LAWRENCE Livermore's Atmospheric Response Advisory Capability (ARAC) is a formally recognized national emergency response service for real-time assessment of atmospheric releases involving nuclear, chemical, biological, or natural hazardous material. Within minutes to hours of a release, ARAC can map the probable spread of contamination and the resulting exposure. Given this information, emergency managers decide what, if any, action is necessary.|
As the article beginning on p. 4 reports, ARAC's primary function is to support the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense for radiological releases. Under the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan, it also assists several other federal agencies and, with the approval of DOE, it supports local, state, and international agencies' responses to natural and anthropogenic releases. Since 1979, ARAC has supported more than 900 exercises and over 160 alerts, accidents, and disasters involving radiological and chemical releases.
ARAC's expert staff of 40, its validated three-dimensional atmospheric dispersion modeling system, and its state-of-the-art emergency operations center are the leading resources for analyzing and forecasting the fate of nuclear materials inadvertently or intentionally released into the atmosphere. ARAC's operations with their rapid response to real events distinguish it from similar efforts nationally and internationally.
In recent years, national security concerns have expanded beyond nuclear to include chemical-biological releases. Potential ARAC applications range from accident response to countering terrorism threats. Emphasis has been increasingly placed on meeting the needs of the in-field first responder. Desired services and capabilities continue to stress rapid initial response and depth of available backup expertise, but they now also include stand-alone predictions, mobile support teams, and network-based communication.
We have taken several steps to prepare the ARAC program to meet these new challenges. Through reorganization, we have coordinated ARAC and the DOE Chemical and Biological Nonproliferation Program (CBNP) efforts. The CBNP is developing the capability to predict the fate of chemical-biological releases both outdoors and indoors (for example, in buildings and subways). Its main focus is the prediction of airflow and dispersion in an urban environment-an environment where the presence of extremely heterogeneous surface features in a small area makes modeling a challenging problem. The effort is developing computational fluid-dynamics models to simulate the flow and dispersion of releases around and through building complexes. By coordinating this chemical-biological research with the operational ARAC program, we expect to prototype in the coming years a planning, training, and ultimately, emergency-response assessment capability for urban chemical-biological releases.
ARAC modernization is providing additional capabilities to help facilitate the program's current and future roles. To open ARAC services to potential new clients such as additional federal agencies, local emergency managers, and field personnel, we are developing Web-based network communications to the ARAC central system. These will allow simultaneous access by multiple emergency response agencies to ARAC's incident characterization and assessment products during an actual event.
We are also developing an ARAC interface to Lawrence Livermore's high-performance computers to provide real-time local meteorological and dispersion forecasts, detailed vulnerability and mitigation assessments, and accurate predictions of the dispersion and ultimate fate of chemical and biological agents released into the complex urban environment. Finally, to further enhance the value and utility of our plume forecasts, we are developing new visualization tools for analysis and interpretation, including demographic and critical infrastructure displays.
Our vision for the future is simple. We want to be a national center for atmospheric release assessments used by federal, state, and local agencies as they plan for and respond to hazardous atmospheric releases. We expect to realize this vision in collaboration with other organizations offering complementary services and capabilities. In doing so, we will strive to offer the right tools at the right time for users at the local, state, federal, level and international levels, be they research and development experts, emergency managers, or first responders.