What threats face America's electrical grid?

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This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," April 22, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARK LEVINE, HOST: Hello, America, I am Mark Levin, this is "Life, Liberty & Levin" and we're here tonight to discuss an issue that I think is of grave importance. What happens if the electrical grid goes down? And is it easy to take it out? And who might take it out? And what can we do to protect it?

This is a very, very important program as far as I am concerned. So, I brought in the best who I can think of, Dr. Peter Pry. How are you, sir?

PETER VINCENT PRY, TASK FORCE ON NATIONAL AND HOMELAND SECURITY: Thank you for having me, sir.

LEVIN: My honor. I consider you the foremost expert on this subject and you've written widely about it. You've testified. You're the Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, this electromagnetic pulse, EMP and other threats on an accelerated basis, Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Form and Advisory Board to Congress on policies to counter weapons of mass destruction.

Boy, you must be staying up at night. You must have nightmares.

You were an intelligence officer with the CIA responsible for analyzing Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy and operational plans including EMP threats. So, let's begin at the beginning. What's EMP?

PRY: Electromagnetic pulse is basically a super energetic radio wave. It's got so much power that it can destroy electronics across a huge area. In fact, across the entire world in the case of a super storm, a solar super storm, the EMP can be made by nature, by the sun, by a solar super storm or it can be made by man via nuclear weapon and it can be made by nonnuclear weapons as well.

In the case of a sun, what we're concerned about is the once in a century, once every 150 years solar super storm. We have geomagnetic storms that happen every year that affect countries at high northern latitudes, but once every century, a 150 years ago, at NASA's estimate, a super storm will happen that will create an EMP that is so powerful that it can destroy electronics across the entire world and put billions of lives at risk.

LEVINE: Electromagnetic pulse.

PRY: Yes.

LEVINE: Is that what electricity does as it moves? What does that mean exactly?

PRY: Well, think of it this way, I think everybody has had the experience of driving down a highway with your radio on and then pass under a high power line and you lose the radio then you come back out on the other side. That's basically what an EMP is. It's an electromagnetic field, all right? Except it's much more powerful than the field that you experience on the highway.

Now imagine there is so much energy in that field, when you go through it, all the electronics in your car are destroyed. Now, imagine the field is not just localized to a small spot on the highway, but it covers all of North America and would destroy electronics across that entire area. That is what could be accomplished if you had a single nuclear weapon and detonated it above the atmosphere say at 300 kilometers or so, up in outer space.

Mind you, this is a different nuclear attack than the one people are used to thinking about. It wouldn't destroy a city. There would be fallout. There would be no blast effects. If you were standing on the ground directly beneath the explosion and it was detonating overhead at 300 kilometers, or it could as low as 30 kilometers, it's in the vacuum of space.

So that you wouldn't even hear the explosion. There would be no blast effects that would reach the ground. There would be no radioactive fallout.

LEVINE: Have we ever had one of these solar scenarios that you're talking about? You said every 100 or 150 years?

PRY: Yes, back in 1859, there was a solar super storm that we called the Carrington Event, and at that time, this was the electronics, the cutting edge of electronics of the day. This was in 1859 telegraph key.

The colonial powers had strong telegraph systems all over the world, in India, China, Africa, North America. In North America, we had them in North America, we just laid the Trans-Atlantic cables so that North America and Europe were connected for the first time.

And when the pulse happened, it was so powerful. And I think you can -- your viewers will be able to see the simple switch is you know, really crude, made of heavy metal and all the rest.

Telegraph keys like this were melted. The wooden base burst into flame. Telegraph stations burned down. The telegraph wires burst into flame and caused forest fires all over the world. The pulse was so powerful, it reached down miles deep into the Atlantic Ocean and burned the cable out and had to be replaced.

Now, this didn't end civilization in 1859, because those were the horse and buggy days, it wasn't an electronic civilization. You know, this was just cutting-edge technology, more or less a novelty.

But today, you know, this simple switch, this diode is the basis for our modern electronic civilization. You know, all of our computers, our control systems, your cell phones basically operate on that simple switch and there are millions of times more vulnerable to EMP than this crude piece of instrumentation.

And that would put our civilization at risk if we had a natural EMP from the sun like the solar super storm over a nuclear EMP attack happen to put all of North America under that electronic (inaudible)...

