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At Los Alamos, prior planning facilitated quick 9/11 response

Don Cobb
Associate Director for Threat Reduction Los Alamos National Laboratory

By Dave Lyons

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., September 2002 -- Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory didn't start thinking about the issue of counter-terrorism on September 12, 2001. "The three National Nuclear Security Administration laboratories have been involved for decades in technology development and problem solving in the realm of arms control and nonproliferation," notes Associate Director for Threat Reduction Don Cobb.

"Through our work in these areas, Los Alamos has developed a skill and technology base that enabled us to respond immediately following the September 11 attacks to calls for assistance in counter-terrorism and homeland security," Cobb said in congressional testimony this summer.

That testimony touched on many of the technologies that were presented to President Bush, when he visited Argonne National Laboratory recently. "Our people should be proud," Cobb says. "Los Alamos has done a tremendous job responding to the challenges facing the nation post-9/11."

Among the Los Alamos technologies relevant to homeland security are:

National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC): Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratory have partnered to establish NISAC to provide improved technical planning and decision support for the analysis of critical infrastructures.

Threat Analysis and Warning: Following the September 11 attacks, Los Alamos established a multidisciplinary team of analysts searching for evidence of terrorist activity.

Immigration and Naturalization Service, Entry/Exit System: Los Alamos provides advice and objective recommendations to an INS task force regarding the design and development of an integrated, automated entry/exit system.

GENetic Imagery Exploitation (GENIE): GENIE uses feature-extraction technology to enable human analysts to keep up with the flood of high-quality imagery.

Responding to Anthrax Attacks: Los Alamos researchers have supported federal agencies by providing DNA forensics expertise.

Biological Aerosol Sentry and Information System (BASIS):, A joint Los alamos-Livermore project, BASIS provies early warning of airborne biological weapons attack.

Chemical Detection: The Swept Frequency Acoustic Interferometer (SFAI) can be used to determine the composition of suspected chemical weapons without opening or disturbing the weapon.

Securing Nuclear Materials at their Source: Laboratory researchers have worked for more than a decade securing materials through the Department of Energy/NNSA Materials Protection, Control and Accounting program and have begun efforts to secure radiological sources in Russia.

Second Line of Defense (SLD): The SLD program works to strengthen Russia's overall capability to prevent the illegal transfer of nuclear materials, equipment and technology to would-be proliferators.

Protecting U.S. Borders, Bases and Cities: This area strives to detect radiological or nuclear materials at U.S. ports of entry, military bases and cities. The Laboratory provides several federal agencies information on handheld radiation detectors and isotope identifiers, advice on what instruments to buy and instruction in their use.

Nuclear Sensors, Detectors and Isotope Identifiers: Los Alamos has long been a leader in the development of devices to search for, detect and identify nuclear and radiological materials. Developments include handheld, portal, package and container monitors.

Nuclear Emergency Preparedness and Response: Los Alamos has more than 100 employees involved in the DOE Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST), focused on responding to a threat involving radiological or nuclear materials or devices.

A more complete listing of Los Alamos homeland security technologies is available online in Cobb's Congressional testimony.


Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring safety and confidence in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and improving the environmental and nuclear materials legacy of the cold war. Los Alamos' capabilities assist the nation in addressing energy, environment, infrastructure and biological security problems.

For more Los Alamos news, visit www.lanl.gov.


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