Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Since its foundation as an operational center in 1979, NARAC has responded to hundreds of alerts, accidents, and disasters; supported thousands of exercises; and conducted numerous studies for emergency response preparedness. As part of its emergency response mission, NARAC collaborates with and supports a wide range of organizations, including over 300 federal, state, and local agencies, emergency response teams, operations centers, and international organizations.

Choose a decade: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s

During the 2010s

2012 - Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Source Estimation and Model Refinement (Japan)

NARAC analysts regularly use field measurement data and other information to develop estimates of the amount of material released and develop refined estimates of the impacts of the hazardous materials. This type of analysis was used in Fukushima to refine estimates of potential dose exposures and contamination levels.

2011 - Los Conchas Wildfire (New Mexico)

NARAC was activated on June 26, 2011 by the Department of Energy (DOE) to respond to the Los Conchas wildfire in New Mexico which potentially threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

NARAC provided twice-daily high-resolution regional wind forecasts to LANL, DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fire Service. The weather forecasts were used on an experimental basis to generate a smoke visibility warning for the Fire Service.

NARAC also prepared radiological source terms and worked with DOE to coordinate the shipment of portable real-time radiological monitors with NARAC satellite data feeds in case the fire reached Los Alamos (fortunately neither were needed as the fire did not penetrate LANL).

2010 - Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (Gulf of Mexico)

At the request of the federal Scientific Support Coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon incident, IMAAC Operations at LLNL produced 24-hour forecasts of the potential smoke concentrations from planned oil slick burns in April-May, 2010.

These simulations were provided to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. This analysis predicted that air quality impacts from the small in-situ burns would not affect operations farther than a few km downwind.

IMAAC also provided a simulation of the original fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform on April 22, 2010 at the request of the Department of Homeland Security.

2011 - Mars Science Laboratory Spacecraft Launch (Florida)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other federal emergency response managers assembled at the Kennedy Space Center to be ready to respond in the unlikely event of a launch accident involving the Mars Science Laboratory Pu-238 radioisotope thermal generator.

A LLNL staff member served as the DOE Senior Science Advisor for the launch. Under his guidance, NASA deployed 30 Environmental Continuous Air Monitors which transmitted real-time alpha-radiation data from KSC and the surrounding communities.

NARAC's operations center provided worst case analyses of potential accident scenarios to over 70 local, state, and federal emergency responders and decision makers. The successful launch occurred on November 26, 2011 at 10:02am EST.

2011 - Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Emergency (Japan)

NARAC was activated on March 11, 2011 following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. NARAC operated on a 24/7 base for almost 4 weeks and remained on alert through the end of May providing:

  • Daily weather forecasts and atmospheric transport predictions to inform planning for field monitoring operations
  • Estimates of possible dose in Japan based on hypothetical U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission radionuclide release scenarios to support protective action planning for U.S. citizens in Japan
  • Predictions of possible plume arrival times and possible dose levels at locations in the U.S.
  • Source estimation and plume model refinement based on atmospheric dispersion modeling and available monitoring data

2010 - Eyjafjallajökull Volcano Eruption (Iceland)

NARAC conducted demonstration predictions of the dispersion of volcanic ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that erupted in April, 2010. These simulations were provided to the Iceland Civil Defence Authorities and Meteorological Office under the auspices of the Department of Energy.

The simulations included a 144-hour forecast of the evolving spatial patterns of local, near-ground-level airborne and deposited ash concentrations using information provided by Icelandic government agencies on measured ash particle sizes.

The model products from both runs were transmitted to Iceland using the International Exchange Program (IXP) system.

During the 2000s

2009 - Empire 09 exercise (Albany, NY)

NARAC participated in the DOE-led Empire 09 exercise, which involved 550 participants from 30 federal, state, and local agencies. The challenging exercise scenario involved two dirty bombs using different radiological materials. The new LLNL CMweb was used to distribute NARAC and FRMAC

2008 - Kilauea Volcano venting (Volcanoes National Park, HI)

IMAAC Operations forecasted the health threat from unusually large ventings of sulfur dioxide from the Kilauea crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.

