"If you lose electricity you lose the ability to pump and create clean water, treat and pump sewage, to maintain any perishable foods, all perishable medications, and you lose the ability to manufacture new things, like replacement parts for the things that were damaged," Kappenman warns. "The phone and Internet systems are only backed up by a few days worth of standby generation with very limited fuel.
"The ability to pump fuel is lost, the ability to produce new fuel is lost. Transportation systems would be severely compromised, if not totally lost. It's something we really don't want to experience on a wide scale."
The Japanese nuclear plants at Fukishima melted down because the backup generators were swamped by tsunami water, but experts warn that a similar thing could happen in Canada and the U.S. during a massive grid failure.
The U.S. federal regulatory and nuclear regulatory commission are considering new rules.
"We have some fuel on hand for cooling the reactor cores and the spent fuel pools, but they require much more backup fuel than what they have on hand. Right now they only have to have seven days worth of fuel, that is not nearly enough," Kappenman said.
He says the impact of a solar superstorm would be very similar to an EMP attack and it's best to prepare in the same way.
Many preppers are bracing for an EMP attack on the U.S., thinking that a lone nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere by an enemy state would short-circuit everything electronic from power grids to toasters to cars to planes.
Many are preparing by forming alliances and stocking up on food, water, medicine, manual tools, older cars and ammo. They are also urging the government to protect the grid.
The U.S. Congress passed a bill in June 2010 to protect the power grid and nuclear power plants, which could melt down in the event of a prolonged blackout, but it was never passed by the Senate in time and died before it could come into effect.
With the lack of protection from the state, Arthur Bradley says it's smart to prepare for yourself.
"Individuals need to really think about food, water, shelter, off-grid power and medications because if a very large storm does hit, the power could be off for weeks or months, many in the United States have had a small taste of this with the recent blackout and heat. Imagine it lasting much much longer," said Bradley, an electrical engineer and author of the book, Disaster Preparedness for EMP attacks and Solar Storms.
"If everybody in the nation, both in the U.S.A. and Canada were prepared for an emergency that lasted 30 days, they could provide their own food, water, medicines, their own needs, we would be so strong, no small event would upset our countries, but in reality most people have four or five days worth of food in the house, no stored water they have very few provisions for any kind of emergency."
Otherwise, he says, you could wind up like the Hurricane Katrina victims, a refugee in your own city, at the mercy of the state.
"If you have no preparation, no way to feed your kids, you have no choice. If you have nothing you are going to head down to the Astrodome or whatever is there, hoping someone can take care of you because that's all there is."
- Solar flares are quick bursts of powerful radiation caused when the sun's magnetic loops snap together, putting out high-energy photons that leap out into space, sometimes, colliding with planets, including Earth.
- Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are blasts of magnetized plasma travelling at millions of kilometres per hour out of the sun. Both can have devastating results.
- In 1859, a solar superstorm happened when a massive blast of plasma burst from the sun and hurtled towards Earth. It was observed by sky-watcher Richard C. Carrington and has since been known as the Carrington event. Electricity was only in its infancy then and one of the only noticeable changes after the storm was to the telegraph service. When the radiation hit the telegraph conductors, they overloaded them with so much energy that operators could unplug their batteries and "go wireless" off of the sun's charge.
- In 2003 a solar flare struck a glancing blow to our planet, grazing Sweden and taking out the power system in the city of Malmo.
- In 1989, Hydro Quebec's power grid was blacked out by a solar storm much more mild than the Carrington Event. Electricity was out for more than nine hours and it cost millions of dollars to repair.
- Preparing: for urbanites in an emergency, Arthur Bradley recommends a battery inverter over a large gasoline generator. Battery inverters can be attached to lead acid car batteries to charge small appliances, converting DC voltage into AC voltage.