An attack on US electronics by North Korea could kill 90 per cent of the population by crippling the nation’s infrastructure, an expert has claimed. A spine-chilling report said Washington is underestimating the threat of an ‘electromagnetic pulse’ (EMP), a phenomenon that could be caused by detonating a nuclear bomb high above the Earth.
Such an attack would see the release of a burst of energy that would interfere with and destroy all electronics – and North Korea has claimed it has built a warhead for this very purpose.
WHAT IS A NUCLEAR EMP?
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a short burst of electromagnetic radiation, which can be natural or man-made. Nuclear blasts generate high-intensity radio waves that can disrupt electronics. These EMP blasts travel along line-of-sight, which means the effects extend only to the visual horizon. A powerful enough blast at an altitude of 249 miles could impact most of the continental US. The higher the bomb is detonated, the wider the EMP's range of effect. A bomb detonated 19 miles above the center of the country would affect all of Kansas and Nebraska, almost all of South Dakota, and substantial chunks of surrounding states.
Despite deep scepticisim from scientists and security experts, nuclear strategist Peter Pry, who previously worked for the CIA, outlined his theories in testimony to Congress. And in an interview with Forbes magazine, he expanded on his vision of how America would fare in such an attack.
He said: ‘The US can sustain a population of 320million people only because of modern technology. An EMP that blacks out the electric grid for a year would [destroy] the critical infrastructure necessary to support such a large population.’
Airliners – of which there are 5,000 flying over the US at any one time, carrying 500,000 passengers – would crash as their electrical systems were destroyed, killing most on board, he said.
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