Radiological Surveillance

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Status Brief

Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:

Current Assessment/State of the Field:




Dahlman, Ola, et al, Container Security: A Proposal for a Comprehensive Code of ConductNational Defense University Center for Technology and National Security Policy. January 2005. Last Checked March 25, 2013

  1. “Approximately 95 percent of the world’s trade moves by containers, primarily on large ships, but also on trains, trucks, and barges. The system is efficient and economical, but vulnerable.”
  2. “However, the rise of terrorism and the possibility that a container could be used to transport or actually be the delivery vehicle for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or high explosives have made it imperative that the security of the shipping container system be greatly improved.”
  3. “These include bilateral agreements involved in the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). These measures are useful, but shipping containers remain vulnerable.”
  4. “Containers are strong and their contents can be both large and heavy. Virtually any existing assembled nuclear weapon could be placed inside a container, together with shielding material to make detection difficult.”
  5. “Up to 30,000 kilos of conventional high explosives could be contained in a 40-foot container.”
  6. “The cost to New York City of the 9/11 attacks has been estimated to be at least $83 billion.”
  7. “Container seals today are not difficult to remove and can be reproduced or forged. Time permitting, seals could be circumvented by lifting off container doors or entering the container through holes that are cut out and welded back together afterwards.”
  8. “The Container Security Initiative (CSI) is a set of measures designed to move the process of container screening toward the beginning of the supply chain. It includes increased efforts to prescreen containers more effectively, to make sure that containers are more secure in transit, and to have technology in place at the port of overseas departure for inspection of high-risk containers.”
  9. “Nuclear material, especially material that might be part of a nuclear weapon or is intended to be used to produce a nuclear weapon, is of special concern. Radioactive materials give off neutrons, gamma rays and heat, which, in principle, allows them to be detected.”
  10. “An agreement on container security should significantly reduce the security risks in container traffic while facilitating fair and efficient global trade.”

Container Security, Nuclear, Radiological Surveillance


V. Valkovic´a, et al,”Fast neutron inspection of sea containers for the presence of ‘‘dirty bomb’’Science Direct. April 21, 2007. Last checked February 27, 2013

  1. “The risk of nuclear terrorism carried out by terrorist groups should be considered not only in construction and/or use of nuclear devices, but also in possible radioactive contamination of large urban areas.”
  2. “The RDD could then be placed in or near a target facility and detonated, spreading the radiological material through the force of the explosion and in the smoke of any resulting fires.”
  3. “Probably the best way to move these materials around the globe is by using sea containers. This is because a container offers criminals the same benefits as those enjoyed by ocean carriers and shippers: efficiency and security.”
  4. “In addition, every day over 15 millions of containers are being moved over the seas or on land, or standing in yards waiting to be delivered.”
  5. “At the moment, inspectors examine less than 10% of containers and often only after containers have already traveled hundreds of miles.”
  6. “A straightforward application of the proposed approach is the coupling of the inspection by tagged neutron beams to a commercial imaging device based on either X-ray or gamma ray radiography that performs a fast scan of the container, identifies a ‘‘suspect’’ region and provides coordinates of the suspicious object to the neutron based device for the final ‘‘confirmatory’’ inspection.”
  7. “In order to investigate different scenarios of illicit trafficking of explosive and radioactive materials, the experimental setup with a 3 m long section of the real container has been installed in the neutron laboratory.”
  8. “The evaluation of the performance of the proposed two sensor instrumental portal has shown that simultaneous presence of both explosive and fissile material, hidden inside the container, could be detected”
  9. “The detection of the explosive within a suspicious volume element inside the container is performed by gamma detection produced by the tagged neutron bombardment of the volume element”

Container Security, Nuclear, Biosecurity, Radiological Surveillance


Schmidt, Michael, S., “In Progress, A Network To Observe Midtown,” NYT A18, May 3, 2010.

  1. “The police Department has been planning a high-tech security network for Midtown Manhattan involving surveillance cameras, license plate readers and chemical sensors…”
  2. “The network could have been triggered via its chemical, biological and radiological sensors…”
  3. “The department secured a $24 million Department of Homeland Security grant last fall to begin building the network.”

Biosurveillance, Chemical Surveillance, Radiological Surveillance


Editors, “HHS Awards $56M for Radiation Countermeasure Projects,” 29 September 2011, Global Security Newswire Last Checked 29 September 2011.

