EMP Attack and Solar Storms, Part II: Cascading Failures and Nuclear Meltdown
Jun 27, 2013
Some time ago, we discussed the broad implications of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, such as that from an aerial detonation of a nuclear device, and the similar effects of a large solar storm or coronal mass ejection from the sun. In that discussion, we looked at the overall aspects of the crisis, including interruptions to our trucking industry, which in turn would represent a massive failure in our food, health, and fuel delivery systems. Other topics included traffic gridlock, potential vehicle failure, and briefly, what to expect after the lights go out.
In Part II of this guide, we will dive into a more technical look at what even the most minor of electrical hiccups and disturbances can do to our delicate, computerized world, as well as explore how interconnected our society truly is. However, in order to adequately set the stage for understanding the grave threat under conditions in which all of our infrastructures fall prey to simultaneous failure, it is imperative to understand that the “vulnerability of the whole — of all the highly interlocked critical infrastructures — may be greater than the sum of the vulnerability of its parts.” (1)
If a singular system goes down, it can result in a cascade of failures across the spectrum, from communications, to banking, to government services, and even water treatment and sanitation. While many articles paint a bleak overall picture of a few singular failures, there are some extremely dangerous situations that are often overlooked, especially within the oil, gas, and nuclear sectors.
Many of these modern marvels rely on remote systems to operate, acquire data, and perform mundane actions, which are not only grid-dependent, but highly sensitive to electrical disturbances. In particular, the 2008 Congressional EMP Commission thought it important to single out the growth and common infrastructural infiltration of one particular transformative technology; “the development of automated monitoring and control systems— the ubiquitous robots of the modern age known as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.”(1)