Ports to Get Radiation Detectors

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The Department of Homeland Security, under a program called the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Initiative, recently announced the award of contracts to three companies- Raytheon Company – Integrated Defense Systems, Thermo Electron Corporation, and Canberra Industries, Inc.- to install advanced radiation detector systems in some U.S. ports. The first test installation is slated to be in the Port of Staten Island. These contracts come after months of debate and argument over the issue of limited ability to inspect more than 5 percent of all cargo containers entering the country. According to ThreatsWatch.org, the fear in this matter is that dangerous contraband such as a radiological dirty bomb or a chemical-biological weapon might enter through the ports undetected. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects these new radiological detectors to improve the level of inspection up to 90 percent of all containers by the end of the year, and to nearly 100 percent by next year. Additionally, the plan is to deploy these detectors at the entry points to major cities to inspect commercial vehicles, regardless of whether the cargo originated domestically or internationally. The new detection portals will replace the more than 840 radiation detection devices at borders, seaports, and international mail centers purchased by the U.S. since September 11th at a cost of $340m. There will be questions that need to be addressed before the implementation of the new detectors. Officials noted that the detectors still won’t be alerted to uranium or plutonium shielded by thick cases of lead. And installing them above speeding traffic on highways or bridges - as Homeland Security is considering in metropolitan New York - raises questions about how vehicles would then be stopped. (Source: ThreatsWatch.org)

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