitted to the Commission by NERC may not be sufficient to address the identified vulnerability or threat. Since FERC may not directly modify a proposed reliability standard under section 215 and must either approve or remand it, FERC would have the choice of approving an inadequate standard and directing changes, which reinitiates a process that can take years, or rejecting the standard altogether. Under either approach, the bulk power system would remain vulnerable for a prolonged period.

Finally, the open and inclusive process required for standards development is not consistent with the need to protect security-sensitive information. For instance, a formal request for a new standard would normally detail the need for the standard as well as the proposed mitigation to address the issue, and the NERC-approved version of the standard would be filed with the Commission for review. This public information could help potential adversaries in planning attacks.

Regarding man-made events, EMP can also be generated by weapons. Equipment and plans are readily available that have the capability to generate high-energy bursts, termed ‘‘E1’’, that can damage or destroy electronics such as those found in control and communication systems on the power grid. These devices can be portable and effective, facilitating simultaneous coordinated attacks, and can be reused, allowing use against multiple targets. The most comprehensive man-made EMP threat is from a high-altitude nuclear explosion. It would affect an area defined by the ‘‘line-of-sight’’ from the point of detonation. The higher the detonation the larger the area affected, and the more powerful the explosion the stronger the EMP emitted. The first component of the resulting pulse E1 occurs within a fraction of a second and can destroy control and communication electronics. The second component is termed ‘‘E2’’ and is similar to lightning, which is well-known and mitigated by industry. Toward the end of an EMP event, the third element, E3, occurs. This causes the same effect as solar magnetic disturbances. It can damage or destroy power transformers connected to long transmission lines and cause voltage problems and instability on the electric grid, which can lead to wide-area blackouts. It is important to note that effective mitigation against solar magnetic disturbances and non-nuclear EMP weaponry provides effective mitigation against a high-altitude nuclear explosion.

In 2001, Congress established a commission to assess the threat from EMP, with particular attention to be paid to the nature and magnitude of high-altitude EMP threats to the United States; vulnerabilities of U.S. military and civilian infrastructure to such attack; capabilities to recover from an attack; and the feasibility and cost of protecting military and civilian infrastructure, including energy infrastructure.

In 2004, the EMP commission issued a report describing the nature of EMP attacks, vulnerabilities to EMP attacks, and strategies to respond to an attack. A second report was produced in 2008 that further investigated vulnerabilities of the Nation’s infrastructure to EMP. The reports concluded that both electrical equipment and control systems can be damaged by EMP. The reports also pointed out how the interdependencies among the various infrastructures could become vulnerabilities after an EMP. In particular, they point to the electrical infrastructure’s need of the communication and natural gas infrastructures.

In 1859, a major solar storm occurred, causing auroral displays and significant shifts of the Earth’s magnetic fields. As a result, telegraphs were rendered useless and several telegraph stations burned down. The impacts of that storm were muted because semiconductor technology did not exist at the time. Were the storm to happen today, according to an article in Scientific American, it could ‘‘severely damage satellites, disable radio communications, and cause continent-wide electrical black-outs that would require weeks or longer to recover from.’’3 Although storms of this magnitude occur rarely, storms and flares of lesser intensity occur more frequently. Storms of about half the intensity of the 1859 storm occur every 50 years or so according to the authors of the Scientific American article, and the last such storm occurred in November 1960, leading to world-wide geomagnetic disturbances and radio outages. The power grid is particularly vulnerable to solar storms, as transformers are electrically grounded to the Earth and susceptible to damage from geo-magnetically-induced currents. The damage or destruction of numerous transformers across the country would result in reduced grid functionality and even prolonged power outages. In March 2010, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge) and its subcontractor Metatech released a study that explored the vulnerability of the electric grid to EMP-related events. This study was a joint effort contracted by FERC staff, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security and expanded on the information developed in other initiatives, including the EMP commission reports. The series of reports provided detailed technical background and outlined which sections of the power grid are most vulnerable, what equipment would be affected, and what damage could result. Protection concepts for each threat and additional methods for remediation were also included along with suggestions for mitigation. The results of the study support the general conclusion that EMP events pose substantial risk to equipment and operation of the Nation’s power grid and under extreme conditions could result in major long-term electrical outages. In fact, solar magnetic disturbances are inevitable with only the timing and magnitude subject to variability. The study assessed the 1921 solar storm, which has been termed a 1-in-100-year event, and applied it to today’s power grid. The study concluded that such a storm could damage or destroy up to 300 bulk power system transformers, interrupting service to 130 million people for a period of years.

