This week, the military will conduct a “large-scale” nuclear training exercise in Houston, simulating an unthinkable scenario, while the FBI has alerted residents of Harris County and southeast Houston about the “multi-agency” drills taking place from Monday to Friday, to prepare for a nuclear attack.
The FBI has assured the public that the presence of “military personnel and aircraft, and people in protective equipment” is part of the exercise and should not cause alarm, the UK’s Daily Mail has reported.
The drill takes place against a backdrop of escalating threats from North Korea and Russia. According to analysis, if a missile launched from Pyongyang were to strike Houston, approximately 130,000 people could lose their lives.
In 2017, North Korea tested a missile that, if deployed, would generate lethal radioactive fallout covering an area of around 3 square kilometers. This fallout would encompass well-known sites in Houston such as the Downtown Aquarium and the George H. W. Bush Monument, as illustrated by NukeMap, an app created by nuclear weapons historian Alex Wellerstein.
One of the sites designated for the nuclear training exercises this week is Ellington Field, a defense and homeland security complex that accommodates numerous military units from all branches of the US Armed Forces. The facility serves as the headquarters of the Texas Air National Guard’s 147th Reconnaissance Wing and a NASA Flight Operations unit affiliated with the Johnson Space Center, located nearby.
The FBI has not disclosed why Houston was chosen for the drills. However, a map initially published by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2002 revealed that Houston could be a primary target for a nuclear attack due to its high population density and critical infrastructure, the outlet reported.
Last May, the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration spearheaded a comparable ‘major radiological incident exercise’ in Austin, Texas, known as ‘Cobalt Magnet 22.’ Over 30 local, state, and federal agencies participated in the exercise.
According to FBI Houston, this week’s drills are part of a series of routine US government biannual exercises. The FBI further noted that the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security will lead the training exercises in Houston, noted the Daily Mail.
Numerous local and state agencies will participate in the drills, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston Police Department, and various other law enforcement, fire, emergency management, and public health agencies.
In a statement, the FBI said: “The exercise is an opportunity for participating entities to practice and enhance operational readiness to respond in the event of a nuclear incident in the United States or overseas. The training exercise will not pose any risk or interference to the public.”
Last week, President Joe Biden issued a warning to North Korea, stating that any nuclear attack would result in an overwhelming response. Biden made his statement during South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit, during which they established the “Washington Declaration,” which formalizes measures to discourage North Korea.
However, the agreement angered North Korea, which is enhancing its tactical nuclear weapons to target its neighbor and developing long-range weapons capable of striking the US.
Furthermore, the West is confronting an increasing nuclear danger from Russia due to growing tensions over the war in Ukraine.
In April, a high-ranking Russian security official cautioned that the risk of nuclear warfare had intensified due to NATO’s military support to Ukraine.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, declared: “Every day when they provide Ukraine with foreign weapons brings the nuclear apocalypse closer.”
During the Ukraine war, Vladimir Putin has frequently alluded to the potential utilization of nuclear weapons and has overseen nuclear “Thunder” exercises that involve submarines, bombers, and ballistic missile launches within Russia.