Government Technology

Computer Models for an Urban Nuclear Attack Need Significant Improvement


November 23, 2009 By

Emergency responders have to prepare for many different disaster scenarios. But when that involves what amounts to an unthinkable catastrophe, planning often falls short. Such shortcomings are not necessarily the fault of disaster professionals, however. Sometimes we simply do not have the means to accurately predict how a disaster will unfold.

This is certainly the case in planning for the possibility of a nuclear weapon detonated in a metropolitan area. Obvious key questions include how large an area might be affected and where first responders should go first.

According to physicist Fernando Grinstein, we have some initial understanding to address such questions, but fundamental issues remain unresolved. The reason is that existing computer models are sadly lacking. "The predictive capabilities of today's state-of-the-art models in urban areas need to be improved, validated and tested," said Grinstein in a statement issued today. "Work in this area has been limited primarily because of lack of consistent funding."

The good news is that progress is now being made on this challenging topic. At the upcoming 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics in Minneapolis, Adam Wachtor -- a student who worked with Grinstein at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico -- will present his efforts to improve the way that models track the movement of radioactive fall-out carried by the wind. His wind models track the aftermath of a plume of hot gas released by a small, one-ton device in a typical urban setting at a three-meter resolution.

Current models use wind direction and wind speed to draw a predicted cone-shape area of fall-out. Wachtor's results show that these models are too simple in some ways. For instance, they do not include the complex dynamics of wind movements around buildings, which can concentrate fall-out preferentially in certain areas. They also indicate that small changes in the location of the blast and the temperature of the plume released can have a large effect on the contamination patterns.

The simulation is part of a larger coordinated effort between DHS (FEMA), the National Laboratories, DTRA, NRL, and private contractors, each of which has concentrated on a different piece of the project. Other studies have shown that, depending on the situation, buildings can provide some degree of shielding from the radiation.

The hope of the researchers collaborating in this effort is to eventually provide practical information to guide first responders. "We're preparing for [a possible] crisis," says Grinstein -- however unthinkable it may be.

 


| More

Comments

Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
McAfee Enterprise Security Manager and Threat Intelligence Exchange
As a part of the Intel® Security product offering, McAfee® Enterprise Security Manager and McAfee Threat Intelligence Exchange work together to provide organizations with exactly what they need to fight advanced threats. You get the situational awareness, actionable intelligence, and instantaneous speed to immediately identify, respond to, and proactively neutralize threats in just milliseconds.
Better security. Better government.
Powering security at all levels of government with simpler, more connected IT.
Cybersecurity in an "All-IP World" Are You Prepared?
In a recent survey conducted by Public CIO, over 125 respondents shared how they protect their environments from cyber threats and the challenges they see in an all-IP world. Read how your cybersecurity strategies and attitudes compare with your peers.
View All

Featured Papers