IMAAC used high-resolution forecasts and worked with DHS, EPA, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), NOAA, Civil Support Teams (CSTs), the National Park Service, the US Geological Survey (USGS), and both the State and County of Hawaii.

The National Park Service closed the park and the County of Hawaii evacuated the town of Volcano for several days.

2007 - Solvents tank fire (Valley Center, KS)

IMAAC Operations provided a 12-hour forecast of the plume footprint from the massive Barton Solvents tank fire to inform responders' evacuation decisions in Valley Center, Kansas.

2006 - Southern Crossing exercise (Dothan, AL)

During the Southern Crossing exercise, NARAC worked closely with DOE, state teams, and FRMAC to develop realistic assessments of the consequences from a hypothetical dirty bomb.

Based on field and aircraft survey data, NARAC and FRMAC estimated the amount of radioactive material in the bomb and projected doses requiring the relocation of the public, as well as areas of potential crop contamination.

2006 - Pluto New Horizons launch (Kennedy Space Center, FL)

LLNL deployed automated radiological measurement stations as a new element of DOE/NASA's support during launches of spacecraft powered by Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators. These measurement stations provide near-real-time data feeds, significantly reducing the time required for NARAC to obtain data to refine model calculations.

2005 - Solvent plant fire (Fort Worth, TX)

Fire and explosions occurred at a chemical plant in Fort Worth, Texas. IMAAC estimated release rates based on chemical inventory information and provided predictions that were used by the City of Fort Worth to develop a shelter-in-place map for the public.

2005 - Chlorine railcar spill (Graniteville, SC)

On January 6, 2005, two freight trains collided in the town of Graniteville, South Carolina, resulting in the rupture of railcars transporting liquefied chlorine. Approximately 60 tons of chlorine discharged, resulting in nine deaths, 500 injuries, and evacuation of more than 5000 residents for periods up to nine days.

IMAAC Operations supported EPA-led monitoring teams during the week-long clean-up operations following the accident.

2004 - 2004 Democratic National Convention (Boston, MA)

IMAAC Operations deployed a staff scientist to Boston to assist state and local modeling preparations in support of the Multi-Agency Communication Center's coverage of the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

2003 - Environmental biological-agent detections

IMAAC/NARAC analyzed wind patterns and possible source locations following several detections of biological agents by monitoring systems deployed in the US. All airborne agents were found to originate from natural environmental sources.

2003 - Mars Explorer Rover launches (Kennedy Space Center, FL)

NARAC deployed personnel to Kennedy Space Center and provided daily forecasts of worst-case accident scenarios for the launch of NASA's two Mars Explorer Rover spacecraft.

2003 - Gasoline barge fire (Staten Island, NY)

A gasoline tanker-barge exploded and caught fire near the southern end of Staten Island. The plume was visible throughout the New York City area, and numerous 911 calls expressed concerns about another terrorist attack.

At New York City's request, NARAC modeled ground-level smoke concentrations, which were used to guide monitoring teams and to inform decisions on how to protect the public.

2000 - TOPOFF 1 exercise (Colorado, New Hampshire, and National Capital Region)

The four congressionally mandated Top Officials (TOPOFF) counterterrorism exercises have been the largest exercises conducted in the US, involving local and state emergency responders and decision makers, federal agencies, and the White House.

For TOPOFF 1, NARAC produced real-time plots for three scenarios: a bioterrorism attack in Denver, CO; a chemical agent release in Portsmouth, NH; and a radiological dispersal device (RDD) in Washington, DC.

2000 - Cerro Grande wildfire (Los Alamos, NM)

High winds turned a controlled burn into a disastrous forest fire that caused an estimated one billion dollars of damage and destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings.

NARAC developed wind forecasts and estimates of potential radiological hazards when the fire swept through parts of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

2009 - Presidential Inauguration (Washington, D.C.)

