Two analysts testifying at a US House subcommittee last week warned that North Korea could use an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack to shutdown the US power grid in an apocalyptic act that could cause the deaths of up to 90 percent of all Americans within a year.

They said Washington was ignoring the threat and stressed there was an urgent need to harden the US utility infrastructure against such EMP attacks. Present US antimissile defenses were also termed inadequate in intercepting rockets fired at the US from the South Polar region or near Antarctica.

William R. Graham, the chair of a former US commission that assessed the EMP threat to the US and its former chief of staff, Peter Vincent Pry, cited previous research by Ambassador Henry Cooper, former Director of the US Strategic Defense Initiative on the subject.

If Pyongyang were to launch such an EMP attack, Cooper was quoted as saying:

“The result could be to shut down the US electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90 percent of all Americans — as the EMP Commission testified over eight years ago.”

Graham and Pry were testifying before an October 12 House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing assessing North Korea’s threat to the US.

The two experts also noted in a prepared statement that:

“North Korea could make an EMP attack against the United States by launching a short-range missile off a freighter or submarine or by lofting a warhead to 30 kilometers burst height by balloon. While such lower-altitude EMP attacks would not cover the whole US mainland, as would an attack at higher-altitude (300 kilometers), even a balloon-lofted warhead detonated at 30 kilometers altitude could blackout the Eastern Electric Power Grid that supports most of the population and generates 75 percent of US electricity.”

They added that an EMP attack might be made by a North Korean satellite “right now.”

Both Graham and Pry served with the disbanded Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The commission was created by Congress in 2001 to advise Congress, the President, Department of Defense and other agencies on the nuclear EMP threat to US military systems and civilian critical infrastructures.