LEVINE: I want to get to these nuclear scenarios, these terrorist scenarios, but first, you're you describe what the electrical grid looks like in this country and who runs the electrical grid in this country?

PRY: Sure, we have 3,000 different utilities that run the electrical grid, which is privately owned. It's not run by the government. It is run by private citizens.

LEVINE: So, those companies -- they are regional companies that all work with each other?

PRY: Yes, that's right. And we have our North American grid is divided into three parts, an Eastern grid, a Western grid and a Texas grid, and Canada is part of our grid. Canada is on the same part of our grid. It's part of the Eastern and Western grid. So, it's not just the US grid, it includes Canada and they're all wired together except for Texas, which has got its own independent Texas grid.

LEVINE: Why is that? It just came about that way?

PRY: It just pretty much came about that way. There are regional entities that manage and try to coordinate these various grids and Texas decided, you know, decades ago that they wanted to be on their own based on...

LEVINE: So, these are interlocking grid systems.

PRY: Yes.

LEVINE: Regional systems.

PRY: Right.

LEVINE: For the flow of electricity.

PRY: That's right.

LEVINE: And electricity flows through these cables pretty much above ground and below ground?

PRY: That's right, there are extra high-voltage transformers, they are called EHV transformers. Big transformers, the size of a house that weighs hundreds of tons. There's about 2,000 of them in the North American grid, and most people don't know it but they start the foundation stones of our modern electronic civilization.

We cannot survive as a society without them. They enable us to take electricity from Niagara Falls for example and drive it all the way down to New York City where there is another big transformer at the end of the line that steps that down so it can be used locally.

The transformers were invented in this country by Nikola Tesla. In fact, all the technology associated with the grid was invented by Tesla in New York, near Niagara Falls. He built the first grid in the world and we exported the technology all over the world.

Unfortunately, like so many things we don't make fundamental elements of the electric grid in this country anymore, the transformers aren't manufactured in the United States anymore, we have to import them from South Korea or Germany.

And if these transformers were destroyed, it would basically end us as a civilization. They cannot be mass produced. Each one has to be made individually by hand. The world, the global production...

LEVINE: You said there are thousands of them.

PRY: Two thousand of them. We have 2,000.

LEVINE: Two thousand, but do we have an inventory of them? A backup sources for them within our own country?

PRY: We have a small number of replacement transformers, less than 1% in reserve, and in part that's because it's so difficult to replace them. They weigh so much and they're so big, there's only three railway cars in the country that can move an EHV transformer. Bridges have to be reinforced, roads have to widened, and that's assuming that the society is intact and you haven't lost other parts of the infrastructures as would be the aftermath of a catastrophic EMP.

The worldwide capability to produce EHV transformers is only 200 a year. The whole world can make 200 EHV transformers, so...

LEVINE: And how many are there worldwide, do you know?

PRY: Oh, there's probably 10,000 worldwide, and if we were to -- if this country were to lose half of the EHV transformers, it would take the whole world five years to manufacture enough of them, assuming the whole world was not in a blackout, okay, but everything else was working and I don't think South Korea and Germany and the Chinese and the Russians would be so generous in the aftermath of natural EMP.

That's why, the way to think of these dangerous blackouts that we're talking about, they're not temporary blackouts, when you lose EHV transformers and the control systems, another piece of technology that is fundamental to our civilization is called the SCADA, the Supervisory control and data acquisition system. It's a control system that also runs everything. Both of these things are vulnerable to EMP and if you lose them, that's it for us.

LEVINE: Let's talk about this. From time to time, in our country, we read of a state or a city that's without electricity for a few days.

PRY: Yes.

LEVINE: Maybe a tree has fallen and hit a particular generator or something -- a generator blows up. Things like that happen and then they're able to put it back together, in a relatively short period of time, but you can see even right there, three, four, five days, there's really a panic in place and so forth. And what you're saying is imagine this nationwide.

PRY: Right.

LEVINE: And when you start to think of electricity, everything we do is associated with electricity, isn't it? Even if you try and fill up your car, the gas station, the pump, electricity. Everything we do is related to electricity, no?