In February 2012, NERC released its Interim Report: Effects of Geomagnetic Disturbances on the Bulk Power System. In it, NERC concluded that the most likely worst-case system impact from a severe geomagnetic disturbance is voltage instability and voltage collapse with limited equipment damage.

The existing reliability standards do not address EMP vulnerabilities. Protecting the electric generation, transmission, and distribution systems from severe damage due to an EMP-related event would involve vulnerability assessments at every level of electric infrastructure.


The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack recommended in its final report that DHS ‘‘play a leading role in spreading knowledge of the nature of prudent mitigation preparations for EMP attack to mitigate its consequences.’’

EMPs can be high-frequency, similar to a flash of lightning or a spark of static electricity, or low- frequency, similar to an aurora-induced phenomenon. An EMP can spike in less than a nanosecond or can continue longer than 24 hours, depending on its source. The consequences of an EMP range from permanent physical damage to temporary system disruptions and can result in fires, electric shocks to people and equipment, and critical service outages. There are four general classes of EMP.

High-altitude EMP (HEMP) results from a nuclear detonation typically occurring 15 or more miles above the Earth’s surface. The extent of HEMP effects depends on several factors, including the altitude of the detonation, the weapon yield and design, and the electromagnetic shielding, or ‘‘hardening,’’ of assets. One high-altitude burst could blanket the entire continental United States and could cause widespread power outages and communications disruptions and possible damage to the electricity grid for weeks or longer.4 HEMP threat vectors can originate from a missile, such as a sea-launched ballistic missile; a satellite asset; or a relatively low- cost balloon-borne vehicle. A concern is the growing number of nation-states that in the past have sponsored terrorism and are now developing capabilities that could be used in a HEMP attack.

Source Region EMP (SREMP) is a burst of energy similar to HEMP but differs in that it is created when a nuclear weapon detonates at lower altitudes within the atmosphere. SREMP can occur when a detonation occurs on or near the ground, as would likely be the case of a terrorist nuclear device attack. A SREMP’s electromagnetic field is much more limited in range than that from HEMP; it would only affect a delimited geographic area. SREMP can induce very high currents on power cables or metallic communications lines near the fireball, and it can send extreme spikes of energy great distances from the blast zone along these metal lines, potentially causing fires where these lines meet other infrastructures. In addition, the SREMP travels through the air and can damage or disrupt equipment connected to Ethernet cables, telephone lines, and power cords out to 70 miles or more. Electronic systems not connected to power cords or communications lines, such as a cell phone, are generally resistant to SREMP but become useless if the infrastructure that supports them is non-functional. While SREMP is not the primary reason a terrorist would detonate a nuclear weapon, it is important to note that all ground-based detonations create SREMP of sufficient magnitude to cause infrastructure disruptions, including an improvised nuclear device, a crude nuclear device that could be built from the components of a stolen weapon or from using nuclear materials. Given the possible impacts of SREMP, such as secondary fires and the disruptions of power, communications, and other critical infrastructures, it is an important consideration in our Department’s planning to mitigate and respond to this type of attack.

Since the 1980s, our power grid control systems and information infrastructures have been growing in their reliance on the Ethernet and computers, which are much more vulnerable to E1 EMP than previous control and communications systems designs. Likewise, the power grid today is much more vulnerable to (E3 EMP) and solar storms than the grid of the 1970s and 80s due to the increasing network size and evolution to higher operating voltages.

Unlike HEMP and SREMP, which primarily disrupt Earth-based infrastructures, System Generated EMP (SGEMP) is a threat to space-based assets, such as satellites or a space station. SGEMPs originate from a nuclear weapon detonation above the atmosphere that sends out damaging X-rays that strike space systems. Both SGEMP and HEMP are similar, in that they both originate from a high-altitude burst. The Department’s chief concern with SGEMP and other related high- altitude nuclear effects is that satellite or other space systems that support critical communications and navigation services, as well as essential intelligence functions, can be immediately disrupted. SGEMP and other related effects could also harm systems supporting any astronaut in space. The fourth type of EMP is Non-Nuclear EMP, or NNEP. This type of EMP can be created by Radio Frequency Weapons (RFWs), devices designed to produce sufficient electromagnetic energy to burn out or disrupt electronic components, systems, and networks. RFWs can either be electrically-driven, where they create narrowband or wideband microwaves, or they can be explosively driven, where an explosive is used to compress a magnetic field to generate the pulse. Multiple nations have used RFWs since the 1960s to disable or jam security, communications, and navigation systems; induce fires; and disrupt financial infrastructures. Devices that can be used as RFWs have unintentionally caused aircraft crashes and near crashes, pipeline explosions, gas spills, computer damage, vehicle malfunctions, weapons explosions, and public water system malfunctions.5 The Department believes that much of the mitigation and planning we are doing for other types of EMP will help reduce our threat to NNEP.


