John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2014 September 10
    On and off since early 2013 I, and some of my associates, received 
invites to sit a presentation at the United nations on Manhattan. 
These come irregularly, the latest being in mid August 2014. iN LATE 
August I got an email inviting me to an other presentation, which i at 
first thought was also at the United Nations. it wasn't! 
    It came from an unknown outfit offering a dialog with former US 
CIA director James Woolsey! He will discuss with the audience certain, 
not specified, social and political topics that he handled during his 
service and which persist today. The notice mentioned that the show 
was free and there was a buffet reception, both features being quite 
agreeable to me. 
    A more curious point of the invite was that it stipulated that  the 
audience be in business attire! I do have somewhere in my clothes  
closet some sports jackets and blazers. And I can wear subdued neck 
beads for a tie. Apart from that I couldn't think of what in the 21st 
century is 'business attire'. 
    Why in hell was I singled out to attend? I have utterly no 
dealings [that I know of] with the CIA and never knew or worked with 
Mr James Woolsey. With the topics not stated, I couldn't get clues for a 
reason for the invite. But I figured, I'll go, be polite, and enjoy a 
light supper. 
At the show
    The show was for Tuesday 9 September 2014 at a midtown location. 
Because I don't know what the downrange developments from this show 
will be, I better not name the actual place for it. I can assure that 
it is a venue commonly used for public events. It was not some off-
limits restricted-access facility. This was yet an other curious 
feature of the invite. 
    I arrived at the meeting site at quite 6PM EDST. There was a sign-
in desk with name tags laid out on it. I didn't find one for me. 
    I showed the clerk my email invite, which triggered her to cut a 
name tag for me on the spot. A few other attendees had the same 
situation. It seems that as long as you had proof of invite, you were 
let in. 
    For so prominent a speaker as an ex-CIA chief I expected a 
security screening at the entrance. There was none! The admission was 
wide open with no attempt to inspect any one. I and the others freely 
wandered about in the lobby, partaking of the food and drink, and 
chatting among themselfs. I didn't see any one who reasonably standed 
out as Mr Woolsey. 
    In all we were about 180, mostly middle-aged men. Just 
about all the men wore charcoal gray or black full business suits. 
Many toted attache' cases which seemed to be left closed all during 
the meeting. A few of the audience tinkered with handheld gadgets but 
did not open the attache' cases. 
    The residual folk were a mix of men and women of lower age. 
They, like me, were more casual in dress, but still appropriate for a 
contemporary business office. 
    Every one spoke in whispers. There was no calling across the room 
to a colleague or loud bantering. On their mobile phones they 
    The audience clumped into several groups with a significant number 
of isolated persons, like me. It just didn't seem right to join a 
group for dialog. When I greeted an other isolated person to share 
table space to eat at, the other fellow was friendly but distinctly 

The meeting
    At a few minutes before 7PM doors to the auditorium opened. We 
filed in, took any handy seats, and quickly settled in. 
    The audience preferred the forward seats, leaving most of the 
rear ones vacant. I estimate  there were 150 seats. There was no 
standing. The men put their attache' cases on the floor under or next 
to them and left them alone all thru the show. Many pecked at mobile 
    The moderator welcomed us and then presented Mr James Woolsey. We 
all applauded gently. 
    Woolsey was CIA director under US President Clinton. With some in 
the audience likely too young to know that 1980s era, it was all the 
more curious how the invites were issued. 
    He spoke both at the lectern and across the stage, cycling back 
and forth in a one-minute cadence. Every one in the audience was calm 
and quiet all thru his presentation. 
    He spoke on two main themes, electromagnetic pulse and petroleum 
 industry. Following his talk, there was an extended Q&A that ranged 
over many other political subjects. 