PRY: Absolutely. All the critical infrastructures depend upon it. Communications, transportation, banking and finance. We did an experiment on the Commission and I just -- I went to a grocery store and picked up an apple and I wondered how did this apple get on this grocery store in the Washington, DC area? You know, the simple apple? And tracing the history of that apple, it turns out it was grown in an orchard in Washington. It was harvested mechanically, it was cleaned and packaged mechanically using electronic systems and electronic assembly belts.

It was put on a refrigerated truck and then drove across the country so that people locally in Washington DC could eat the apple. So, even the simple apple depends upon hundreds of electronic systems in order to deliver it to us. And we wouldn't have the apple or any other food.

In fact, there's only in a 30-day food supply in the country to feed 320 million people. And water would stop immediately. You know, when you turn on the tap, it requires millions of volts in order to deliver that water through your tap, and the Commission couldn't figure out how would we keep 320 million people alive, no food, no water, possibly for years?

We estimate if we had a blackout in this country that lasted one year and that's entire possible in these scenarios that we're talking about, we could lose up to 90% of our population to starvation, disease and societal collapse.

LEVINE: Suppose, we wouldn't be able to function, we won't be able to get to hospitals.

PRY: That's right. You know, the most fundamental things wouldn't work anymore. In the case of a nuclear EMP attack, your car could be fried, or planes would fall out of the sky. Nuclear reactors -- we could go to Fukoshima, we have got 100 nuclear reactors in this country and they need electricity in order to keep themselves cool.

LEVINE: What do you say to people who will say this sounds like a grand conspiracy. This sounds like fear-mongering. You probably get this all the time.

PRY: Of course.

LEVINE: You probably got it from the Obama administration.

PRY: Yes, we did.

LEVINE: What did the Obama administration do in response to these scenarios?

PRY: Well, the Obama administration, to its credit, at least it took solar EMP seriously enough that they formed a task force to study the problem endlessly, but they didn't even want to hear about nuclear EMP, and the chairman...

LEVINE: Nuclear EMP is a nuclear event that wipes out the grid.

PRY: That's right.

LEVINE: Or a big chunk of it.

PRY: You know, with a nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude. It's the kind of thing that if Iran got the bomb, it could do it. If North Korea has got the bomb now and it knows about EMP and has threatened to do it to us, and that's exactly why the Obama administration didn't want to know or hear about nuclear EMP, they wouldn't even meet with the Chairman of our Commission, Dr. William Graham, who is really the world's foremost expert on this.

I mean, he was one of the people that discovered the EMP phenomena back the 1962 Starfish Prime Test when I was in elementary school. Imagine not meeting with someone like Dr. William Graham. It would be like not meeting with Albert Einstein when he's trying to warn you that the Nazis could develop this thing called the atomic bomb back in 1939.

In effect, that's how irresponsible the Obama administration was. Shutting the door on the Albert Einstein of EMP, who is Dr. William Graham, not listening to him, not following any of the recommendations of this Commission and in fact, when the Commission was reestablished by Congress, Obama and holdovers in the Department of Defense and did everything they could to sabotage and undermine our work.

LEVINE: Why?

PRY: EMP did not fit into the narratives that they had for trying to sell two of the Obama administration's major foreign policy objectives. One was the idea of a world without nuclear weapons. They were trying to convince the world that nuclear weapons don't have any utility. You know, you need hundreds of them. You're never going to be able to compete with the United States. That's not true.

Any nation that gets just one bomb because of EMP, you know, basically becomes a nuclear superpower that could threaten the existence of the United States. So, it didn't fit into the narrative of a world without nuclear weapons and it didn't fit into the narrative about the Iran nuclear deal.

If Iran had just one bomb, okay, you know, that would defeat the whole purpose of the Iran nuclear deal because they wouldn't need dozens or hundreds of bombs, and the verification provisions which are so poor on the Iran nuclear deal would become a mortal threat to the existence of the United States.

I, and other specialists actually think Iran has already got the bomb and has probably had one for some years and the capability to do an EMP attack. And this is something the Obama administration didn't want known, didn't want to talk about.

LEVINE: When we come back, I am going to ask Dr. Pry, what do we do about this? But I want to remind you also, you can watch LevinTV every week night at CRTV.com, give us a call and sign up, join our community there. It's 844-LEVIN-TV. 844-LEVIN-TV.