IMAAC provides support for all National Security Special Events under the auspices of the DHS Integrated Federal Support Overview.

For the 2009 Presidential Inauguration events, IMAAC developed detailed interagency response procedures and coordinated plume modeling support with local, state, and federal agencies. An LLNL/IMAAC liaison was deployed to the US Secret Service-led Multi-Agency Communication Center.

2007 - TOPOFF 4 exercise (Oregon, Arizona, and Guam)

TOPOFF 4 challenged IMAAC/NARAC to support nearly simultaneous RDD events in three different locations: Portland, Oregon; Phoenix, Arizona; and Guam. The center worked collaboratively with operations centers, field teams, and technical experts to predict blast and radiation impacts and correctly estimate the quantity of source material and explosives used.

IMAAC was cited in the After Action Report for its success in coordinating federal plume modeling and providing model products to the wide-range of agencies involved in the response.

2006 - Hazardous-waste plant fire (Apex, NC)

IMAAC produced forecasts of the downwind impacts from a major fire that burned overnight at a hazardous waste plant in Apex, North Carolina, in support of on-scene state and federal agencies, as well as at the DHS National Operations Center in Washington DC. The center also estimated health effects from a chlorine facility potentially at risk due to the fire.

2006 - Welding facility fire (Dallas, TX)

IMAAC estimated the downwind footprint from explosions and fire at a welding facility south of Dallas, Texas.

2005 - Hurricane Katrina (New Orleans, LA)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, IMAAC provided airborne-hazard predictions for several major industrial fires and chemical facilities at risk. The center worked with the NOAA Hazardous Materials Response Division and their deployed personnel in Louisiana.

In the months that followed, IMAAC also assisted EPA's scheduling of debris burns by making 24-hour forecasts of the resulting hazardous footprint.

2005 - TOPOFF 3 exercise (New London, CT)

IMAAC provided accurate and timely predictions for TOPOFF 3, one of the nation's most realistic and complex counter-terrorism exercises.

The exercise kicked off with a simulated truck bomb in New London, Connecticut. IMAAC Operations rapidly determined that a small plane was the source of a blister-agent attack and not the bomb.

Data provided later in the exercise confirmed the accuracy of this analysis. IMAAC predictions were used to make key decisions at the local, state, and federal levels, including the White House.

2004 - Chemical warehouse fire (Cincinnati, OH)

One of the largest fires in Ohio's history broke out at the Queen City Barrel storage facility in Cincinnati, which contained over 50,000 drums of chemicals.

Concerned about potential health effects, the Cincinnati Fire, Health, and Environmental Departments used IMAAC predictions to guide approach routes, plan air sampling, and develop shelter-in-place recommendations.

IMAAC staff worked with the city to analyze the chemical hazard and provided forecasts of changing wind and plume directions.

2004 - Chemical facility fire (Conyers, GA)

Only days after the IMAAC was stood up at LLNL, a major fire broke out at a chemical facility in Conyers, Georgia. Approximately 250,000 lbs of chlorine compounds burned over a two-day period.

IMAAC worked closely with the DHS, DOE, EPA, NOAA, State of Georgia, and other agencies to develop data-informed model predictions that were used to assess the public health risk, guide monitoring teams, and inform sheltering recommendations.

2003 - TOPOFF 2 exercise (Seattle, WA)

TOPOFF 2 was the first national-scale exercise led by the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

NARAC had an unprecedented role in the "dirty bomb" scenario in Seattle, supporting DOE's nuclear-incident response teams, the interagency Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center (FRMAC), and first responders under the LINC Program. NARAC used its new Web portal to distribute plume products.

2002 - 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City, UT)

NARAC supported the 2002 Winter Olympics as part of DOE's radiological emergency preparedness efforts.

NARAC developed access to a high-density regional meteorological observation network in the Salt Lake City area. Center staff deployed to the Unified Command Center in Salt Lake City and participated in interagency readiness exercises.

