Preparing for the Plausible Threat

From Security & Border and CST & CBRNE, Fall 2017

CST & CBRNE spoke recently with Capt. Michael Krant, Chief, Technical Training Department, Directorate of Training and Leader Development (DOT&LD), and Mr. Eric R. Hanson, Director, Edwin R. Bradley Radiological Laboratory, U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School (USACBRNS), Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, regarding the installation’s radiological and nuclear threat training regimen and the critical role the facility plays in the preparation of CBRN Soldiers for real-world engagement.

CST & CBRNE: How is the Army’s radiological training facility at Ft. Leonard Wood helping to develop the next-generation of CBRN-ready Soldiers?

Capt. Krant: The Edwin R. Bradley Radiological Laboratory serves a critical role in the training and development of every CBRN Soldier in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps. From Initial Entry Training of new CBRN Soldiers and lieutenants, to advanced courses for warrant officers and captains, the laboratory provides the framework for students to synthesize data into actionable information related to nuclear and radiological threats. This knowledge is applied by CBRN Soldiers to advise commanders on hazards and mitigation techniques in order to increase survivability of American forces in contaminated environments and minimize disruption to combat operations. The laboratory also offers a variety of functional courses to DoD military and civilian personnel on radiation safety and radiological packaging techniques.

CST & CBRNE: How have evolving threats impacted the evolution of radiological and/or nuclear weapons readiness training?

Mr. Hanson: The physics and science of radiological and nuclear material hasn’t changed from the onset of the Trinity Nuclear Test in White Sands during World War II and subsequent nuclear weapons tests through the 1950s, to the early 1990s. What has changed is technology. We now have the ability to identify the type of radiation by the use of a hand held radiation detector that identifies the radiological nuclide. We have the ability to locate radiological sources inside buildings and know their location. Radiation detectors are lighter and more efficient resulting in more accurate reading. Radiation protection clothing is lighter and shields radiation more efficiently. Computer technology has changed the speed that we can receive vital radiological or nuclear data which increases time to prepare. Advances in medical research of biological effects of radiation has increased the ability to prevent some of the adverse effects of the radiation and in certain cases prevent the extent of damage and extend the survivability by the use of radiological chelating agents and bone marrow transplants.

There are two primary threats concerning radiological and nuclear material, the nuclear threat and the radiological threat. The nuclear threat is the aggressive use of nuclear weapons or accidents involving nuclear weapons, and the radiological threat is the use of radioactive material in such a manner that it presents a danger to society, such as a dirty bomb. The two are separate and require two separate approaches in training and mitigation.

CST & CBRNE: From a radiological safety perspective, what are the primary hazards of the nuclear threat that can be addressed through preparedness training?

Mr. Hanson: The nuclear threat is concerned with nuclear weapons pre- and post-detonation and the nuclear fission by products that are produced when a nuclear weapon detonates. Students at the U.S. Army CBRN School’s Edwin R. Bradley Radiological Laboratory are instructed on utilizing manual methods to calculate the yield of the weapon that detonated, where the fallout radiation will fall, the earliest time the fallout will arrive and when the fallout will decay away to a level where it is safe to leave the area or enter a contaminated area based on mission requirements. They also learn how to prevent their electronic equipment from being damaged and how to perform radiological decontamination of themselves and their equipment. They learn how to maneuver in the contaminated areas keeping their radiation exposure to ALARA, or “As Low As Reasonably Achievable,” concepts.

The radiological threat comprises the category of Radiological Dispersal Devices, which includes the release of specific radiological isotopes used in nuclear power and energy plants, industry, medical, educational and the research communities. The release may be by acts of nature, accidental, or deliberate.

CST & CBRNE: What are some key areas of training that are crucial to detection, dispersal and response readiness?