Welcome back, Dr. Peter Pry. What would be, before we get to the question of how do we protect ourselves? The question is, we need to figure out how we might be attacked? So, what are the different scenarios out there, I am sure there are many, in which a country might want to shut down our electrical grid?

PRY: North Korea could shut down our grid by an EMP attack off a satellite. They in fact have two satellites orbiting over this country as we speak that pass over us several times a day, that are at the optimal altitude to evade our national missile defenses and to make an EMP field that would cover North America.

LEVINE: How would they make an EMP field?

PRY: They would detonate the satellite when it's over the center of the country and the field would -- it propagates from the location of the warhead to the line of sight.

LEVINE: So, it would have to be a satellite with a warhead.

PRY: It would have to be a satellite with a warhead.

LEVINE: Can could they do that?

PRY: They could. They could and we're not sure that these satellites are not already nuclear armed.

The EMP Commission is very concerned that they may be and we have recommended that these satellites be shut down because the risk to the country is just too great to take the chance.

They could do it with an ICBM, although our national missile defenses would have a reasonable chance of intercepting the ICBM.

LEVINE: Now, if the North Koreans can do that with satellites, I assume that the Chinese and the Russians are far ahead of them and they can easily do that.

PRY: Certainly, and in fact, Vladimir Putin has actually threatened that recently about doing what's called launching an ICBM on a south polar trajectory which is the trajectory that the North Korean satellites fly on, a south polar trajectory.

LEVINE: Now, why would they do it that way? As it goes through this way?

PRY: Because we don't have any ballistic missile early warning radars facing south and we don't have any interceptors facing south. We're blind and defenseless in that direction.

LEVINE: Now, why is that?

PRY: Because during the Cold War, we assumed the attacks would come from the Soviet Union over the North Pole, which is the shortest distance...

LEVINE: A direct shot.

PRY: It's the shortest distance to our missile fields and our bomber bases and so, unfortunately we have left that flank unprotected. There are ideas and recommendations we've made for trying to, in a hurry, close this gap in our defenses. They could also do it by launching a balloon or a short range missile off of a ship, off of a freighter.

You know, North Korea actually had a freighter with a nuclear capable missile in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2013. We only found out about that because they tried getting back to the Panama Canal and we found two of the missiles hidden under hundreds of bags of sugar on this freighter.

Fortunately, they didn't have a nuclear weapon on it, but it demonstrated their ability to get a freighter with a nuclear capable missile into our backyard and we didn't even know about it.

So, those are some of the nuclear EMP attacks scenarios in terms of how we might do it. But there are other ways of attacking the grid too, and all of these other ways would be part of this new way of warfare that Russia, China, North Korea and Iran have all conceived and have as part of their war plan.

That includes cyber attacks on the grid. You could take the grid down with cyber attacks, that includes physical sabotage.

LEVINE: On the cyber attacks, hasn't Russia been poking around already?

PRY: Russia, North Korea, China, and Iran -- all of them have been poking around already, and our reaction as a society has been very disappointing, especially during the Obama administration.

The Chinese -- and the Chinese stole tens of millions of records from the Office of Personnel Management in one cyber attack. In another cyber attack, the Russians shut down the internet for the Joint Chiefs of Staff that was dedicated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and interfered with White House internet communications as well for about a week, you know?

At the time, there was a big scandal in the press, people talk about it in Congress, then time passes and people kind of forget about it.

What people need to understand is that what these probing are, let me use an analogy going back to history. Before World War II, there was another new way of warfare that Nazi Germany came up with called the blitzkrieg, that was a combined arms operation, combined armor with fast-moving infantry and mobile artillery and airpower.

And part of this blitzkrieg strategy was they had a motorcycle corps. So the motorcycles range out in front of the armored spearheads, in front of the airpower looking for weaknesses in the enemy lines.

And that's kind of what these cyber attacks are now. They're the equivalent of a German motorcyclist sitting on a hill looking out over your lines to see where is the weakness and how are we going to respond. They are gauging our responses -- that's all part of this. And we don't seem to get that we are actually under attack now by these cyber attacks because behind those cyber attacks is a possibility of physical sabotage by commandos, non-nuclear EMP weapons, so-called radio frequency weapons that can use EMP to black out electric grids and the like, all of them in combination with the ultimate cyber weapon.

