To prepare for real-life nuclear incidents, first responders require realistic training exercises. Deploying actual nuclear materials during such training exercises is logistically challenging, expensive and limited to low level sources for safety reasons. The ideal solution to this problem is a new training capability that can simulate high radiation dose events evolving in real-time without causing harm to trainees.


To address the need for realistic and high-fidelity first responder training, a multidisciplinary team at LLNL has worked to establish the new gold standard simulator called TARANTULA (Tactical Augmented Reality Applications for Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) Training using Livermore Analytics). TARANTULA is a scientifically accurate, fully functional, field-deployable simulator that provides an immersive training experience. At the technology’s core is its ability to calculate and display real-time gamma and neutron data from virtual radiological sources on simulated handheld detectors for trainees and instructors to use for developing skills and practicing response tactics.

Further Details: 

“A Serious Game for Incident Response Training,” LLNL S&TR July/August 2022, page 12 – 15 (


LLNL’s novel software algorithms for simulating gamma-ray and neutron radiation interactions within virtual scenarios used in first responder training has several advantages:

  1. Enables real-time simulation of high and low level gamma-ray and neutron sources,
  2. Able to support dose tracking and simulated detector response for multiple individuals and detectors simultaneously,
  3. Enables environmentally shielded or attenuated context specific radiation dose calculations to be performed in real-time.
Potential Applications
  • Safety training for first responders to prepare for real-life nuclear incidents.
Development Status

Current stage of technology development:  TRL 5-6 (March 2023)

LLNL has filed for patent protection on this invention.

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