UK vulnerable to 'space EMP attack'

UK vulnerable to 'space EMP attack'
UK vulnerable to 'space EMP attack'

By Oliver Hotham

The government is nowhere near prepared enough for a potential nuclear bomb detonation in space, MPs have warned.

A report from the defence select committee criticised ministers for not being stringent enough in precautions taken against incidents which might cause severe space weather, including against a potential nuclear space bomb.

The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) created by a nuclear explosion at high altitude could cause significant damage to global positioning systems deemed essential for finance and the military.

Today's report expressed concern that the government appeared to have no department which would be able to take charge and would be prepared to deal with such an incident.

It urged the government begin to consider a nuclear detonation in space as a serious threat.

"It is not good enough to say that that will depend on where the greatest impact fell. The government must make clear exactly where lead responsibility in relation to EMP disturbances lies both nationally and within the MoD," the report stated.

"Defence alone cannot protect against the threat of EMP. It must be a concern of the national security council and civil contingency planners, with proper standards of protection developed with the vital service industries most at risk.

"The effects of a High Altitude Electro-Magnetic Pulse Event as a result of a nuclear weapon exploded at high altitude would be so serious that only government action could be expected to mitigate it."

The committee also cited concern about over-reliance on devices like satellites, which would be severely damaged in a case of extreme space weather.

The committee's chairman Conservative James Arbuthnot described such an attack as highly likely, arguing that it would easy to cause a huge amount of damage with only a small amount of equipment.


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