2001 - Post 9/11 threat assessments

Although NARAC did not model the World Trade Center attack, the center provided assessments for a wide range of terrorist threats over the next several months.

During the 1990s

1999 - Nuclear-fuel criticality accident (Tokaimura, Japan)

Workers at a nuclear fuel-processing plant in Tokaimura, Japan, were adding enriched uranium to a precipitation tank when they saw a blue flash, indicating the initiation of a nuclear chain reaction.

NARAC modeled the radioactivity released into the atmosphere from this criticality accident and advised that the radiological hazard did not extend beyond the facility. This incorporated a greatly expanded ability to use global and high-resolution weather forecast models and higher-resolution weather observation networks.

1997 - Cassini launch (Kennedy Space Center, FL)

Electrical power for the Cassini spacecraft was supplied by three Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators. NASA requires NARAC support for any launch involving significant quantities of radioactive materials. LLNL staff deploys to Florida and the center is prepared to respond in case of an accident.

1996 - Train accident with multiple releases (Cajon Pass, CA)

On February 1, 1996, several tank cars on a derailed train in Cajon Pass, California, began leaking hazardous chemicals. ARAC delivered a 30-hour forecast of the expected impacted areas to the California Office of Emergency Services field teams, greatly assisting emergency planning.

1995 - Peacekeeper launches (Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA)

ARAC provided Vandenberg Air Force Base with estimates of the potential health effects from missile exhaust clouds. An analysis based on these accurate calculations saved the LLNL Peacekeeper Test Program millions of dollars a day.

1991 - Railcar spill (Sacramento River, CA)

A derailed train spilled 19,000 gallons of soil fumigant near Dunsmuir, California. The spill entered the Sacramento River and produced toxic gases as it flowed downstream.

ARAC provided a forecast to the California Office of Emergency Services that indicated an evacuation of the Lake Shasta area would not be necessary. This prediction was later verified by measurements.

1991 - Kuwaiti oil-field fires (Persian Gulf)

For six months after the first Gulf War, ARAC delivered twice-daily ground-level smoke concentration forecasts to 17 agencies and countries in the Persian Gulf region to help assess air-quality conditions. This was one of ARAC's first responses utilizing regional forecast models outside the US.

1998 - Tire dump fire (Tracy CA)

LLNL's Fire Chief requested NARAC assistance when a large tire dump south of Tracy, California, caught fire late on the afternoon of August 7. NARAC provided forecasts of the density of ground-level smoke over the following weekend to inform decisions on actions needed to protect the public. NARAC regularly responds to requests for assistance from the State of California and local communities.

1998 - Cesium release from steel mill (Algeciras, Spain)

In June 1998, radiological monitoring stations in Europe detected small amounts of cesium in the atmosphere. NARAC staff analyzed these measurements to reconstruct the event and develop model predictions consistent with the data.

The center's estimate of the source location and time and the quantity of cesium released were verified when Spanish authorities determined that a medical radiotherapy source had been accidentally melted in a scrap steel mill near Gibraltar on May 30.

1995 - Nitric-acid railcar accident (Bogalusa, LA)

ARAC assisted in the analysis of the potential health effects from a nitric acid railcar release in the rural town of Bogalusa, Louisiana. DOE and the US Air Force authorized a joint federal offer of assistance to the State of Louisiana.

1993 - Sulfuric-acid railcar accident (Richmond, CA)

Workers overheated a railroad car while attempting to transfer liquid oleum (saturated sulfuric acid). The safety valve blew, releasing eight tons of sulfuric acid to the air.

ARAC delivered accurate predictions of the inhalation hazard to local and state agencies using real-time local meteorology and estimates of the quantity of material released.

1993 - Tomsk-7 waste-tank explosion (USSR)

ARAC used weather forecasts provided by the US Air Force to predict the regional extent of uranium and plutonium released when a waste tank exploded at the Tomsk-7 Russian nuclear facility. The cloud moved toward unpopulated areas northeast of the city.

