Part one of this two-part feature explained former CIA analyst Dr. Peter Pry’s attempts to educate policy-makers and the military on the need to protect our electrical grid. If an enemy detonated a nuclear missile above the skies of North America, it could take out our grid for months. Countries like North Korea and various terrorist groups have already shown they can successfully launch EMP missiles.
“This is a bigger threat than the classic nuclear war we talk about,” Pry explained during a recent visit to Toronto. “It will kill a lot more people. One bomb will basically end your civilization.
“We’re not just talking about destroying electronics — at the end of the day we’re talking about killing millions of people. But it’s the old fashioned way — through starvation and disease and societal collapse.”
It reads like a lot of doom and gloom. However, solving the problem is well within reach.
Pry’s currently the executive director of the EMP Task Force on National Homeland Security, a U.S. Congressional advisory board. After information on EMP was declassified beginning in 2004, Pry began his public campaign and has already chalked up a few victories.
Recently, four states — Maine, Virginia, Florida and Arizona — have hardened their electrical grid. National legislation almost came to pass after Democrats and Republicans in Congress teamed up to unanimously pass the 2009 Grid Act. However, it failed to pass the Senate.
What would Canada need to do? Basically, we’d need to make it law that our electrical transformer stations and similar devices have giant surge protectors, so if an attack happens, the power only goes out for seconds rather than months.
“When it comes to issues of national and homeland security, this is why we have government,” says Pry. “Even the strictest constitutionalist should be able to support a bill that is basically for the purpose of providing for the national and homeland security of the American people so that a failed state like North Korea can’t kill 90% of our population with one bomb.”
The challenge is the issue doesn’t appear to be a priority in Canada. Representatives from CSIS, the RCMP and Public Safety Canada all confirm that attacks to what’s called “critical infrastructure” are concerns of theirs, but it appears no recent reports specifically mention EMP. It’s unclear to what degree government experts are studying the issue.
In the mandate letter sent to Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructs him to “lead a review of existing measures to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from cyber-threats.” This review could be the beginning of the answer, but neither the minister’s office nor the department would confirm if EMP was a priority.
“I think the issue is relatively new to parliament itself,” explains Daniel Lang, the Conservative Senator representing the Yukon. “It should be a public conversation.”
Recently re-elected as the chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence, Lang explained the committee has asked for a mandate that would allow them to investigate attacks to critical infrastructure, which would include EMP.
It appears Canada is slowly on the path to protecting its grid. The question is will it be soon enough?
“They’re counting on us to be taken by surprise,” says Pry of the various hostile groups that are testing EMP attacks. “It’s going to be so disappointing if Canada doesn’t do the right thing.”
THREE DEVICES REQUIRING EMP PROTECTION:
- Nuclear reactors: “You don’t want them going fukushima on you,” says Peter Pry.
- EHV Transformers: “Most people have never heard of them but they’re what makes modern civilization possible. They are to our society what the aqueducts were to Rome.”
- SCADA systems: “There’s millions of them everywhere. They run everything — traffic lights, the way water flows.”
A rare indication that the government has a plan … From an emergency preparedness report — dated 1987:
“Procedures can also be implemented to reduce the risk of EMP damage when sufficient warning is available. These procedures involve the physical disconnection of any long wires, such as telecommunication lines or power lines, from the equipment.”
(Also, Anthony Furey talked about EMP on Newstalk 1010 Radio with host Jerry Agar on February 1, 2016. Listen to their discussion here.)