Textbook Cases: Nuclear Emergency Search Team (archive)
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Textbook Cases:
Nuclear Emergency Search Team
©1999 Kenneth Scroggins

NEST was formed in 1975 when someone in Boston threatened to detonate a nuclear device unless paid $200,000. There have been over 110 incidents from 1975 - 1996, and around twenty to thirty deployments. Officially, all have been hoaxes. Some 17 NEST scientists attempt to build nukes with uncontrolled openly available technology in order to understand the capabilities of such devices.

Standard Operating Procedure

1. Intelligence. NEST gets intel from the FBI and CIA. The DOE Non-Proliferation Program at Lawerence Livermore is an intelligence consumer, not a direct provider. Threats are identified outside of the DOE. NEST is supervised by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty of the DOE Office of Emergency Response.

2. Standby. In the event of a possible nuclear emergence, NEST will scramble a OEMT (Operational Emergency Management Team). These are the most likely candidates for Player Characters. When these beepers go off, the shit has truly hit the fan. All 1000+ NEST members, such as Lewis Newby of Sandia NL, a former Navy pilot and NEST leader, are volunteers and recieve no extra pay for their additional duties.

3. Credibility. LLNL has a computer database with every last published word about nuclear weapons. Terrorist threats and demands are checked against this database to see if they represent a credible threat or a simple plagerized hoax. Once the Reality Check analysis is complete, the full deployment can go forward.

4. Search. NEST deploys with FBI counter terrorism shooters. Occasionally they might use soldiers from the Pentagon's Special Mission Units. Searchers are equipped with disguised gamma and neutron detectors that broadcast "hits" to a wireless hearing-aid receiver. The detection equipment fits in large purses, backpacks, and breifcases. The range seems to be "one room away" for a typical bomb. This reads as 7 to 10 meters.
Searchers are surveillance trained and deploy as nondescript civilians. The search pattern divides urban areas in grids which are covered by as many as 100 two-person teams (one neutron and one gamma perhaps). Searchers face many many sources of false hits in an urban enviornment. Fresh asphalt, yellow bathroom tile, Vermont granite used in DC federal buildings, X-ray machines for dental, security and medical use, Radiation therapy hospital outpatients, Pacemakers, food irradiation devices, medical equipment warehouses and numerous other sources can set off the searchers' equipment.
Searchers also rent minivans and remove the rear seat in order to place larger vehicular mounted detectors, with a presumably greater range than the man-portable ones. Aerial photos of likely areas are taken. Helicopters (Bo-105s?) are used to search with hardpoint mounted detectors. These aerial pods are presumably similar or identical to the minivan device. My estimation is a range of 100 to 1000 meters. Anything less would make aerial deployment inefficient, and any more is drastically optimistic. LRADS, Long Range Alpha Detectors are in the experimental stage, and pick up ions generated by Alpha radiation. NEST also may use a two seat modified training Harrier Jump Jet called CLEAR DAY to conduct searches with hardpoint mounted sensors.
NEST is commanded from a ordinary looking Recreational Vehicle. NEST also has its own air force, and many specialized vehicles (possibly NBC warfare tanks). NEST radio frequencies have been identified by the Groom Lake Desert Rat as emanating from Area 51.

5. Recovery. It is legal and the SOP to kill people in unauthorized possession of nuclear weapons.

6. Ordnance Disposal. Diagnostic and Assessment teams use portable X-ray machines to examine the interior of any devices found. A forensic "vaccuum cleaner" fumes analyzer, and other fancy bomb sniffers.
Once the bomb has been studied, NEST may decide to let the Army Demolition experts dismantle or detonate the non-nuclear portions. They may also use a 30mm cannon to shoot the bomb. EOD robots might be used. Liquid nitrogen can be poured to freeze the electronics of a device.
Radiation Dispersal Devices are handled by erecting a 35 ft tall nylon tent and filling it with a thick foam (possibly the epoxy type developed by Russian scientists). The device is then detonated and the foam supposedly contains the radioactive materials.

7. Consequence Management. NEST and the FBI are notorious for their lack of attention to contingency plans. FEMA and local hospitals are often left out of the communications loop. Disaster relief and so forth are not really covered in great detail by NEST operations.

Possible Scenario

FIREFLOWER: Plutonium Dust is used to make industrial grade aerial fireworks. The strontium or other metals in normal fireworks may mask the radiation signature. The nuclear fireworks are driven around 24-hours a day in a random fashion. An armored car with possible lead shielding is used to transport the majority of the RDDs. Other Plutonium firecrackers are deployed in various fireworks retail sale outlets. With a sufficient supply, some may actually be sold to the general public.
Several decoy bombs similar to NEST dummy targets used in most exercises, are used to lure searchers off the trail. These searchers are to be kidnapped and held hostage after interrogation. If all goes well, the terrorist trap will enable the terrorist leadership to listen in on NEST communications for a time, possibly even impersonating the captured searchers.
Previously to the July 4th D-Day, many hoaxes will be forented and discounted, thus discrediting the Terrorists. Most of these hoaxes will involve sources of False hits (hospital X-ray machines, Food Irradiation etc.). This ensures that Local law enforcement will be less likely to respond to yet another boy crying wolf.

Recommended Reading

Anthony L. Kimery. "Your life may depend on the woman from NEST," Insight on the News, 23 OCT 1995.

Douglas Waller. "Nuclear Ninjas: a new kind of SWAT team hunts atomic terrorists," Time Magazine, 8 JAN 1996.

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