1991 - Mt. Pinatubo eruption (Philippines)

During multiple volcanic eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo, ash clouds reached heights of 90,000 feet. ARAC provided forecasts to assist in determining safe flight routes for the US Air Force evacuation of 20,000 US military personnel and citizens.

1990 - Ulysses spacecraft launch (Kennedy Space Center, FL)

ARAC was a crucial DOE asset supporting NASA's launch of the Ulysses spacecraft from the Space Shuttle Discovery. Powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, Ulysses acquired solar data for 18 years.

During the 1980s

1989 - Galileo spacecraft launch (Kennedy Space Center, FL)

ARAC deployed as part of DOE's support of NASA's first launch of an interplanetary spacecraft powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. Galileo provided the first detailed survey of Jupiter.

1988 - Rocket-fuel plant explosion (Henderson, NV)

ARAC provided emergency managers with estimates of the regional extent of the toxic smoke cloud resulting from an explosion and fire at the Space Shuttle solid rocket booster plant.

1986 - Sequoyah Fuels UF6 accident (Gore, OK)

Workers heating an overfilled cylinder of uranium hexafluoride caused a rupture and release of toxic gases resulting in injuries to on-site personnel. ARAC estimates of the downwind extent of the cloud were later verified against Nuclear Regulatory Commission measurement data.

1989 - Tritium release (DOE Pantex Plant, TX)

The DOE emergency response staff at the Pantex Plant called upon ARAC to estimate the dispersion of tritium gas released from an on-site building. ARAC provided predictions of a complex plume resulting from a multi-hour release during the passage of a weather front.

1986 - Chernobyl reactor accident (USSR)

A partial core meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union resulted in an explosion that blew the 2000-ton lid off the reactor core. Millions of curies of iodine and cesium were released.

Over the next 16 days, ARAC estimated the activity released, modeled the transport and deposition of the material involved, and calculated the possible dose to people in Europe and around the globe.

1983 - Russian Cosmos 1902 nuclear satellite re-entry (Indian Ocean)

ARAC provided predictions of the dispersal of material from the uncontrolled re-entry of a Russian nuclear-powered satellite. Satellite debris landed in the Indian Ocean.

1980 - Titan II missile accident (Damascus, AR)

A mechanic dropped a two-foot-long wrench onto a Titan II missile in a silo at Damascus, Arkansas, igniting the hydrazine tank and blowing the warhead a half kilometer away.

ARAC developed estimates of the hazard from the hydrazine release and what-if radiological dispersal calculations in case the weapon was involved in an explosion. Fortunately, the warhead remained intact.

During the 1970s

1979 - Three Mile Island Reactor Accident, PA

The most serious nuclear power accident in the US occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Utilizing the newly developed ARAC modeling system, LLNL generated maps that were used to guide DOE and state measurement teams in determining the impacts from the radiological material released. This event was ARAC's first major response.

1978 - Operation Morning Light (Canada)

For several months, an LLNL team followed the steady decline of the orbit of a Russian Cosmos satellite powered by a nuclear reactor and calculated possible contamination footprints in case of re-entry. On January 16, 1978, the satellite crashed in a remote area of northern Canada. Over the next several weeks, US aerial and ground survey crews assisted the Canadian clean-up effort (Operation Morning Light).

1978 - Chinese atmospheric nuclear weapon tests

LLNL scientists estimated the path of nuclear debris from the last set of Chinese atmospheric nuclear-weapons tests in the remote Lop Nur region.

1973 - NARAC Beginnings

In 1973, DOE Headquarters posed a question to LLNL atmospheric research scientists: Could you build an integrated computer-based system that uses models and weather data to estimate radiation exposure during a nuclear emergency anywhere in the U.S.?

Five years later, Livermore scientists had combined meteorological and dispersion models with computer technology to create an emergency response system. On March 28, 1979, DOE called on Livermore to respond to the Three Mile Island accident. The center became operational on April 1, 1979.