NDC preparedness exercise starts

An initiative of the German NDC

Inside the data centre of the German NDC in Hannover

Upon the initiative and under the guidance of the German National Data Centre (NDC) located in the city of Hannover, around 20 NDCs from all regions of the world  are embarking on the NDC Preparedness Exercise on 20 October. The aim of this joint exercise is to enhance the ability of NDCs to detect and identify nuclear explosions.

The exercise is based upon the measuring data distributed on a routine basis by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which is otherwise not involved in the exercise.

The NDC exercise comes shortly after the CTBTO completed its own major on-site inspection exercise, the Integrated Field Exercise 2008 (IFE08), in September in Kazakhstan.

Already the second NDC preparedness exercise

The NDC Preparedness Exercise is the second one to have taken place, building upon a previous NDC exercise in 2007 and an evaluation workshop in early 2008.

The main differences to the previous exercise are the  greater focus on identifying an event as a nuclear explosion (as opposed to its detection) and the inclusion of other verification technologies such as infrasound monitoring (measuring the atmosphere for ultra-low frequency sound waves emitted by nuclear explosions).

The aim of the NDC Preparedness Exercise is the evaluation of:
- the data exchange between the NDCs and the CTBTO's International Data Centre (IDC).
- the IDC bulletins, i.e. the analysis of the raw data provided by the network of 321 monitoring stations, which is currently being established.
- the programmes and methods used  by NDCs and the IDC.

The NDCs have chosen a number of regions from which the 'trigger event' might originate

A seismic event will trigger the exercise

The actual beginning of the exercise will be determined on October 20 by a natural event, the first seismic event whose epicentre lies in one of 19 pre-determined areas (nuclear test sites and seismically active regions), with a magnitude typical of a small to medium-sized nuclear explosion ranging from 3.8 to 4.8 on the Richter scale.

In the testing phase preceding the exercise, 33 such seismic events were recorded over a period of 110 days from June to September 2008.

NDC Preparedness Exercise will trigger next CTBTO-WMO exercise

The CTBTO is working  closely with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This cooperation, which includes conducting joint exercises on a regular basis, was recently formalized through an agreement on a CTBTO-WMO response system, see CTBTO press release here.

At the heart of the cooperation is a method called Atmospheric Transport Modelling (ATM), though which the three-dimensional travel path of a radionuclide particle is backtracked from where it was detected by a monitoring station, to the area where it may have originated.

The findings of the NDC Preparedness Exercise will serve as a trigger for the next joint CTBTO-WMO exercise.

For more information on the NDC Preparedness Exercise, see the website of the German NDC here