Surprisingly, I’m not going to write about the upcoming election. I want to focus instead on a question. There are several major and a few minor nuclear-endowed countries that are currently ‘unfriendly’ to the United States of America. So, why haven’t any of them attempted to utilize those weapons to create an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) and ‘knock us back to the stone age’? I think the answer lies in the idea that it would be global suicide.
Let’s assume for one moment that several submarines have surfaced in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico. None are identifiable and there is no radio traffic from them at all. At a pre-selected time, all launch nuclear-tipped missiles into the atmosphere. At roughly eighteen miles, they detonate at various points above the US. An EMP is generated that knocks out over eighty percent of all electronic and electrical devices in the country.
While the US retains its nuclear capability (we have subs in the water, planes in the air, and our ICBMs are hardened,) we have no idea who to retaliate against. It doesn’t matter. Whoever did this has committed worldwide suicide anyway.
There are roughly four hundred operational nuclear power plants on the planet. About half of those are in the US. While a report generated in 1977 stated that an EMP would be no more than a nuisance to these plants because of the redundancies and backups, it failed to take into consideration one factor, humans.
Each of the safety and backup systems in some way depends on at least one human action. So, it is not unreasonable to assume that perhaps as few as 25% (likely a lot more) of these plants are going to be immediately abandoned as people try to find their way home to their loved ones. Twenty-five percent of two hundred is fifty. Fifty abandoned nuclear power plants. Fifty potential meltdowns and containment breaches. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island will look like firecrackers in comparison. Even if there are no containment breaches, the spent rod pools depend on specific water levels to cover them (spent rods are kept in these pools for about ten years until the ‘cool down’ though they may remain dangerously radioactive for as long as ten thousand years.) With no one to maintain the water level, the hot rods are exposed to the air and begin to meltdown. This puts the radioactive particles into the atmosphere. None of this is speculation, it happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Multiply that by fifty with no one coming back to take care of the problem.
I am talking about a radioactive plume over the US and, eventually, over the entire planet. Will that radiation reach lethal levels? I have no idea, no one does, but the probability is there, and it is not low. That scenario is also not lost on most of the countries with nuclear weapons that could generate an EMP.
Eliminating nuclear power plants is NOT the answer. Fossil fuels will not last forever. Solar and wind power cannot generate enough power for our energy-hungry nation (or the world.) Fusion reactors may hold the eventual key, but we are not there yet. For now, all we can do is pray that no one is stupid or fanatical enough to attempt the kind of EMP attack I’ve envisioned here.