Developing Threats: Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMP) - Defence Committee Contents

7  Conclusion

93.  While successive Governments, both in the UK and elsewhere, have long been aware of the threat to national infrastructure from military EMP it is only in the last two years that there has been serious work on the risks from space weather.

94.  Space weather can, to some extent, be forecast, and when it can be forecast some mitigating action can be taken. More work is necessary, both on forecasting capabilities and on establishing more exactly the likely effects. While the scientific community is doing much work on this, it is important that Government- and indeed governments, since this is an international problem- take a still more active role in driving it forward.

95.  Much of the current mitigation strategy involves pre-emption and quick recovery rather than protection or prevention, but more work is also needed on how equipment may be protected, either on installation or retrospectively, to withstand the effects of severe space weather

96.  While mitigation of the effects of severe space weather is, in the first instance, for the providers of the services likely to be affected, 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. We are concerned that the Government does not regard this as currently being a high risk and urge that more vigorous action should be taken to prepare for such an attack. Similarly, an urgent reassessment should be made of the risk from non-nuclear EMP attack on vital national facilities.

97.  The consequences of EMP events must be addressed specifically: generic civil contingency plans which address blackouts and temporary loss of electronic infrastructure caused by a range of events are not sufficient. Space weather is a global threat and may affect many regions and countries simultaneously. This means that there is scope for mutual assistance, but also that there is no safe place from which it can be assumed that help will come. It is time that the Government began to approach this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

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Prepared 22 February 2012