What Happens When the Lights Go Out — Permanently?
You just woke up on a weekday and notice it’s much lighter outside than usual. You’re used to getting up early. You look at your alarm clock and see nothing but a black display acting like a dark mirror. You lift your watch from your bedside table. The second hand has stopped and the electronic display is gone. You try to turn your light on, but no luck. You hop out of bed and head for the kitchen. You programmed your coffee maker to start brewing at 6:30 in the morning. No coffee in the pot, and the green numerals that display the time are gone. You go into the living room push a button on the remote to turn your TV on. Black screen reflecting your image. You look at your antique grandfather clock as it chimes 9:00 AM. That’s working, but you’re already late for work. Your usual wakeup routine has timed out.
You have no way of knowing what’s going on, but at 12:01 A.M. Eastern Time, the electric grid was attacked in three ways: The Eastern Interconnection was taken out by hackers; The Electric Reliability Council of Texas was brought down by attacks on transformers at critical substations, the Western Interconnection went dark when a SCUD missile with a nuclear warhead was launched from an empty oil tanker and set to explode at an altitude of 100 miles above the West Coast. It sent an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) crashing soundlessly down on not only the Western Interconnection, but as insurance, it takes out more than just the Western Interconnection.
The tanker sinks swiftly after multiple explosions fourteen miles outside of our international waters are reported by passing ships that witnessed the blasts. It was scuttled to avoid its identification and nationality.
The timer on the government’s estimate clicks on—if the power stays out for months or a year, upwards of 92% of the U.S. population will go extinct. And you thought that only a nuclear holocaust could cause that kind of carnage.
While the scenario above is extremely unlikely, in fact, any one of those attacks could take out the grid in an instant, the worst being an EMP, which takes out anything with electronic parts: all communications, cyberspace, electricity (including all solar panels), all automobiles manufactured after 1974, all electronics, a larger than acceptable number of weapons in the military, the whole nine yards. In approximately a month, all sixty-two nuclear power plants, some of which have more than one reactor and all spent-fuel-rod pools in the U.S. will go Fukushima after all, the generators and batteries pumping cool water over them —massive meltdowns casting nuclear contamination into the Jet Stream, water supplies and the top six inches of topsoil nationwide.
Even if a reactor is offline, the nuclear fuel rods need cool water flushed over them to keep them from reaching critical temperatures. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires all nuclear plants to have only a one-week backup supply of diesel fuel to power their generators during an extended outage. One week. There’s no way to pump gas, so it must be siphoned out of whatever gas stations have it, and once the tanks run dry, no more deliveries.
Think it can’t happen? Consider that a single human error at an Ohio power plant took out the power to the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeastern regions of the U.S, and parts of Canada in 2003 which is also known as Northeast blackout of 2003. That pretty much sums up the fragility of an electric grid we cannot live without but that has a foundation of parts dating back to the first power interconnection ever built. We’ve been laying new technology over the old ever since, and some of the software controlling the grid is Unix-based—too easily hacked already by the Chinese, Russians and possibly Iran. It’s truly the ultimate nightmare.
Our bet is that you’ve heard about EMPs and what would happen if we were hit by two or three. We also believe that in few if any of the stories you’ve read have included the nuclear meltdown aspect of this, most likely because the government doesn’t want to cause panic or the author hadn’t thought about our nuclear plants. This is as true Armageddon for the United States of America, the most powerful nation on the planet, which, after a year, will comprise a population of 8% of what it had been before the attack.