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(September 10-15, 2001): Nuclear Response Team Is Away from the US for a Counterterrorism Exercise in Europe

Logo of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team.Logo of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team. [Source: Nuclear Emergency Search Team]Members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, taking part in a training exercise in Europe called Jackal Cave. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009] Jackal Cave, which is run by the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command, involves participants tracking down a hypothetical force made up of terrorists and organized criminals who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, or “loose nukes” (see (8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-x] Over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo are involved in the exercise. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 404] Three components of NEST are taking part: the Lincoln Gold Augmentation Team, the Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team, and the Joint Technical Operations Team. The NEST personnel are in Europe by September 10, if not before then, for the exercise. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178] It is unclear where exactly in Europe they go, but some Special Operations personnel are in Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia for the exercise, so the NEST personnel may be in one or more of these countries too. [Naylor, 2015, pp. x]
Exercise Participants Are Flown Back to the US - Jackal Cave is promptly canceled in response to the attacks in the United States on September 11. [BBC News, 9/13/2001; Naylor, 2015, pp. xiii] NEST and Department of Energy personnel who are in Europe for the exercise are then taken home by military airlift. They are all back in America by September 15. [Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, 2001 pdf file; Richelson, 2009, pp. 178]
Nuclear Search Team Is Put on Standby - Shortly after the attacks occur on September 11, NEST members (presumably those who are not involved in the exercise) are informed that they could potentially be called out for duty and told to be on standby. One NEST member will later say he received the instruction to be on standby sometime between around 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on September 11. This alert is ordered as a precaution and is not in response to any specific nuclear threat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On September 12, NEST flies its specially equipped plane to New York to search for industrial radioactive sources and hot spots under the rubble of the World Trade Center. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 10/11/2005; Richelson, 2009, pp. 179-180]
Exercise Is the Team's First Overseas Deployment Since 1998 - NEST, which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, is “an elite band of scientists, engineers, computer experts, and technicians that would respond to terrorists armed with stolen or homemade nuclear weapons or radioactive materials,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The team has about 1,000 members who would, if necessary, be responsible for finding and disabling nuclear devices. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 12/18/2001; Dumas, 2010, pp. 46] Its involvement in Jackal Cave is its first participation in an overseas exercise since 1998. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009]

Entity Tags: US Department of Energy, Nuclear Emergency Search Team, Jackal Cave, Joint Special Operations Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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