Because in Russia, China, North Korean and Iranian doctrine, a nuclear EMP attack is not a nuclear attack. It's a cyber attack, okay?

The big stick would be this nuclear EMP attack that caps all of these. They could take us down by any one of these ways, but the combination of it is irresistible, just like the blitzkrieg that the Nazi Germany came up with was irresistible and nearly defeated the western democracies in World War II.

I fear this time, if we are not prepared and don't protect our systems, there will be no coming back from it. And the bad guys would win, in their doctrine, they could replace one civilization with another in a span of 24 hours. The world would be over in 24 hours.

LEVINE: We have the ability to do this to our adversaries and enemies as well, correct?

PRY: Well...

LEVINE: I mean, launching a missile, a nuclear missile? Exploding it above a particular country and so forth, do we?

PRY: We have the capability, not as good as the Russians and Chinese and North Koreans have, they have probably developed what we call super-EMP weapons, okay, they are nuclear weapons specially designed for EMP.

The United States has neglected its nuclear forces and we haven't deployed that kind of warhead. Now, there are other -- we have warheads, you can you really use any warhead to do an EMP attack, so we could. We could. We've got cyber offensive capabilities. We've got physical sabotage capabilities.

LEVINE: Do we prepare for these things the way our enemies do?

PRY: I wish we did.

LEVINE: In terms of offensive capabilities?

PRY: Yes, I wish we did. I don't know whether we do or not. I suspect we don't. The reason I suspect we don't is because we haven't even protected ourselves from the enemy's offensive capabilities, and if we understood and had put it together and ourselves had mastered this new way of warfare and we are prepared to execute it, I would have to believe that we would have taken the commonsense precautions to protect ourselves, but we haven't.

LEVINE: Are Committees of Congress, the Defense Committees, the Intelligence Committees, are they aware of this grave threat that you're talking about? They must be, right?

PRY: They are, they are.

LEVINE: Do they take it seriously?

PRY: Some members of Congress do. Actually, I should say the Congress as a whole does. The EMP Commission was reestablished. It was done so unanimously. Senator Ron Johnson, who is the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee passed a really important bill in 2016 called the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act which directed the Department of Homeland Security to start planning and preparing to protect our country from natural and nuclear EMP.

So, Congress takes it seriously, I wish they would take it more seriously. You know, one of the things that was done in the not so serious category is Congress decided to close down the EMP Commission at the end of September in the very month that North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that the North Koreans described as designed for super powerful EMP attack. It makes no sense to do that.

The commission should have continued if you were going to be really serious about this.

LEVINE: We'll be right back.

KELLY WRIGHT, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Live from America's News Headquarters, I am Kelly Wright in Washington.

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Reinking ran away from the scene of the shooting after he was disarmed by a customer at the restaurant. Police say he could still be armed.

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I am Kelly Wright. Now back to "Life, Liberty & Levin."

LEVINE: Welcome back. All right, Dr. Pry, now what can we do to defend ourselves?

PRY: There's really no excuse for the United States to be vulnerable to EMP or cyber catastrophes that bring down the grid or physical sabotage. You know, all of them can be protected against, if you protect against the worst threat, which is the nuclear EMP attack, and we've known how to do that for 50 years.

The Department of Defense has been protecting military systems for 50 years using surge arresters and blocking devices and we can do -- and faraday cages, and we can do the same thing.

LEVINE: What is a faraday cage?

PRY: It's basically a metal box that encloses a structure that keeps the EMP from getting in and getting at the electronics. Air Force One is a gigantic flying faraday cage.

LEVINE: So, in other words, it defends against these electromagnetic attacks.

PRY: Yes, that's right. It keeps...

LEVINE: On whatever is under it...

PRY: That's right. It keeps the electronics inside safe. And we can do the same thing for the electric grid. And it wouldn't even be that expensive. The EMP Commission estimated it would cost two to three billion dollars to protect.

LEVINE: Two to three billion dollars for the entire grid?

PRY: Yes, the entire national grid, which is what we used to give away in foreign aid to Pakistan every year until President Trump fortunately stopped that exercise. But if we took that foreign aid to Pakistan and spent it on the security of the American people.