Mr. Hanson: The U.S. Army CBRN School’s Edwin R. Bradley Radiological Laboratory is responsible for training the tactical and operational radiological courses for CBRN Advanced Individual Training, the noncommissioned officers attending the NCO Academy during the Advanced Leader Course and Senior Leader Course, the Chemical Basic Warrant Officer and Advance Warrant Officer Courses, the Chemical Basic Officer Leader Course and the Chemical Captains Career Course. The curriculum of these courses focuses on the science and techniques in collecting vital data for calculating the immediate warning of expected contamination or hazard areas, results of actual radiation dose rates and contamination levels, location of contaminated areas and the extent of contamination.

Students also learn to master Radiological Detection Equipment and techniques, radiological and nuclear theory, evaluation of a radiological incident, monitoring and sampling of radiological isotopes, determination of radiological contamination by alpha and beta particles, mastering the ALARA Principle of keeping personal exposure to radiation ALARA through Engineering Controls, Time, Distance and use of Shielding Material. They further are trained on Mounted and Dismounted Reconnaissance, Monitoring and Surveying areas that are suspected of having hidden, lost and unknown radiological sources or contaminated areas. They are trained in approaching, locating and identifying the unknown radiological source using the radiation dose rate being emitted by the source and gamma ray spectrometry.

In addition, students are taught methods to provide the commander with vital information for immediate warning of expected contamination or hazard areas, results of actual radiation dose rates and contamination levels, location of contaminated areas and the extent of contamination. This information allows the commander to move troops out of the area, or maneuver around an area of contamination. They also provide the commander with radiological and nuclear data indicating the time of arrival and completion of radioactive fallout, and data used in calculating when it’s safe to enter or cross a contaminated area.

CST & CBRNE: In terms of HAZMAT and density moisture testing, what are some of the chief process requirements being stressed in today’s threat environment?

Mr. Hanson: In terms of the Class 7 Radiological Hazardous Material and the Density Moisture Tester, U.S. Army CBRN School students receive training in the U.S. Army’s Radiological Safety Program as outlined in the Army’s Safety Manual, Army Regulation 385-10. The USACBRNS Basic Radiation Safety Course is a 40-hour course that certifies students as Army Unit Level 2 Radiation Safety Officers. This course is recognized by the major Army commands that are given a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license to safely store and use Army radioactive commodities and Radiation Generating Devices. This course is a functional course for all members of the Department of the Army, Army Reserve, National Guard, Navy Department, the U.S. Air Force and other federal agencies that require certification as a Unit Radiation Safety Officer in the course of their duties. Chemical Basic Officer Leaders Course students and Advanced Leader Course students are also given this training to ensure they have the training to satisfy the to satisfy the Army commands’ NRC license requirements for the radioactive material or commodities they may have at their unit. USACBRNS also trains these students to a higher level in the Advanced Radiation Safety Course certifying them at the installation, garrison and Army command Level 3 Radiation Safety Officer levels.

The curriculum for both Radiation Safety Programs is developed from the Army command’s that have NRC specific or general licenses to use and store radioactive material and commodities. These NRC Licenses have specific training and usage requirements to ensure it is handled and stored in a safe manner. Many of these commodities are found in CBRN detection equipment. The Density Moisture Tester is one of the commodities that requires a separate certification due to its radiological safety requirements. Students perform actual leak tests on the internal radiological sources to ensure that they maintain their integrity and don’t leak radioactive particles. They also learn how to perform surveys for the gamma and x-rays emitted from the device and ensure those emissions are incompliance with the NRC requirements.

The USACBRNS also trains the Radiation Safety Officers to meet the requirements to ship or receive radioactive material or commodities through the functional course, Radiological Packaging. This course trains students to safely package and ship Class 7 Radiological Hazardous Material in all modes of accepted shipping and certifies the students so they can sign the Declaration Of Hazardous Material for Shipping in accordance with the Department of Transportation, Defense Transportation Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 49), U.S. Air Force Regulations, International Commercial Air Regulations and International Marine Regulations.