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ORAU helps state of Colorado prepare for nuclear security threats and radiological incidents

Photo courtesy of Mark Olona

Providing and maintaining a quick, effective response to radiological or nuclear incidents worldwide requires highly specialized training through exercises that simulate realistic and challenging scenarios. National security and emergency response agencies look to ORAU experts for support with a wide range of exercises and training—such as Nuclear Weapons Accident/Incident Exercise (NUWAIX)—that validate their readiness for nuclear security threats and strengthen their response to radiological incidents.

As part of a series of nationwide readiness drills known as Capstone 2014, more than 25 experts from ORAU led planning, execution and after-action review for the full-scale NUWAIX 2014 on behalf of DOE. Held in Grand Junction, Colo., this national-level, DOE-sponsored 25 exercise involved a wide range of interagency partners, including DHS/FEMA, EPA, FBI and various state and local entities, and represented the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and preparation.

During the exercise, nearly 650 responders from local, state and federal agencies simulated an emergency response to a hypothetical traffic accident on Interstate 70 in Colorado that jeopardized sensitive radiological cargo on a tractor trailer while in DOE custody. While local fire, police and emergency medical services were the first on the scene, they quickly were joined by a host of federal and state assets, including specialized teams from the NNSA Office of Emergency Response, that addressed the status of the cargo and the public health concerns surrounding it. ORAU generated the technical scenario, developed the exercise training and training aides, coordinated logistics and led planning and execution activities across the range of DOE’s interagency partners.

The exercise produced lessons learned focused on improving interagency coordination, addressing issues relating to capabilities and coordination in relation to the transportation of weapons and materials, and the development and implementation of improved emergency response plans.