Recently, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) helped plan and conduct an exercise of the United States’ capability to collect radioactive evidence in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation. The exercise scenario included the detonation of an Improvised Nuclear Device in an urban setting. In a real event, the evidence collected helps identify the source of the device and those responsible for its use.
The exercise, Prominent Hunt 16-1, took place near Philadelphia and involved extensive collaboration among federal and local partners, including the Philadelphia Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Philadelphia Field Office.
Members of the U.S. Government National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force deployed to the site of the mock detonation and collected samples of the simulated nuclear debris for analysis at designated National Laboratories. The Task Force is an interagency group made up of specialists from the Department of Defense’s 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives Command; the Air Force Technical Applications Center; the Department of Energy; and the FBI.
Unlike previous Prominent Hunt exercises, the task force – for the first time – utilized a robot to collect the radioactive evidence. This new nuclear forensic technology, developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, enables the unmanned collection of samples from areas too dangerous for Task Force members to operate in safely.
Another important element of the exercise was the Army 244th Aviation Brigade and the Department of Energy utilizing airborne systems that allow them to monitor the radiation levels of the environment. In a real event, these systems would provide information to help keep the Task Force safe and ensure the best samples for analysis are collected.
Exercises like Prominent Hunt help ensure the nation’s nuclear forensics capabilities are prepared to respond to nuclear threats. Nuclear forensics helps the U.S. government determine who is responsible for a nuclear attack and hold those parties accountable.
Watch a video of the exercise, from the 20th CBRNE Command https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggj6IrjjQdA
Photo Caption: Robot tested in United States Government nuclear forensics exercise
Photo Credit: 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera)