UK & World News
'Complacent' MoD Warned Of Space Risk
A space attack by a hostile country or terrorists could bring down the UK's power supply and the threat should be taken more seriously, the Ministry of Defence has been told.
If a nuclear device was detonated 500 miles above the earth, it could generate an electro-magnetic pulse which could wipe out electricity and telecommunications.
The Commons Defence Committee has accused the MoD of being "complacent" about the risks and wants it to ensure the UK's infrastructure could withstand an attack as a "matter of urgency".
They fear a country such as Iran, which has continued a nuclear programme despite international pressure to abandon it, or "non-state actors" could develop the technology required to stage an attack.
"It is time that the Government began to approach this matter with the seriousness it deserves," the committee's report said.
The Government currently considers the risk of such an attack to be low but acknowledges the potential impact could be severe.
However, an investigation by the United States said "rogue states" including Iran and North Korea were aware of such attacks.
In the event of such an occurrence, it would be "virtually inevitable" for the electrical power supply to collapse, the American report found.
The UK Defence Committee also warned a "space weather event" is more likely to take place and could have a similar effect.
According to the report, the Government currently considers the chances of this happening in the next five years to be "moderate to high".
In 1989, the power grid serving Quebec in Canada was wiped out in 90 seconds when a geomagnetic storm overwhelmed the system.
The most severe example of the phenomenon, known as a Carrington event, dates back to 1859 when a solar flare sent electrical currents through the telegraph system, giving shocks to telegraph operators and setting fire to papers.
There is a 91% chance a Carrington event in the UK now would leave the country without power for more than two months, according to National Grid estimates.
A Government spokesman said: "We take these threats seriously, and proportionately, and are considering the Defence Committee report carefully. We shall respond fully in due course.
"Many of the points it raises are already coordinated across government and will be covered by the National Space Security Policy expected later this year."