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HEMP Protection

December 21, 2009

Hey who remembers anything about circuit board design for protection against EMP. I am thinking that standard best practices for protection against ESD / EFT / Surge protection should go a long way in mitigating damage but I haven’t dealt with EMP since my Electromagnetics class years ago. I know that DoD has Mil Std 188- something out there for facilities and IEC has a TR 61000-5-3 but I can’t find anything specific on circuit board design.

This was brought up by a post at Daily Pundit. I think that people tend to overstate the damage an EMP attack would do. Not that I don’t think such an attack would wouldn’t be devastating but that I don’t see the 90 to 100% destruction that people seem to associate with such an attack.

Update The 2008 EMP Commission found a 100% failure rate on IBM compatible computers, but not 100% destruction, from an E1 pulse. Reading between the lines I would say that these were Performance Criteria B and C failures (recover without user intervention / recover with user intervention (reboot)). This is significant because if control systems survive that lessens the difficulty in recovery.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Portlandic permalink
    December 22, 2009 10:24 am

    The standard is set pretty low; 50KV/m or such. Lunatic high-heeled cinemaphile dictators could try to design a device to put out more voltage; but it would require exotic designs, something like the Casaba-Howitzer device, but without the plasma-generating filler.

    See http://glasstone.blogspot.com/2006/03/emp-radiation-from-nuclear-space.html to read:
    Result: (A) Russian space missile nuclear test during the Cuban missile crisis deliberately instrumented the civilian power infrastructure of populated areas, unwarned, in Kazakhstan to assess EMP effects on a 570 km long civilian telephone line and a 1,000 km civilian electric power cable!
    …effects from the Russian 300 kt nuclear test at 290 km altitude over Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan on 22 October 1962 induced enough current in a 1,000 km long protected underground cable to burn the Karaganda power plant to the ground. Dr Lowell Wood testified on 8 March 2005 during Senate Hearings 109-30 that these MHD-EMP effects are: ‘the type of damage which is seen with transformers in the core of geomagnetic storms. The geomagnetic storm, in turn, is a very tepid, weak flavor of the so-called slow component of EMP. So when those transformers are subjected to the slow component of the EMP, they basically burn, not due to the EMP itself but due to the interaction of the EMP and normal power system operation. Transformers burn, and when they burn, sir, they go and they are not repairable, and they get replaced, as you very aptly pointed out, from only foreign sources. The United States, as part of its comparative advantage, no longer makes big power transformers anywhere at all. They are all sourced from abroad. And when you want a new one, you order it and it is delivered – it is, first of all, manufactured. They don’t stockpile them. There is no inventory. It is manufactured, it is shipped, and then it is delivered by very complex and tedious means within the U.S. because they are very large and very massive objects. They come in slowly and painfully. Typical sort of delays from the time that you order until the time that you have a transformer in service are one to 2 years, and that is with everything working great. If the United States was already out of power and it suddenly needed a few hundred new transformers because of burnout, you could understand why we found not that it would take a year or two to recover, it might take decades, because you burn down the national plant, you have no way of fixing it and really no way of reconstituting it other than waiting for slow-moving foreign manufacturers to very slowly reconstitute an entire continent’s worth of burned down power plant.’

    But, that assumes enough EMP devices would actually be delivered, and the missiles from a not-to-be-named lunatic high-heeled cinemaphile dictator tend not to be that reliable. Assuming a 300km effect radius, one missile (if it actually arrived as specified) could darken Pugetopolis, and result in a ‘Dark Angel’ (Fox apocalypse-lite TV series by James Cameron with the yummy Jessica Alba) scenario, but you’d need several missiles to screw up each of America’s three grids (Western, Eastern and Texas).

    Imagine a US where only the Texas grid survived. Yee Haw.

  2. jenn1964 permalink*
    December 22, 2009 10:43 am

    Yeah I saw that but I was specifically talking about circuit board design. The soviet experiment deals with current coupling onto long powerlines 🙂

    I kind of found my answer in the 2008 EMP commision report. Failures are higher than I would have expected but it doesn’t appear that it resulted in complete physical destruction.

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