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Bioterrorism tests oklahoma { July 2 2003 }

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Officials Pleased With Initial Results Of Bioterrorism Tests
Tests Continue Through July

POSTED: 11:37 a.m. CDT July 2, 2003
UPDATED: 11:48 a.m. CDT July 2, 2003

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Scientists say they are pleased with the initial results of a bioterrorism test in downtown Oklahoma City.

The ongoing experiment is intended to track how gas would move through the city if it was ever attacked.

The experiment, done with scientists from the U.S. Defense, Energy and Homeland Security departments, monitors how gas could be detected, said Jerry Allwine, project coordinator with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Tests began Sunday morning with a series of tests and will continue through July, with four half-hour gas releases per day if winds are blowing from the south.

Dr. Jerry Basara of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey said the initial results are encouraging.

Sulfur hexaflouride, a nontoxic, colorless, odorless gas, was detected moving northeast Sunday, Allwine said.

The released sulfur hexafluoride is measured using 200 wind sensors and 200 tracer samplers set up in the downtown area.

Allwine said traffic is a key component in the experiment.

Sulfur hexafluoride has been used as a tracer gas in other tests and the gas is harmless.

Similar tests were conducted three years ago in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake officials said they had no complaints of the gas effecting people.

Sulfur hexafluoride is used as an insulator in electrical equipment and often is used to inflate tennis balls and air pockets in sneakers, Allwine said.

Results of the Salt Lake City test have been used to develop computer models that will help officials predict the way gases would travel through a city if it were ever attacked.

Oklahoma City, like Salt Lake City, was chosen because its downtown is well-defined, not sprawling such as in New York or Chicago. It is also close to many of the scientists' West Coast laboratories, Allwine said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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