  1. “The United States has provided $56.3 million in contracts for the preparation of five potential medical countermeasures for a condition resulting from intense radiation exposure, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced.”
  2. “The department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which funds the development of experimental drugs and vaccines for weapons of mass destruction, provided money for work on acute radiation syndrome medicines.”
  3. “No approved treatments presently exist for the condition.”
  4. “The projects might result in medicines for “bone marrow and gastrointestinal injuries from high levels of radiation, such as after denotation of an improvised nuclear device,” the department said.”
  5. “‘Bone marrow and gastrointestinal injuries are expected to account for the majority of radiation-related deaths after a nuclear denotation.’”
  6. “The BARDA office is seeking proposals for additional acute radiation syndrome countermeasures, ‘as well as improved diagnostic tools to measure the radiation dose a person has absorbed after a nuclear denotation or radiation accident,’ the release states.”
  7. “Separately, the office plans to fund the development of countermeasures for thermal burns from a nuclear blast.”
  8. “The contract recipients are Neumedicines and Cellerant Therapeutics in California, RxBio in Tennessee, Araim Pharmaceuticals in New York and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.”

Radiological Surveillance


Editors, “India to Deploy Radiation Detectors to 50 Cities,” 7 October 2011, Global Security Newswire Last Checked 10 October 2011.

  1. “India intends to deploy close to 1,000 radiation detectors in 50 cities in hopes of heading off an accident or an act of terrorism involving radioactive material.”
  2. “State officials have been requested to determine police centers that could house the Mobile Radiation Detection Systems, along with employees who would use the technology.”
  3. “Among the cities to receive the devices are New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram.”
  4. “Training would be provided to 10 employees at each location, and the equipment would be placed in police squad cars.”
  5. “Automobiles carrying radiation sensors are also to be deployed to border crossings, airports and seaports.”

Radiological Surveillance


Editors, “Next Generation Radiation Monitors Near Ready for Testing, GAO Says,” 4 November 2011, Global Security Newswire Last Checked 4 November 2011.

  1. “Next-generation radiation monitors are now developed enough for advanced assessment trials, which if successful could lead to the new technology being used in U.S. counter-nuclear smuggling activities.”
  2. “The large majority of monitors currently in use employ a rare ingredient, helium 3.”
  3. “Helium 3 is favored for radiation monitors because it is judged to be the most precise in detecting the presence of nuclear materials and because it is not toxic or radioactive.”
  4. “However, the gas is in short supply due to a declining number of weapons in the U.S. arsenal.”
  5. “NNSA officials project they can annually collect 8,000-10,000 liters of the gas — an amount that falls short of the demand from detector manufacturers and the medical research community.”
  6. “For years, scientists have been searching for a workable alternative to helium 3 and are now finally on the verge of serious breakthroughs in their efforts.”
  7. “The report cites three alternatives that could be used instead of helium 3. They are: boron 10, boron trifluoride and lithium 6.”
  8. “Of those three, GAO auditors found that the boron 10-based technology was the furthest developed and that detectors using the isotope as a conversion material could be tested as soon as next year.”
  9. “While boron trifluoride is not as quite efficient, its availability means that it can be utilized in larger amounts to make up for the efficiency deficit.”
  10. “However, both lithium 6 and boron 10 are export-regulated substances and boron trifluoride is poisonous.”
  11. “Each of the three options has a similar performance level to helium 3, the report said.”

Radiological Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Editors, “U.S. to Deploy Radiation Detectors at Major Port in China,” 2 December 2011, Global Security Newswire Last Checked 4 December 2011.

  1. “A collaborative nonproliferation effort by the United States and China will see radiation sensor technology deployed next week at what is said to be the world’s top container processing port in Shanghai.”
  2. “The radiation surveillance equipment will provide Chinese officials with a ‘comprehensive screening capability for one of China’s largest ports,’ the consulate said.”
  3. “The detection technology is being supplied by through the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Megaports Initiative, which provides and installs radiation monitoring equipment at key ports across the globe.”
  4. “The United States fears terrorists could seek to exploit the global shipping network to transport weapon-usable radioactive and nuclear substances.”

Radiological Surveillance, China


Editors, “U.S. Radiation Detection Initiative to Halt ExpansionGlobal Security Newswire. November 29, 2012. Last Checked May 16, 20013

  1. “The Obama administration has halted expansion of an initiative to deploy radiation sensors at foreign seaports as it pushes to cut the program’s budget by 85 percent in fiscal 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in an assessment made public on Wednesday.”
  2. “Maintaining equipment deployed at 42 ports in 31 nations is now the Megaports Initiative’s primary objective, according to a summary of the report’s findings. Work to place detectors in five nations has been suspended, as have talks with other governments on the program, auditors said.”
  3. “The semiautonomous Energy Department atomic office cannot guarantee the continued effectiveness of its “$850 million investment” in the Megaports Initiative in the absence of “a long-term plan for ensuring countries’ ability” to continue their end of the effort, the document warns.”
  4. “Separately, procedures for evaluating the program’s achievements “do not provide sufficient information for decision-making because they do not evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the initiative,” the assessment’s authors wrote.”GAO has previously reported that agencies successfully assess performance when they use measures that demonstrate results, cover multiple program priorities and provide useful information for decision-making.””
  5. “”The two initiatives are co-located at 29 foreign seaports,” the GAO report states. “In two countries, DHS officials told GAO that they were using personal radiation detectors — a type of equipment intended for personal safety but not appropriate for scanning containers — to inspect containers if their radiation detection equipment is broken”

