National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA stays prepared with world-class response units

September 19, 2017

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NNSA's B-200 King Air plane takes off for an Aerial Measuring System flight.

Preparedness is a high priority for the Department of Energy (DOE) and NNSA. NNSA is comprised of world-class technical and operations experts who can respond to a nuclear/radiological emergency at any DOE facility or anywhere in the world. NNSA teams train to counter both domestic and international nuclear terrorism, and are prepared to search for radioactive material, support the rendering safe of threat devices, and help manage the consequences of a release of radioactive material into the environment. Below is a summary of what each team does:

  • The Aerial Measuring System uses aircraft equipped with radiation detectors to rapidly survey radioactive contamination on the ground.
  • The Disposition and Forensic Evidence Analysis Team is ready to safely disassemble an improvised nuclear device after it has been rendered safe. The team works jointly with the FBI to gather traditional evidence and assess the device as it is taken apart.
  • DOE Forensics Operations provides technical mission guidance, sample screening, and health physics support to the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force. This interagency task force is responsible for collecting samples after the detonation of an improvised nuclear device or a radiological dispersal device.

The Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center sets up for an exercise.

  • The Consequence Management Response Team stands ready to collect radiation exposure and radioactive contamination data and assess it for decision makers in the event of a radiological incident. The team is supported by the Consequence Management Home Team, which provides technical support and helps manage information exchange. During a large response, the response team serves as the core of the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center, which is an interagency body that coordinates and manages federal radiological environmental monitoring and assessment activities during a U.S. nuclear or radiological incident.
  • Render Safe assets provide technical advice and direction to prevent detonation of a radiological dispersal device or improvised nuclear device.

The National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center operations center.

  • The National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center uses high-performance computers to produce models of where airborne radioactive material is likely to settle.
  • The Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team deploys during emergencies to give expert advice on radiological and nuclear matters for DOE and its interagency partners.
  • The Radiological Assistance Program is NNSA’s first line of response in support of detection and identification of radiological and nuclear threats, and responds to events involving the release of radiological materials in the environment. Its members serve as technical experts to federal, state, and local law enforcement on a broad range of radiological response and preparedness operations.
  • The Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site provides consult to medical personnel for treatment of radiation injuries and is prepared to deploy medical personnel with expertise in radiation injuries for direct medical care during a radiological emergency. The site also conducts robust radiation medicine training for healthcare providers.
  • Radiological Triage analyzes gamma-ray spectra to quickly provide information on the nature of radiological or nuclear threats. Triage analyses are critical for responders to develop and implement appropriate courses of action, and ensure the scope of the response is sufficient to provide for the health and safety of responders and the general public.

As part of a robust and coordinated preparedness effort, NNSA works extensively with interagency partners. These partners include law enforcement and public health and safety agencies. NNSA lends technical support through planned training and hands-on exercises intended to ready all involved for real-world response scenarios.

Members of the Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team on board a vessel during a response mission.