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Bronco Thunder: NNSA and interagency partners conduct counterterrorism exercise in Denver

Federal, state, and local emergency first responders gather during the Bronco Thunder exercise to discuss nuclear and radiological crisis management in the event of a WMD incident.

NNSA, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate and the University of Colorado Hospital, recently conducted a tabletop exercise in Denver on the response to a “dirty bomb” incident.

Bronco Thunder was the capstone event for an NNSA-led effort to improve security and train personnel at facilities housing radiological material in the Denver area. It was led by the nation’s subject matter experts in radiological and nuclear crisis management and challenged participants to develop a plan of action in response to the use of stolen materials in a dirty bomb attack.

The Bronco Thunder exercise offered federal, state, and local emergency first responders the opportunity to think about the steps required in the event of a terrorist incident of this type. Participants were presented with a challenging simulation: a scenario involving a terrorist-related WMD detonation, or dirty bomb. The simulation encouraged a free exchange of information and ideas among partners and discussions about the coordinated response roles of the participants.

Bronco Thunder allowed first responders to learn about the potential impact of radiation exposure/contamination, understand their roles in a WMD event, and receive feedback about their proposed responses to the scenario. Participants were encouraged to ensure interagency coordination while providing timely and accurate communications to responders, the public, and the media.

The goals of this exercise, part of the ongoing Silent Thunder exercise program, were to familiarize participants with the NNSA-provided security enhancements to prevent the theft of radiological material while also informing law enforcement and first responders about national policy and best practices for a response to a domestic WMD attack.  

Prior to the exercise, NNSA funded a number of security enhancements at the hospital. Additionally, select hospital staff and local law enforcement personnel participated in Alarm Response Training at Y-12 National Security Complex. The training introduced the security enhancements and response effort needed to mitigate and contain an attempted theft of radiological material.

Bronco Thunder