Personal history 
    Within seconds after beginning his discussion of electromagnetic 
pulse, EMP, it was instantly clear why I may have been invited. Not for 
sure,but certainly a plausible reason. I worked during the 1980s on 
the problem of EMP effects in the electric power industry! I can only 
speculate that the invitations included people from Woolsey's time who 
were dealing with EMP. I can only guess that certain other invites 
went to those involved in the petroleum circles. 
    In this review of the presentation I cover only the EMP theme. I 
learned an awful lot from Woolsey's petroleum segment but I had no 
substantial work in that subject. 
    I started my career straight from college at the Federal Power 
Commission, FPC, on Manhattan. Being new on the job my office gave me 
many various tasks at first. I had to ramp up to understand the 
operations of the electric power industry. A large portion of these 
tasks supported the compilation of the National Power Survey, a 
comprehensive description and assessment of the American electric 
power system. 
    For one assignment I was given a thick folder, then the cardboard 
kind, of memos and reports on power disruptions for which there was no 
definite cause. Most outages are caused by accident or natural events. 
The folder contained some one hundred incidents  since World War II 
with no evident cause. Yet the disruption was severe enough to qualify 
for an FPC inquest. 
    The reports were a description of the event, diagrams of the 
electric facilities affected, initial inquiries, and correspondence 
with the companies. Most had a cover memo submitting the lot to our 
headquarters in Washington DC.
    The job was to look over the files and see if there were any 
factors that could eventually lead to a positive cause. I played with 
various ideas, such as geographic location, company territory, time 
sequence. None seemed to yield good clues. I was hindered by not yet 
knowing the companies and their operations. Despite this condition I 
discovered something to show for my effort. 
    While incidents occurred erraticly over the 30ish-year span, most 
were bunched together in two periods, 1946-1947 and 1957-1958. Some of 
the first bunch had correspondence suggesting residual sabotage from 
World War II. 

Possible solution
    Being than already a home astronomer the two high-incidence  
periods jumped out. They were peaks of sunspot activity! The 1957-1958 
period was during the International Geophysical Year, purposely set 
for the solar maximum to study interaction of Sun and Earth. 
    I with hundreds of other home astronomers worked in the IGY to 
 monitor sunspots and northern lights. We knew there was a casual link 
between the occurrence of northern lights, or aurorae, and the size, 
number, complexity of sunspots. We also knew that somehow the Earth's 
magnetic field and radio transmissions were messed up during sunspot 
    We would watch for the  aurora when we got an alert about a large 
spot erupting on the Sun. By prior experience we could hope for an 
aurora from two to three says after the eruption. Most instances there 
was no aurora, which we chalked up as a dud event.  Once in a while we 
learned later there was an aurora in an other longitude or timezone 
that missed us. 
    In the 1960s we didn't yet have a strong heliophysics presence in 
Earth orbit. Virtually all study of the Sun was still done from the 
ground thru the filtering atmosphere. Just about all observations of 
the Sun were in the optical band or parts of it. Only a minor amount 
of solar data was collected in the radio bands. 

Assignmnt results
    I did this task in 1968, at the start of the 1968-1969 solar 
maximum. There were at the instant no disturbances reported yet that 
could have a suspected cause by sunspot influence. 
    There was no formal written result for this work. I merely sat 
with my boss and we verbally discussed what I found. Sunspots cause 
magnetic effects on Earth,. The number and strength of these effects 
track the number of sunspots, peaking every eleven years. Isn't it 
possible that the sunspots disturb the magnetism in electric  utility 
    You can probably guess what my boss thought. First off, why do I 
think the Sun has spots on it? It's a pure shining ball of fire. Second, 
how can the Sun, way up in the sky disturb magnetic fields on Earth? 
    I handed back the papers and he let me go to other jobs. i suppose 
 that he just put the papers in  a file-&-forget folder. 

A decade later
    By the mid 1970s we were fielding heliophysics satellites. We were 
observing the Sun from Skylab and Salyut. We discovered the Birkeland 
currents. We mapped the solar wind and auroral oval. I also observed a 
few solar eclipses and traced out the coronal streamers. 
    There was a solar maximum in 1968-1969. The number and severity of 
utility breakdowns did crest in those years. My office at FPC 
continued to collect certain reports on power disturbances and we got a 
lot more of them in 1968-1969. 
    This time there was a growing awareness that solar activity can 
cause serious trouble for  electric utilities. 
    This concern was coupled with a new one for EMP effects from 
Soviet nuclear bomb attacks. It was the deepest Cold War era when the 
USSR and US were fielding nuclear bombs of many tens of megaton yield. 
Atom bomb explosions emit EMP far stronger than that received from the 
    My office did some studies for assorted scenarios of bomb-produced 
EMP. We assumed, based on Department of Defense information, that the 
bomb is detonated a kilometer or so above the ground. This tactic 
increases the concussive and radiation range. 
    The fear of EMP from a soviet attack pushed the solar EMP scenario 
to the background of dialog in the electric power industry.
    During this period several federal and industry agencies put out 
studies on the effects of bomb-induced EMP on the power network. Being 
long before Internet or other widely-available digital distribution of 
information, all such reports were in paper print. Also being in the 
Cold Wa era, most studies were for closed audience, not offered to the 
general public. 
    Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of 
inquiries about asteroid collisions on Earth, many of these reports 
were  released to the public. it is from good fortune that some were 
later converted to web form. 

