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NNSA, FBI Conclude Exercise in Boston to Train First Responders in Addressing WMD Terrorism

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today announced the completion of a tabletop counterterrorism exercise at Children’s Hospital Boston. Longwood Thunder was the latest in the NNSA’s Silent Thunder series, which gives federal, state and local officials and responders critical, hands-on experience in prioritized alarm assessment and response, crisis management, threat assessment, emergency response, consequence management and post-contingency procedures in the event of a terrorist incident involving radiological materials.

Silent Thunder exercises take place in select locations across the United States to improve security for nuclear or high-activity radioactive materials. The series is jointly organized and funded by NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism Policy and Cooperation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“These exercises are critical to improving cooperation among federal, state and local officials, and we welcome the opportunity to work with organizations like Children’s Hospital Boston to ensure effective planning, communication and response coordination,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation Steven Aoki. “NNSA’s investments in nuclear security provide the unique technical knowledge and capabilities that help protect our country against terrorist attacks.”

These exercises involve fictitious scenarios such as those including terrorists infiltrating a research facility and attempting to seize control of a high-activity radiological source that in principle could be used in radiological dispersal devices (RDDs), commonly referred to as “dirty bombs.” The participating officials work cooperatively to assess and respond to critical facility alarms and then manage the created crisis as if it was actually happening. The goal of these exercises is to provide first-hand crisis management experience and to improve both alarm response and emergency response methods.

“The strong partnership between our local, state, federal and private sector officials allows us to regularly engage in preparation exercises for all types of disasters,” said Massachusetts Homeland Security Undersecretary Kurt Schwartz. “This important training helps ensure our readiness by testing our developed response plans and determining if those plans need to be improved.”

The Longwood Thunder exercise involved a fictitious scenario involving radioactive materials. Children’s Hospital Boston’s expertise in both radiation technology and security were valuable contributions to the exercise, which also involved first responders from the city and state levels.

NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative works with domestic facilities like Children's Hospital Boston to provide voluntary security enhancements. In addition, specialized alarm response training is provided for facility security and local law enforcement through the Alarm Response Training Course at the Y-12 National Security Complex

Started in 1999, the WMD Counterterrorism Exercise Program took on an expanded role following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Since the program began, more than 7,500 international, federal, and local officials have participated in 93 different exercises. To promote full participation by state and local officials, Silent Thunder exercises are unclassified and utilize open source information for scenario development. To learn more about NNSA’s efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological material, click here.

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Established by Congress
in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy
responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of
nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains
and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S.
nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger
from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and
effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological
emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.