Solar flares are all over the news as we head towards the next solar maximum in 2012-2013. With recent brilliant displays of northern lights, scientists are concerned that this "solar max" could deal a devastating blow to America's electronic power grid and communications systems.
"If a super solar storm of such intensity were to strike today, it would massively disrupt modern electronics, wipe out communication satellites, and collapse the electric power grid over much of the industrialized world for months and possibly years," says bestselling author and environmentalist Matthew Stein. "What most people don't realize is that a long-term grid collapse would also start a chain of events leading to a nuclear Armageddon caused by hundreds of simultaneous Fukushima-like nuclear meltdowns occurring in reactors around the world."
The last extreme geomagnetic solar storm occurred in 1921. The largest solar storm on record, known as the Carrington Event, occurred just 62 years earlier in 1859.
These storms were decades before the advent of nuclear power, microelectronics, and the widespread electrical power grid, which are extremely vulnerable to storms of such magnitude.
According to Stein, "as our nuclear power plants and electric power grid are currently configured, a solar-induced nuclear Armageddon is 100% guaranteed to happen."
Catastrophe is now a matter of when, not if, he says, adding that it does not have to be this way.
"For the price of a single stealth bomber (about $2 billion) we could protect our grid from collapse and our nuclear reactors from catastrophic meltdown," Stein says.
He says that due to a lack of understanding of the seriousness and breadth of the problem, Congress has failed to pass legislation mandating protective measures to prevent catastrophic grid collapse caused by extreme solar flares or an EMP attack.
More than a third of all Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor. If most of the 104 American reactors were to fail, including Indian Point just outside of New York City, it would be the end of America for many generations to come, Stein says.
Stein has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is the bestselling author of When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival.