Visitors authority urges officials to call off mock nuclear blast

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is urging federal homeland security officials to scrap plans to simulate a nuclear explosion in Las Vegas next May.

In a letter Wednesday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter said the premise of an upcoming emergency preparedness drill “will generate undue anxiety about visiting or conducting business in Las Vegas.”

FEMA has been planning its 2010 “national level exercise” since last year. The simulation, which is designed to test the capabilities of first responders to catastrophic events, involves the response to a mock nuclear blast in Clark County.

Nearly 10,000 local, state, and federal agents are expected to participate in the exercise.

In the letter to FEMA’s regional office in Oakland, Calif., Ralenkotter asked FEMA to consider “a non-nuclear scenario” for the exercise. He also requested that the simulation not be associated with the resort corridor.

“Our destination already receives a disproportionate amount of attention when the Department of Homeland Security releases even the most routine bulletin,” Ralenkotter wrote. “This exercise has the potential to escalate that attention and potentially harm our economy.”

Ralenkotter also sent his letter to Nevada’s congressional delegation and other local politicians.

Sen. Harry Reid, in a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano today, weighed in with objections to the exercise.

“I am deeply sympathetic to the need of our first responders to conduct preparedness training, and I look forward to revisiting this issue when Nevada’s economy has improved,” Reid wrote. “However, at this time, economic recovery efforts would be stymied, or reversed entirely, by artificially creating anxiety surrounding tourism and investment in Las Vegas.”

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