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NNSA and FBI Conclude 85th Exercise to Train First Responders in Addressing WMD Terrorism

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the completion of a table-top counterterrorism exercise at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Participants in the 85th The exercise was the NNSA Counterterrorism Exercise Program’s 85th, and the latest in the Silent Thunder series, which gives federal, state and local officials and responders critical, hands-on experience in crisis management, emergency response, threat assessment, consequence management and post-contingency procedures in the event of a terrorist incident involving radiological materials. Exercises take place in locations across the United States. The series is jointly organized and funded by NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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.”

"Silent Thunder illustrates how NNSA’s investment in nuclear security is providing the technical knowledge and capabilities to protect our country against terrorist attacks," said Deputy Under Secretary for Counterterrorism Steven Aoki. "These exercises are critical to improving cooperation among federal, state and local officials, and we welcome the opportunity to work with organizations like MIT to ensure effective planning, communication and response coordination."

The MIT exercise involved a fictitious scenario involving radioactive materials. MIT expertise in both radiation technology and security was a valuable contribution to the exercise, which also involved first responders from the city and state level.

Started in 1999, the Counterterrorism Exercise Program took on an expanded role following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Since the program began, over 5,700 federal, state and local officials have participated in 85 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.