Energy's bioterror system protects Olympics

Energy's bioterror system protects Olympics

A system developed by two Energy Department laboratories for detecting and rapidly analyzing airborne biological weapons is getting its first real-world workout at the Olympic games in Salt Lake City.

Researchers at the Los Alamos and Livermore National laboratories developed the Biological Aerosol Sentry and Information System, or BASIS. It consists of a network of sampling units, similar to those used by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor air quality, that are linked by control software to analytical equipment.

Livermore project manager Dennis Imbro said BASIS reduces the time for detecting a bioagent release from days or weeks to less than a day. 'The early notice could mean the difference between life and death for people in any contaminated area,' he said in a statement.

The national lab researchers worked with officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Utah Health Department to develop and test the system.

"At this point we have detected no biological agents," said Lisa Cutler, a National Nuclear Security Administration spokeswoman. She said the system would operate through the end of the Olympics, Feb. 24. BASIS checks air samples for a defined list of biological agents, she said.

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