LEVINE: I don't understand, they spend over $4 trillion a year.

PRY: Yes.

LEVINE: The GAO reports that we waste anywhere from $125 billion to $250 billion a year.

PRY: That's right.

LEVINE: Two to three billion dollars a year, that's mustard money for the Federal government.

PRY: I agree.

LEVINE: I am not talking down the money, I am saying that as far as the Federal government goes, that's a pittance, is there a reason why that's not slipped into these Omnibus bills?

PRY: Yes, the electric power industry doesn't want to do anything against the EMP, and they have very deep pockets, they own half of K Street. They lobby against bills. There's also...

LEVINE: But why wouldn't they? It would destroy the entire industry.

PRY: I know, but the idea that...

LEVINE: They don't believe it is going to happen?

PRY: Many of them -- they are not experts on EMP, okay? And they don't see their jobs in their right as being national and homeland security, they see that as the job of the Federal government and they also want to have a regulatory environment such as exists now where in effect, the electric power industry is the last critical infrastructure that regulates itself.

And we have many examples from history where industries have put themselves out of business or done things that have seriously harmed customers because they haven't seen it is in their interests to do so.

For example, the Zeppelin Industry convinced itself that it could fly people around in hydrogen gas balloons safely if they just exercise the right operational procedures, but had there been a Federal Aviation Administration back in the 1920s, we might still have Zeppelin.

LEVINE: But to me, this is even more compelling. Because we're not talking about regulating, taxing them, doing these sorts of things, we're talking about protecting the grid in order to protect the American people. It's a national security issue?

PRY: Yes, I quite agree. It is a national security issue, but the electric power industry -- I mean, the bad guy in this scenario is called the NERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. They are not engineers, they're not technicians. They're mostly lawyers at the top, and they see their job as to avoid having to do anything that the Feds want to impose upon them in terms of protecting from EMP or cyber, even the tree branch threat.

The great northeast blackout was caused by a tree branch that contacted a power line back in 2003 and put 50 million Americans in the dark. It took them a decade of foot dragging before they finally allegedly did something to improve our security against that.

LEVINE: But if the Federal government said this is part of infrastructure, you know, they wants to spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure, $1.5 trillion...

PRY: You are reading my mind.

LEVINE: Okay, and if -- and we haven't talked about this. And if they say, "You know what, let's put $2 billion or $3 billion aside for this?

PRY: Exactly. That's one of the EMP Commission's recommendations in the reports that we've put forward in our advice when we have briefed the National Security Council that EMP protection should be made part of the infrastructure renewal program, and one of the things that we need is an executive agent at the level of the White House, somebody responsible for protecting the national grid and the other critical infrastructures too from EMP, cyber, from all these threats we've been talking about.

Because the chief problem is nobody is in charge of protecting the critical infrastructures. We've never thought about that.

LEVINE: So what would we do for $2 billion or $3 billion?

PRY: We would install faraday cages and blocking devices and surge arrester on the transformers for example. You can put a surge arrestor on the transformer, just like you have got a surge arrester on your personal computer to protect it from lightning.

You can have a specially designed surge arrestor that will protect against lightning, against nuclear EMP, against the EMP from the sun. And had we done so, had we done so, it would protect you against all of these worst- case scenarios, not just nuclear EMP and cyber, but also severe weather like hurricanes.

Millions of people or hundreds of thousands of people who are made homeless for months by Hurricane Sandy would have been able to go home earlier if the electric grid had been hardened against nuclear EMP because it would have been able to survive the over voltages that happened during Hurricane Sandy as a result of high power lines getting knocked down and transformers and stages being damaged.

If you can survive the worst threat, the nuclear EMP attack, you will be able to come back much more quickly from any of these lesser threats, so it's not just for the rare exotic scenario of a terrorist nuclear EMP attack, it would improve the security of American people from things that happen every year -- tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms that cause blackouts.

And you don't have to be a physicist to see the grid is at risk. You know, if you just look at history of blackouts and the long recovery times that are required after there's these hurricanes, you can see there's something wrong.

Look at Puerto Rico, you know? You know, Puerto Rico is still not recovered as a result of the hurricane that went through there. You know, clearly if something like Puerto Rico is going to absorb all the emergency resources of the continental United States to get its recovery, we're going to be in huge trouble if a nuclear EMP takes down the national grid.

