Would batteries be affected by an EMP?

Protection against an EMP attack

Even in the USA there are hardly any precautions against the weapon of the electronic age, which has been suppressed because of its consequences and which could paralyze the power grid and electronics in large parts of a country

In the US it has long been a topic that has been debated in Congress again and again, ever since it was known that cities and entire countries could be paralyzed or literally shut down with an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) bomb. The most effective EMP weapon would be an atomic bomb ignited at a great height, which with a strong flash of electromagnetic waves could overload and destroy all non-hardened electrical regulators and circuits over a large area or render them unusable for some time. The radioactive contamination, on the other hand, would not threaten life.

EMP weapons are ultimately considered to be the greatest threat to a country's infrastructure, which is why some countries are also working on this powerful weapon. A first military deployment would be a revolution in warfare and, after Hiroshima and the balance of terror, a taboo break, which is why work has been carried out on weapons with indirect energy and local effects, but an atom bomb has not yet been detonated as an EMP weapon. Below the nuclear EMP bomb, however, there are already transportable high-performance microwave weapons that are the size of a suitcase, which can be used to paralyze security systems in cars or houses using electromagnetic pulses.

The Pentagon carried out the first and last test in 1962. In the test called Starfish Prime, an atomic bomb with an explosive force of 1,450 kilotons TNT equivalent was detonated at an altitude of 380 km over the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. The resulting electromagnetic impulse paralyzed all electrical devices in a large area. Even in Hawaii, 1,300 km away, the street lights went out. Since then, it has been clear to the Pentagon that there can be no comprehensive defense against an EMP attack. In addition to electrical devices and components, the nervous system of modern society and the city, the energy and communication networks, could hardly be protected.

The hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs focused on the security of critical infrastructure. The background to this were attacks on the power supply or fiber optic networks, plus an increasing number of cyber attacks. Republican chairman John Rohnson drew particular attention to the cyber attack on part of the Ukrainian electricity grid, which blacked out 230,000 people for up to six hours and caused concern among experts. In addition, in addition to other natural disasters, one must reckon with a strong solar storm, which, like an EMP bomb, could lead to a far-reaching power failure.

The statements also primarily concerned attacks on the power grids. Ted Koppel explained that the USA has disaster control plans for earthquakes or floods, but not for a large-scale power outage caused by cyberattacks that could disconnect millions of people from the power grid for weeks. He said he asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson what he would tell people about the battery-powered radio recommended as emergency equipment. He pointed to a shelf behind him and replied that there was something here for this case, which Koppel denies: "We neither have adequate food supplies to provide for those who decide to look for emergency shelter, nor do we have plans together with state governments to potentially house and feed millions of internally displaced people. "

Scott Aaronson, director of cyber and infrastructure security at the Edison Electric Institute, the association of all American private power companies, counted an EMP attack among the threats that are rare but can have severe effects, similar to coordinated cyberattacks or major natural disasters such as solar storms Earthquakes or severe storms.

A consortium of power companies is working closely with the Department of Energy to investigate, based on findings from the Pentagon, how the power grids are prepared for an EMP attack with an atomic bomb, other attacks with energy or radiation weapons such as laser or microwave weapons or a solar storm that can damage transformers and other components. It is clear from his formulations that there is still little reliable knowledge about the effects of such attacks as well as about possible precautions such as hardening.

This also emerges from a recently published report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which emphasized that the government agencies need to prepare more and better for "electromagnetic risks". EMP attacks and solar storms, it is also said here, could lead to blackouts in large areas. Since the establishment of the EMP Commission in 2001 and the report it submitted in 2004, progress has been achieved through reports, standardization and cooperation with private industry. The commission had warned that even opponents who were not technically well equipped could carry out an EMP attack with catastrophic consequences that paralyzes large parts of the infrastructure and thus the country. The consequences would grow daily because the dependence of society as a whole on the electronics affected by EMP is steadily increasing. The current vulnerability can invite opponents to EMP attacks and reward them if no action is taken. The final report in 2008 repeated the threat situation in greater detail.

However, the GAO report cautiously states that neither the Department of Energy nor the Department of Homeland Security have initiated measures to identify possible risks or have developed a risk management system. There is also apparently a lack of research and the evaluation of options, including the costs of hardening the electrical networks against EMP.

However, Scott Aaronson also said at the hearing that there are a number of threats to the power grids, ranging from squirrels to states. So far there have been more blackouts because of squirrels than from states. This is reassuring until the first cyberwar was carried out with an EMP attack.

In the current escalation and with the arms race, especially between the USA / NATO, Russia and China, the risk of attacks that have the potential to suddenly eliminate large parts of a country is also increasing. Not through the massive destruction of air strikes or atomic bombs, which only affected individual cities and wiped them out, but through the paralyzing of the power supply and electronics, which form the heart of advanced societies, which would suffer a heart attack with an EMP attack. (Florian Rötzer)

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