Researchers create simulation of chemical/biological release in Salt Lake City as precautionary measure

LIVERMORE, Calif.Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created a three-dimensional simulation of how a biological or chemical release could spread in and around Salt Lake City.

The simulation was not created in response to any known threat. But rather, it was made to display how a dangerous airborne substance would flow through downtown buildings in Salt Lake City as well as the outskirts of the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics in case of an accidental release or terrorist attack.

Scientists working in the Livermore Labs National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center used weather and wind flow data over topographical maps to determine how a release might spread over the area if it came from the surrounding mountainous areas, or if it was released in the Salt Lake basin.

Detailed weather data was fed into a three-dimensional model that portrays exactly how the layers of wind are blowing and how the winds will shift. The Salt Lake City simulation makes adjustments for how the buildings will block and channel the flow between them along street "canyons" (such as those found on downtown streets between high-rise buildings).

The simulation program, which will be capable of simulating a chemical, biological or radiological release in an urban environment any place in the world, is at the research stage and cannot operate in real time yet, said Jim Ellis, the centers director.

"This is not operational yet," Ellis said. "But this is what we are capable of doing." The Salt Lake City simulation was created before the Olympics as a model for potential future atmospheric releases in a largely populated area.

NARAC is the national emergency response service for real-time assessment of incidents involving nuclear, chemical, biological or natural hazardous material. The centers main function is to support the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense for radiological releases.

When a hazardous material

Contact: Anne Stark
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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