Some urban planners are critical of the project for spending as much as $10 million on one simulated disaster, and claim such modeling can never be precise.
But the scientists involved dispute that, saying findings made since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have startled and disturbed them over vulnerabilities, and accordingly their findings are classified.
At the same facility where the world's first nuclear bomb was created, scientists construct elaborate virtual versions of U.S. cities, and then try to find weak areas to destroy them, The Washington Post said.
Researcher Steve Fernandez said he was able to take out several power-relay plants in the Pacific Northwest offline with a few clicks on his keyboard, while James Smith was working on simulations of a smallpox virus released in Portland, Ore.
"We're trying to be the best terrorists we can be," Smith said.