Back to Woolsey 
    Woolsey explained that in his service  as CIA director the main 
threat of nuclear EMP was from the USSR . The typical case was an 
aerial burst for a bomb yielding many tens of megatons of TNT. Such an 
explosion causes a wider radius of concussive damage and spreads 
fallout into the air. Some of the studies I helped prepare in the 1980s 
postulated elevations of a few kilometers, just before the incoming 
missile reached the ground from over the North Pole from Russia. We 
didn't, as I recall, look not the prospect of detonating a large bomb 
in Earth orbit, probably because Russia seemed to observe the treaties 
banning nuclear weapons in space. 
    In the 21st century the threat is from small 'suitcase' bombs or 
those fitting into smaller orbiting rockets. An orbital burst will 
    Woolsey mentioned the current efforts of Iran and North Korea to 
field nuclear bombs to use against the United States. These do not 
subscribe to the nuclear ban in space. The prospect of an attack from 
orbit is on the table. little concussion on the ground but will send 
out a nation-wide electromagnetic pulse. 
    He did not offer alternative enemies for these countries. Iran 
could engage Iraq and Pakistan and North Korea may go after South 
Korea. He also did not suggest a potential use of small atom bombs 
from Iran against, at least today, the ISIS gangs. 
    Altho many 'experts' play down the existence of suitcase or 
backpack atom bombs, they can be built and deployed by even low-tech 
enemies. Form other privileged sources there likely are no actual 
bombs because the nuclear fuel is still under close control by the 
major current nuclear powers. Empty bombs could be out there, waiting 
for the chance to be loaded and fielded. 
     He noted that the electromagneic radiation  is sent out at the  
detonation of the bomb, whence the 'electromagnetic pulse'. 
    He  explained that the bomb didn't have to be a concussive device, 
incinerating and lpulverizing the target. A 'dirty', almost a dud, 
bomb can send out sufficient EMP to shut down substantial portions of 
the US electric industry. 

Electric power industry
    It is hard to overstate the crucial role of electric power in 
today's society. Altho developed in the late 1880s as a commercial 
service for illumination and motor power, electric matured in the 20th 
century as a dominant feature of human life. 
    Woolsey pointed out that there were several retrospections of 
engineering achievements of the 20th century and electrification was 
always one of them in all such compilations. He didn't cite the other 
feats in his talk., I for this article found several lists, of which 
the one here is a typical example. 
    * abundant reliable supply of electricity
    * automobile and other motorized vehicles
    * airplane and  commercial aviation
    * abundant and healthy water supply
    * analog and digital electronics
    * audio and video broadcasting
    * mechanization of muscle-based industries
    * computers and electronic data handling
    * telephone and voice transmission
    * refrigeration and air condition
    * durable smooth surfaced highways and streets
    * rocket and space exploration
    * internet and data transmission
    * digital photography and imaging
    * labor-&-time relieving appliances and tools
    * health,  and medical technology 
    * petroleum and other energy industries
    * laser and fiber optics
    * atomic and nuclear technology 
    * artificial materials technology 
    Altho the selection of achievements varies among the lists, there 
is one critical feature in all of them. Woolsey noted that just about 
ALL of the 20th century achievements required or greatly benefit from 
the electric power industry. 
    Lose the electric service and we lose almost everything else that 
our society depends on for survival. We would be thrown to an 
existence prevailing in the mid 19th century! 
    More over, the EMP would be so widespread, to wreck major power 
facilities across the United States, it would take decades to recover. 
In that time an enemy could easily occupy our territory and convert us 

into its subjects. 