LEVINE: Incredible.

PRY: We've got to do better.

LEVINE: Yes, don't forget, just a reminder, you can join us every week night on LevinTV, LevinTV on Conservative Review TV -- digital TV network, just give us a buzz, 844-LEVIN-TV and join us, that's 844-LEVIN-TV.

Dr. Peter Pry, so is there anything else we can do to secure the infrastructure that's involving the grid and moreover, what have been the different -- the Obama administration you said wasn't terribly receptive.

Ts the Trump administration more receptive?

PRY: I would give President Trump an A-plus on his interest and concern to protect the country from EMP catastrophe. In his recent national security strategy, he is the first President to include EMP and protecting the electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures from EMP.

Moreover, there have been numerous meetings between the EMP Commission and the National Security Council and we've talked about making EMP part of the plans to modernize the critical infrastructure.

So the difference between the Trump administration and the Obama administration is night and day.

LEVINE: You meet with the Obama National Security Council.

PRY: They never let us. They never let us.

LEVINE: For eight years you never met with them?

PRY: For eight years, no. They never met with the Commission, and they weren't interested in implementing. In fact there was a general Government Accountability Office report done in 2015 that showed zero of the EMP Commission recommendations were implemented by the Obama administration. Not a single one were implemented by the Obama administration.

LEVINE: This commission was created by Congress, it's a legitimate commission.

PRY: Yes, of course, and the whole purpose of commissions like this, you know, is to basically provide a definitive answer for purposes of public policy about the way forward and the Commission system has tended to work well. We have National Missile Defense today and protection against biological and chemical agents because of the results of Congressional commissions.

There was a commission under the Clinton administration called the Marsh Commission that laid out the rules that started us on the pathway to preparedness against cyber warfare. And I wish I could say that the Obama administration followed the advice of the EMP Commission, as it should have, I mean, that's the point of commissions, but it didn't. We were ignored until -- for eight years until the Trump administration, and I just hope it's not too late because now, eight years ago, you know, North Korea didn't have missiles that could reach the United States, you know, it wasn't testing hydrogen bombs but it is today, and poses a clear threat.

LEVINE: Does this kind of link in with the whole notion of our strategic defense initiative and that really started under Reagan and conservatives and Republicans have tried to carry this forward through administrations but it's been a rocky road?

PRY: Absolutely. I think improved national missile defense bringing back President Reagan's vision of the Strategic Defense Initiative, you know, is one of the solutions. When you're dealing with an existential threat like this, an existential threat that could end your civilization, you want belts and suspenders, okay?

In addition to hardening the grid, the best thing would be to stop a warhead from being detonated over your country in the first place. And we are facing so many threats from countries like North Korea, Iran is developing these ballistic missiles, China is accelerating its development of nuclear missiles.

Russia just threatened us a month ago with all of these new generation nuclear missiles.

LEVINE: Hypersonic weapons.

PRY: Hypersonic weapons that we have no counterparts, too and nuclear weapons of new design that we have no counterpart to. It would serve them all right if we neutralized all that technology with Ronald Reagan's vision f space based missile defense.

In fact, under the Clinton administration, we were ready to go. It's a myth that strategic defense initiative didn't produce anything. It produced several systems including one called Brilliant Pebbles that could have been deployed during the Clinton administration.

LEVIN: And what was that?

PRY: It was basically space-based interceptors. They were autonomous space-based interceptors. You know, you could have put up a couple of thousand of them and they would have intercepted during boost phase, midcourse and reentry phase all along the trajectory of the missile at each of those phases and given you a very high probability of interception.

LEVINE: Folks need to understand the missiles shoot up into space.

PRY: That's right.

LEVINE: And you flatten out and they come down.

PRY: That's right. And Brilliant Pebbles could have shot them at each of these phases and intercepted not just a small threat from North Korea but it was actually designed to protect us as a shield, a missile shield from a mass attack from the Soviet Union and it could have done that and it would have rendered the net effect that that would have been to realize Reagan's goal which was to render nuclear missiles obsolete and it would have created a technological revolution that would have given the advantage to the defender instead of the attacker.