SOLAR WEATHER is created as a result of massive explosions on the sun that may shoot radiation towards the Earth. These effects can reach the Earth in as little as 8 minutes with Solar Flare X-rays or over 14 hours later with a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) plasma hurricane. An extreme CME is the Department’s biggest Solar Weather concern. It could create low-frequency EMP similar to a megaton-class nuclear HEMP detonation over the United States, which could disrupt or damage the power grid, undersea cables, and other critical infrastructures. The United States experiences many solar weather events each year, but major storms that could significantly impact today’s infrastructures are not common but have previously occurred in 1921 and 1859 and possibly in several other years prior to the establishment of the modern power grid. The U.S. Department of Energy and utility owners and

In the last 200 years, only the 1859 and 1921 solar superstorms are believed by experts to have exceeded the 4,000 nanoTesla/minute level over the United States. If one of these storms were to occur today, many experts believe they would likely damage key elements of the power grid and could cause very long-term power outages over much of the United States.

POTENTIAL IMPACTS TO CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE. Overall, EMP in its various forms can cause widespread disruption and serious damage to electronic devices and networks, including those upon which many critical infrastructures rely, such as communication systems, information technology equipment, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) modules. SCADA modules are used in infrastructure such as electric grids, water supplies, and pipelines. The disruptions to SCADA systems that could result from EMP range from SCADA control errors to actual SCADA equipment destruction. Secondary effects of EMP may harm people through induced fires, electric shocks, and disruptions of transportation and critical support systems, such as those at hospitals or sites like nuclear power plants and chemical facilities. EMP places all critical infrastructure sectors at risk. Those sectors that rely heavily on communications technology, information technology, the electric grid, or that use a SCADA system are particularly vulnerable. The complex interconnectivity among critical infrastructure sectors means that EMP incidents that affect a single sector will likely affect other sectors—potentially resulting in cascading failures. The interdependent nature of all 18 critical infrastructure sectors complicates the impact of the event and recovery from it.


I would also say that some of the information associated with the likelihood of an EMP being used would have to be done in a closed hearing.

REFERENCES (112-115, 2nd post)

The text of the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack is available at the web site: www.empcommission.org.

This document confirms the serious impact of an EMP attack on the infrastructure of the United States.

Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts— A Workshop Report, National Academy of Sciences, National Academies Press, Publication Year 2008, PAPERBACK, ISBN–10:0–309–12769–6, ISBN–13:978–0–309– 12769–1. This document can be accessed on-line at the URL: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?recordlid=12507.

Robert Schroeder, ‘‘Electromagnetic Pulse and Its Implications for EmComm’’, QST magazine, November 2009, pages 38 through 41. [The term EmComm refers to emergency communication.]

Petitions to the Federal Communications Commission by Donald J. Schellhardt and Nickolaus E. Leggett: Docket RM–5528, Request to Consider Requirements for Shielding and Bypassing Civilian Communications Systems from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Effects. Docket RM–10330, Amendment of the Commission’s Rules to Shield Electronics Equipment Against Acts of War or Terrorism Involving Hostile Use of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).

Daniel N. Baker and James L. Green, ‘‘The Perfect Solar Superstorm’’, Sky & Telescope, February 2011, Vol. 121 No. 2, Pages 28–34.

Publications Dealing with the Protection of Civil Equipment and Systems from the Effects of HEMP and HPEM—Issued by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) SC 77C.

Mark Clayton, ‘‘Is US Ready for a ‘Solar Tsunami’? ‘‘The Christian Science Monitor, June 27, 2011, Page 20.

H.R. 668, Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act (SHIELD Act). This bill was introduced on February 11, 2011. This bill addresses the subjects of solar geomagnetic storms and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) impacting the electric power industry.

‘‘Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: Critical National Infrastructures,’’ April 2008, page 181. This report presents the results of the Commission’s assessment of the effects of a high-altitude EMP attack on our critical National infrastructures and provides recommendations for their mitigation.

Graham, Dr. William R. et al., Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (2004).

Dr. John S. Foster, Jr. et al., Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (2008).

Odenwald, Sten F. and Green, James L., Bracing the Satellite Infrastructure for a Solar Superstorm, Scientific American Magazine (Jul. 28, 2008).

Robert L. Schweitzer, LTG (ret) USA, ‘‘Radio Frequency Weapons: The Emerging Threat and Policy Implications,’’ Eagan, McAllister Associates, October 1998; see also: Overview of Evolving and Enduring Threats to Information Systems, National Communications System, August 2012.





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