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Physical Security

The protection of the nation’s critical infrastructure networks – including the electric power grid, oil and gas refineries and telecommunication systems – involves in-depth understanding and expertise in both cyber and physical security solutions.


Scientists and engineers at INL are already internationally recognized for their capabilities and knowledge in enhancing cybersecurity for infrastructure control systems and energy management products. In addition, the laboratory conducts a wide range of physical security testing and evaluation services for local, state and federal government organizations.


With a legacy in physical security protection dating back to the 1950s, INL is well-equipped with comprehensive knowledge, facilities and assets for improving the resiliency of infrastructure sectors and high-value nodes.



Security Technology Evaluation


The future of physical security protection at federal facilities and critical infrastructure locations is beginning to progress beyond the standard of gates, guns and guards, and is quickly being replaced by radars, sensors and cameras.


Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, several advanced physical security technologies – including long- and short-range radar systems, remote-operated firearm systems, unmanned robotic platforms and armored vehicles – have been developed by commercial companies and field-tested at Idaho National Laboratory to assist security professionals and law-enforcement agencies in protecting valuable assets at risk to terrorism.


Security professionals at INL routinely examine and assess emerging physical protection technologies for their potential use and ability to increase resiliency of federal facilities, critical infrastructure nodes and other high-value facilities.


Our 890-square-mile landscape, multiple training facilities and expertise in engineering prototypes, sensors development and firearm platforms allow INL to provide independent product analysis in a realistic operational environment.


Over the years, the laboratory has developed award-winning technologies for physical security. These include the Change Detection System, which identifies changes in digital images that are not immediately discernable to the human eye, and the Idaho Explosives Detection System, which scans cargo trucks for smuggled explosives.


For more than a half century, Idaho National Laboratory scientists, engineers and researchers have innovatively addressed some of the country’s most pressing security needs by providing customers with essential security technology, conducting assessments and providing training.


Explosives Test Range


The threat of an explosive terrorist attack on infrastructures and interests within the United States – such as government buildings, critical infrastructures and military facilities – is ever present.


In the last five years, the use and accessibility of sophisticated, large-scale explosive devices such as roadside bombs, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and breaching charges have become a common and deadly tactic used by insurgents and terrorist organizations. Events like the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania provide vivid examples of the devastating impact of such devices.


To protect innocent lives and secure our nation’s critical infrastructures from this growing concern, Idaho National Laboratory operates a comprehensive, full-scale explosives test range for performing infrastructure and vehicle resiliency testing, protective material vulnerability analysis, blast mitigation and impact testing, explosives detection, lightweight armor testing, computer modeling and simulation, explosive cratering analysis and explosive ordnance removal.


The INL explosives test range is unique in its ability to assist federal agencies, state and local law enforcement and private industry in analyzing explosives threats that could affect the integrity of infrastructures, protective barriers and utility systems. Scientifically validated results from testing provide structural engineers, architects and government agencies with accurate information as they are challenged to develop ways to defend the nation against this growing concern.


The range will have the capability of handling a variety of energetic experiments, including explosive events with a maximum charge weight of up to 20,000 pounds TNT, inert projectiles with a maximum flight of 8,000 meters, and shoulder-fired rockets.


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Vulnerability Assessment Center of Excellence


Security professionals and vulnerability analysts at Department of Energy facilities routinely conduct detailed examinations of facilities, buildings and vaults to determine the ability of the overall protective system to detect, assess, delay, interrupt and neutralize adversarial threats against strategic quantities of the nuclear or radioactive materials. This process defines risk, as well as developing protection strategies and training to prevent or minimize the impacts of a successful terrorist attack.


Traditionally, the process for conducting vulnerability assessments and measuring results was heavily dependent on the knowledge, training and experience of individual analysts. Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, a formal training and certification process for vulnerability assessments at DOE facilities didn’t exist. That changed in 2003, when a team of Idaho National Laboratory physical security experts spearheaded an initiative to provide in-depth standardized vulnerability assessment training to security professionals who are called upon to evaluate security measures and tactics at DOE facilities nationwide.


Today, INL manages a full-fledged Vulnerability Assessment Center of Excellence program for the National Nuclear Security Administration. The center provides comprehensive training, evaluation and assessment techniques for protecting DOE and other important government and industry facilities.


Participants who attend training at the center are offered a series of nine training courses, each geared toward improving the overall reporting and performance of vulnerability assessments. Courses include instruction in a wide variety of topic areas including how to model blast effects using computer software, preventing radiological, chemical and biological sabatoge, assessing alarm systems and understanding risk management.


The total course includes both classroom and field training, spread out over several weeks, and provides more than 260 hours of training. All courses are accredited under the training accreditation program.



Live Fire Test Range


Providing a safe and secure environment for the people, facilities and infrastructure that make up Idaho National Laboratory is a top priority. To assist in this effort, INL operates a unique live-fire training facility that consists of eight firearms training ranges, multiple obstacle and evaluation courses and the capability to train explosive breaching techniques and conduct independent vehicle and armor integrity testing.


The facility and ranges are used to train and qualify our own security professionals, but have also been used to train federal agents from U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, local police officers, and military customers. Since its inception, the laboratory has provided firearms training to more than 100,000 security police officers, law enforcement officers, military personnel and federal law enforcement agents.  


For more than 15 years, the live-fire training facility has been a regional asset accessible to a diverse range of customers who have a need to be well-trained and proficient in a variety of tactical techniques and real-world scenarios.


Today, the complex consists of 330 acres of isolated, desert terrain. The facility supports training and testing of handguns, rifles and heavy weapons such as machine guns, precision rifles, grenade launchers and shoulder-fired rockets and anti-armor firearms.


Range 1 is 1,200 yards long and is primarily used for heavy firearms including machine guns, grenade launchers and shoulder-fired anti-armor devices.


Range 2 is primarily used for shooting steel targets and for conducting training and testing that require the shooter to move and to engage moving targets.


Range 3 can support calibers ranging from handguns up to 50-caliber rifles.


Range 4 is an indoor range built to simulate daylight, reduced-light and no-light conditions. This range is also used to conduct research and development testing in a controlled environment. 


Range 5 is 800 yards long and is used for precision rifle training, qualifications and testing purposes.


Range 6 is 500 yards long and designed to provide tactical training in a desert-type environment. The range has a moving target system with pneumatic steel targets that support tactical training applications.


Range 7 is used for explosive training and testing, including ballistic breaching. A 6 ´ 6 ´ 12-foot steel building with double-pane Plexiglas windows is available for observation.


Range 8 is a tactical training range used for conducting training on building entries with either lethal or nonlethal rounds. The facility is designed to be able to contain rounds fired in any direction and includes seven rooms, a hallway and an elevated observation control platform.

Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office