Just what might happen if the Iranians got their hands on a nuclear weapon? Would they fire it at an Israeli city, causing tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties? Or would they use it as a geopolitical weapon, seeking to dominate the Middle East and forcing the hand of Western powers, either subtly or by overtly threatening death and destruction to those who fail to heed their dictates?
While political scientists and world leaders have debated the likelihood of those two possibilities, there is a third plausible scenario: The use of a nuclear weapon by Iran to carry out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against Israel, the US, or Europe. Such an attack could cause severe damage to the electrical grid in the targeted nations, to the extent that the routines of daily life — centered around the use of electrical power — could be halted, for a short or even long period of time.
The EMP issue is hardly being discussed in Israel, said Dr. Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University. “There isn’t much discussion of it right now, but when the discussion does begin, there is no doubt that it will focus on the balance between how much it will cost to deal with, versus how likely such an attack may be,” she said.
“Some are skeptical that Iran would use a nuclear bomb just for an EMP attack,” said Landau. “If they already have a nuclear weapon, why not use it for the main purpose for which it was designed? But while a nuclear bomb targeting an Israeli city would cause mass destruction on a local or regional basis, an EMP attack could cause even more lasting damage, destroying Israel’s electrical grid.”
While EMP is a serious threat, there are steps governments can take to protect their electrical systems, according to Avi Schnurr, chairman and CEO of the Electric Infrastructure Security (EIS) Council, which works with government agencies and power companies worldwide to help coordinate international efforts on electric infrastructure protection.
“In the US, the estimate is that it would cost on the order of $1 billion to make the changes that would protect the power grid against EMP,” he told The Times of Israel. “I don’t have an estimate for Israel, but given the enormous difference in the sizes of the two countries and their power grids, it should be extremely affordable — no more than a fraction of a percent of Israel’s annual electric bill.”
Full article: An electromagnetic pulse attack — the ‘other’ Iranian nuclear threat (Israel National News)