    The prime component of the utility network discussed by Woolsey 
was the transformer. A transformer converts an input current from its 
'pressure' and 'flow' into an output current of an other pressure and 
flow. Electric pressure is measured in volts, based on a defined 
quantity of energy per electron. Flow is in amperes, based on a 
defined number of electrons per second. The multiplication of these 
two, parameters is the energy per second, or power, carried by the 
current. Power is stated in watts. 

       volt = (energy/electron) 
    amperes = (electron/second) 
       watt = (volt) * (ampere)  
            = (energy/electron) * (electron/second) 
            = (energy/second) 

    Modern transformers are almost 100% efficient in converting electric 
from input to output current. The power leaving the unit just about 
equals the power coming in. In absolute terms the loss can be 
substantial. A 1% loss in a 500 megawatt transformer is 5 megawatts. 
This power is radiated as heat, equivalent to five thousand one-
kilowatt room heaters! 
    The internals of a transformer include an iron or steel core, 
around which the two circuits are wrapped. For technical reasons the 
input current must be alternating electric, AC. A direct current, DC,  
like from a battery will not sustain the conversion mechanism. The iron 
core merely heats up with no current induced in the output circuit. 
    It was principally for the ability of transformers to operate in 
the power network that in the early 20th century the industry shifted 
to AC current. Before then it used DC with no transformers. 

             |  |           |    | 
             |  |           |    | 
            =((((===========))))))== iron 
         ====))))===========((((((== core 
            input           output 
            circuit         circuit 

    A typical application of a transformer is to boost the volts, and 
reduce the amperes, at a generating station. The output current is sent 
to a remote other location. The volts and amperes of a mid-size 
electric generator is around 25,000 volts and 20,000 amperes. To carry 
that amount of flow to a distant location would require massive 
expensive cables and towers. The loss of power from the 'friction' of 
the electric in the cables, would be unacceptably high. Way too much 
power is lost as radiated heat and does not get to the remote site. 
    By lowering the flow, and increasing the pressure, the 
transmission cables and towers may be of lighter build and lower cost. 
In this case the generating plant puts out (25,000 volt) * (20,000 
amperes) = (500,000,000 watt), usually cited as 500 megawatt. 
    The electric from the generator is piped to a transformer nearby 
and converted to current of 500,000 volts and 1,000 amperes. This is 
placed on the transmission line. Note that the power, neglecting  
loss, is still 500 megawatt, the product of 500 kilovolt and one 

    (power)out = (power)in
    (volt * ampere)out = (volt * ampere)in
    (500,000 volt * 1,000 ampere) = (25,000 volt * 2,m000 ampere) 

    At the far end of the transmission line, which may be hundreds of 
kilometers long, an other transformer converts the current to other 
volt/ampere values for customers or local distribution. 

EMP hazard
    The hazard from EMP, whether from the Sun or an atom bomb, is the 
sudden large uncontrolled swings of volts on transmission lines. The 
EMP of low frequency can set up an electric gradient of a couple volts 
per meter parallel to a line. It superimposes volts on that line. For 
a gradient of 5 volt/meter along a 100 kilometer, 500 kilovolt 
line, the surcharge is 500 kilovolts. The line suddenly is carrying a 
total of one million volts, twice its design capacity.. 
    This will blow out equipment at both ends of the line, throwing 
the line out of service and disrupting power flows in other lines 
connected to the zapped one. 
    The prime facility at the ends of a transmission line is the 
transformer. The large and sudden volt fluctuation imposed by EMP 
ddisrupts the normal operation of the transformer. The input and 
output current are thrown out of balance, causing over-heating, 
flashover, burn-thru, over-pressure. The transformer may catch fire,  
split open, burst. 
    For a gradient antiparallel to the line, the volts can be severely 
reduced, in the case to hand, quite to zero. Such a drop will also 
disrupt transformer operations thru the mismatch of its input and 
output currents. 
    Once destroyed, the attached transmission line is out of action 
and is no longer an element in the electric power grid. Until the 
transformer is replaced, the transformer, the outage can endure for 
many months. 
   Under an EMP attack, hundreds of transformers are knocked out, the 
power grid is fragmented and can no longer effectively supply electric 
to the country. 
    The transmission line itself is usually only lightly damaged, 
mostly at fixtures and fittings. A transmission line is built to 
withstand lightning strikes and electric arc as part of its normal 

    While the power companies keep spare equipment on hand for routine 
repairs and replacement,  they do not and can not maintain a stock of 
the high-power transformers like that in the example here. They are 
heavy, tens of tons; costly, tens of millions of dollars; bulky, the 
size of a house. When a power plant or major distribution station is 
constructed, its transformers are orders from the manufacturer a year 
or more in advance. If a transformer is lost to damage or other 
malfunction, all electric network attached to it is shut off until a 
new unit is built and put into place. 
    If only one unit is off line, power likely can be rerouted around 
it. It's when many scattered over the gird are lost that quick 
recovery is impossible. 
    In the US the high-power transformers are concentrated in the 
Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, and Northeast. An EMP attack that 
covers any of these regions cripples the US ability to respond 
effectively to the attack and mount a meaningful counterattack. 