Right now, we're in a technological phase where the attacker has all the advantages and this puts tremendous pressure on the sides to do a first strike, and particularly for the bad guys, because they know they would get tremendous advantages from the first strike.

Brilliant Pebbles, strategic defensive initiative you know would take that away and would put the advantage on the defender and make it risky to attempt a first strike. It would be transitioning from a policy that we have known as mutual shared destruction to a policy I like to call SANE instead of MAD SANE, Strategic Assured National Existence.

LEVINE: We'll be right back.

Welcome back, you know, we are a nation at least in part of rugged individuals, and some of us want to protect ourselves, we can't just rely on the government.

PRY: That's right.

LEVINE: Is there a way to do that?

PRY: Oh absolutely. People should have a supply of food and water, have a generator.

LEVINE: Right there, people are going to say, "What? Are you a bunch of nuts?" You know, you even look at hurricanes and people have food and water survive and they get through it, and other people have to sit there and wait for the government to drop something from a helicopter?

PRY: Yes, that's right. It's unfortunate that so-called survivalism or preppers have gotten a bad reputation these days, you know. Because my father's generation, the Great Generation that had lived through the Great Depression and survived World War II, all of those people, whether they were Republican or Democrat, all of them, were basically what today we would describe as preppers.

They had seen government fail in war and peace and they wanted to be their own first line of defense for their families and had to be during the Great Depression. You know, my father fed his family by hunting wood chucks and they heated their home by collecting coal that had fallen off of trains along the railroad tracks.

When I was growing up, you know, we only lived on a quarter acre, but every inch of it, we had a garden, my mother was constantly canning foods against the day of who knows what? A nuclear war, another great depression.

LEVINE: So what do you do about the electromagnetic attack? What can you do in your home or your business?

PRY: You know, basically, the same kind preparedness that you have for a hurricane or any of an emergency situation, have a food supply, have a water supply, have medicine.

LEVINE: What about the electrical attack on your house, can you have a room or something like that protected?

PRY: You could. You could have a faraday cage, a metal shed could be you know...

LEVINE: And that's all it takes? A metal shed.

PRY: You could have a -- if you have electrical equipment or medical equipment or communications equipment for example that you wanted to keep safe. If you had a metal garbage can with a tight fitting lid and you put the equipment inside of a plastic bag so it doesn't touch the inside, that would mitigate the effects.

You should have an emergency generator at your house and don't put it on automatic, leave the switch on manual. So there are things -- you could have solar panels which are inherently kind of robust against EMP and that would -- anything to get you off the grid and makes you more self- sufficient would be a way of protecting yourself.

And you can also protect your state. People shouldn't have the impression, they shouldn't wait for Washington. All the solutions don't have to come from Washington. If you've got a governor in your state or the state legislature to require utilities within your state to protect the state grid, even if the big regional grid went down, you would be able to protect your state and be able to recover from even a worst case EMP if that state took the appropriate precautions.

I've written a book called "Blackout Wars" that actually is a manual to describe how can you go about doing that and how you can your state protected.

LEVINE: We'll be right back.

Dr. Pry, what do you say to people who say, "Well, this is all interesting, it's also scaremongering. It's kind of far-flung and I am not that worried about it?"

PRY: Well, the North Koreans don't think it's scaremongering. They know about it, it's a very real threat. The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians all know about it.

I imagine people who said that same thing before Pearl Harbor happened. In fact, we know they did. You know, 90% of the American people didn't think there was going to be World War II until it happened.

And the day before 9/11 happened, if you would've asked the intelligence community and the bright lights and the mainstream media and opinion makers, they would've said that something like 9/11 happening was impossible.

I know that as a strategic culture, one of the big disadvantages we have is we are a nation of optimists. And we always look on the best side. And then we have to pick ourselves up leading from the floor after the worst happens.

You know, I beg the American people to pay attention to this. Read the EMP Commission reports. It's real and if it happens this time, we will get no second chance. The only adequate response to this is to protect our critical life-sustaining critical infrastructure before it happens.

LEVINE: And of course, the NSC takes it seriously? Congress obviously takes is seriously, and the only issues is with whether we take it seriously.

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for watching tonight's show. Join us next time on "Life, Liberty & Levin."

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