Space nuclear bomb attack on Britain 'quite likely'
MPs warn that cities could become very difficult to live in if we are attacked with an EMP weapon
A SPACE-BASED nuclear attack on Britain is "quite likely", according to a Conservative MP. Such an explosion would create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which would knock out electrical systems and make it very difficult to live in cities.
The warning follows the publication of a report by the Defence Select Committee which urges the government to take seriously the threat to infrastructure such as the national grid, GPS satellites and communication networks from EMPs and naturally occurring solar flares. The electromagnetic radiation from such events can send damaging surges of electrical current through systems, burning them out.
James Arbuthnot, a Tory MP who sits on the committee, told Radio 4's Today programme that he believes an attack on the UK involving a nuclear bomb being exploded high up in space is "quite likely to happen, because it's a comparatively easy way of using a small number of nuclear weapons to cause devastating damage".
Arbuthnot believes this kind of attack would be even more devastating than a nuclear weapon used in the traditional way. "The reason for that," he says, "is it would, over a much wider area, take out things like the National Grid, on which we all rely for almost everything, take out the water system, the sewage system.
"Rapidly it would become very difficult to live in cities... within a matter of a couple of days." He said Britain is hugely vulnerable to such an attack.
The Defence Select Committee's concerns echo those of the US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who has been widely ridiculed for raising concerns about the threat from EMPs.
Gingrich has said: "I believe that EMP may be the greatest strategic threat we face because without adequate preparation the impact would be so horrifying that we would in fact lose our civilisation in a matter of seconds."
Sounds serious. So what can be done? Arbuthnot says we should gradually upgrade our infrastructure to components that are able to withstand EMPs.
"The defence really is to build up the resilience of the electronic infrastructure by replacing the incredibly delicate and vulnerable systems and chips and connections that we now have with the more hardened chips and connections and systems that are available at a not very expensive price, as you're doing your routine maintenance."
He believes the government does realise the seriousness of the threat and will take it seriously - "sooner or later".