Overseas dependence
    An other feature of the large transformers, a disturbing one, was 
emphasized in the Q&A. There are NO MORE American manufacturers of 
these transformer! All are now purchased from overseas sources. 
Utilities were buying foreign products for decades but in most cases 
they could choose between overseas and domestic manufacturers. Like in 
other sectors of American society , the electric industry suffered a 
relentless shift from domestic to overseas dependence. 
    If we need replacement transformers for those lost to EMP it may 
take years to get them. We may need hundreds of new units.  The wait 
may be extra long from the sudden demand for transformers from a 
global industry making a few per year.
    All of this assumes that the supplier countries now friendly with 
us remain friendly in the future. This is not a secure fact. 

Defense against EMP
    For solar EMP we now have monitoring satellites to watch for 
eruptions on the Sun. These give power companies an hour or more 
warning. This faculty came into service in the late 1990s and gave 
welcome alerts during the solar maxima of 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. The 
industry could then, with some relief and comfort, arrange power flows 
to lessen the chance of severe over- or under-current on transmission 
lines. It can mobilize repair teams and release spare components to 
assist in a more efficient and rapid recovery. 
    Some protection is applied such as shielding, grounding, adding 
electrical capacitance to critical transformers. Such measures are 
expensive and some companies may prefer to take the chances of outages 
and ride out the geomagnetic storm. 
    There may be no warning for an atom bomb attack. Unlike with the 
Soviet threat, we may have no preliminary activity in the enemy. It 
takes a couple days to move missiles to launch pads, deploy machinery 
and crews, build temporary structures for the launch, and so on. This 
activity was monitored by our spy satellites and planes. We also had 
human spies planted in Russia as  ear and eye. 
    With a credible Soviet attack in the works, we could alert our 
defense to deflect the missiles or send off a preemptive attack on the 
launch bases. 
    For the backpack, low-elevation flights, and other small bombs 
that can arrive on our shore in innocent ways, we may have no way to 
detect them before the attack. In  this case the electric industry is 
naked against large-scale destruction by the bomb's EMP. 

Possible confusion
    I saw two major points in Woolsey's talk that could be confusing 
to the audience. These were the elevation of orbital flight and 
wavelength of EMP. 
    Mr Woolsey stated that an atom bomb placed in orbit for later 
descent onto its target is 35 to 80 kilometers up. He actually said 
this in oldstyle 'miles'. The figure varied during his talk. 
    This is way too low for a stable orbit. Stable orbits are at least 
400 kilometers up. That is a function of the instant atmosphere 
density as modified by solar interactions. 
    His low elevation is about that for a mid range ballistic missile 
or newer model of military drone, both under development by our  
    In his description of 'long' and 'short' wave electromagnetic e 
radiation from an atom bomb, Woolsey explained that short waves fry 
electronics a short distance from the bomb site while long waves go 
long distances to kill electric power facilities. 
    The range of electromagnetic radiation is not directly related to 
wavelength. The peculiar mix of wavelengths in a nuclear detonation 
include those of short range that are also short wavelength, or high 
frequency. The long wavelength emission, of low frequency, are those 
that can generate havoc on electric facilities. They may be at any 
distance, near and far, from the blast site. 

    Following his talk, with loud applause from the audience, Woolsey 
took many questions. Each person stood on line by a mike near the 
stage and spoke in turn. Some questions related to the EMP or 
petroleum topics. Others were about other political matters. Woolsey 
answered them in a mature and almost academic manner. 
    When questions came about the ISIS gangs, Woolsey suddenly 
loosened his words. He explained that one aim of ISIS is to destroy 
the social and moral foundation of western society. These are the 
Christian and Jewish faith systems. ISIS seeks to replace them with 
their interpretation of Islam as a despotic regime. 
    What to do about ISIS? Woolsey turned angry and started to lose 
his demeanor! He clinched fists, tensed his face,  and shuffled/ his 
feet, in essence urged that the US just go after them where ever they 
are and crush them out 

    This was a most informative meeting! I relived my early years with 
solar storms and utility blackouts. I learned more about the global 
oil operations. 
    Altho I may never know just why I was asked to sit this talk, I'm 
pleased to hear directly from so high an official as James Woolsey, 
who had to deal with the oil situation and EMP thirty years ago