The exercise, involving emergency operations officials from cities countywide, will give local agencies a chance to learn when it's necessary to evacuate areas of the Los Angeles basin that are not affected by initial radioactive fallout.
After the detonation of a nuclear bomb, the wind would carry the plume in a certain direction. Through the exercise, officials hope to learn how to best notify the public of whether to evacuate or to shelter in place.
"We're working to see what tactics we would need to apply to save lives," Contreras said. "That's the big thing - looking at it from the perspective of `It's a catastrophic event and what can we do to minimize the impact'."
The exercise comes as President Obama meets with world leaders through today for the first-ever Nuclear Security Summit to focus securing nuclear weapons and related raw materials worldwide to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists.
President Obama has labeled nuclear terrorism a "threat that rises above all others in urgency."
A report issued Monday by Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs predicted that unless the world acts with great urgency there is a greater than 50 percent chance that terrorists will use a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world by 2013. The report noted that al Qaeda has threatened to kill 4 million Americans and has sought nuclear weapons for more than a decade.
Michael Intriligator, a terrorism expert and a professor of economics, political science and public policy at UCLA, said al Qaeda has named Los Angeles as one of its top two targets. Intriligator said the detonation of an improvised nuclear device at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports could kill 1 million people and cripple the nation's economy.
"They are trying to outdo 9-11," Intriligator said. "They are looking for weapons of mass destruction - whether it's nuclear, chemical or biological - that would be more spectacular and kill more people than 9-11."
Sheriff's Department Sgt. Scott Anger, a terrorist expert, said local, state and federal officials in Los Angeles are working on plans and taking steps to try to prevent terrorists from ever using a weapon of mass destruction here.
"To that end, we do have radiological as well as nuclear detection capability and interdiction capabilities," Anger said.
From the White House
Expanding the Effort to Achieve Nuclear Security
Posted by Jesse Lee
April 12, 2010
Last week saw marked progress on one of the President's key long-term foreign policy objectives to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to secure vulnerable nuclear materials. On April 8th, President Obama signed the New START Treaty which will require the United States and Russia to reduce -- by 30 percent below the levels in a treaty signed in 2002 -- the number of nuclear warheads they have deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles, and bombers. A year in the making, this treaty marked an important step towards the goal of eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons to humanity, a goal the President recognizes may not be reached in his lifetime but which will never happen if we do not strive for it. The New Start Treaty was signed two days after the Department of Defense released the new Nuclear Posture Review, which establishes as a goal of America's foreign policy "to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist," as the President put it in his statement.
This morning the President arrived at the Nuclear Security Summit with leaders from around the world to pursue a comprehensive nuclear security agenda to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years. As Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes explained in previewing the summit, "Obviously no one nation is capable of taking the actions necessary to secure vulnerable nuclear materials that are in many different countries and in many different regions of the world. Similarly, no one nation is capable of pursuing the kind of nuclear security measures that can prevent the transit, illicit transit, of those types of materials." The summit will focus on collective action to achieve these goals, and as the largest gathering of countries by an American President dedicated to a specific issue in decades, it represents a recognition by the President and so many other leaders of the seriousness of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism.
The work of the summit began yesterday with a number of bilateral meetings, with more scheduled today with King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia, President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia, and President Hu Jintao of China. The President will welcome each head of delegation late this afternoon, and the summit will begin in earnest with a working dinner tonight to be followed with much more tomorrow.