Container Security, Radiological Surveillance


Gaukler, Gary M. et al, “Detecting Nuclear Materials Smuggling: Performance Evaluation of Container Inspection Policies”  Risk Analysis: An International Journal. March 1, 2012 Last Checked March 11, 2013

  1. “Large-scale terrorist attacks remain among the most alarming threat situations in the world today. Arguably the most disquieting scenario is presented by the possibility of an attack using a nuclear device.”
  2. “The danger, then, is that a terrorist group may acquire sufficient quantities of these nuclear materials, smuggle them into the United States, assemble them into a nuclear device, and use this device on a target on U.S. soil.”
  3. “Among these,standard cargo container shipping is particularly vulnerable to smuggling nuclear materials. More than 15 million cargo containers arrive in the United States each year, and combined they carry more than 95% of U.S. imports by weight and 75% by value.”
  4. “Detecting nuclear smuggling, whether it be at a domestic or a foreign port, is difficult due to a number of reasons”
  5. “Thus, the detection equipment needs to be able to differentiate at some level between radiation coming from background or from benign sources, and radiation coming from smuggled HEU or plutonium.”
  6. “The first such system, which we call the Hardness Control System (HCS), uses information obtained from radiographic imaging to determine whether a given cargo container contains a large amount of shielding material (a “hard” container), or not (a“soft” container).”
  7. “Then, based on this classification, containers undergo different inspection treatment.The second new inspection system, referred to as the Hybrid Inspection System (HYB), integrates both this radiographic imaging as well as the current ATS approach into a single inspection system.”
  8. “This risk score is meant to communicate whether or not a given container is likely to contain dangerous or smuggled materials. If a container receives a risk score above a predetermined cutoff point, it is considered “high risk” and sent directly to a manual inspection station where its contents are emptied and reviewed.”
  9. “This additional layer of detection involves passive radiation inspection. Passive detectors (such as the current radiation portal monitors (RPMs) deployed at U.S. borders) measure the emission of gamma rays as the containers pass through.”

Container Security, Nuclear, Radiological Surveillance


Caldwell, Stephen L., “Container Security Programs Have Matured, but Uncertainty Persists over the Future of 100 Percent ScanningGAO. February 7, 2012. Last Checked May 15, 2013

  1. “DHS has made some progress in developing and implementing container security technologies to protect the integrity of containers and to scan them.”
  2. “To prevent the smuggling of nuclear and radiological materials, CBP, in coordination with the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), has deployed over 1,400 radiation portal monitors (RPM) at U.S. ports of entry to detect the presence of radiation in cargo containers”
  3. “Uncertainty persists over how DHS and CBP will fulfill the mandate for 100 percent scanning given that the feasibility remains unproven in light of the challenges CBP has faced implementing a pilot program for 100 percent scanning.”
  4. “Specifically, CBP’s 24-hour rule requires that vessel carriers submit cargo manifest information to CBP 24 hours before U.S.-bound cargo is loaded onto a vessel. To further enhance CBP’s ability to target high-risk shipments, in 2006 the SAFE Port Act required CBP to collect additional data related to the movement of cargo to identify high-risk cargo for inspection, and in 2009 CBP implemented the Importer Security Filing and Additional Carrier Requirements, collectively known as the 10+2 rule.”
  5. “For example, DHS and CBP could face challenges in obtaining support from the trade industry and international partners as it pursues implementation of the security technologies. Specifically, some members of the trade industry we spoke with were resistant to purchasing and using the technologies given the number of container security programs with which they already have to comply.”
  6. “Most of the RPMs are installed in primary inspection lanes through which nearly all traffic and shipping containers must pass before they can exit U.S. ports. These monitors alarm when they detect radiation. CBP then conducts further inspections of the suspect contents at its secondary inspection locations to identify the cause of the alarm and determine what further security measures, if any, need to be taken.”
  7. “CBP already uses nonintrusive inspection equipment to more closely investigate the contents of cargo containers that it has selected for secondary inspection at a U.S. port of entry; however, according to CBP officials, only a small percentage of vehicles or cargo containers are subjected to secondary inspections.”
  8. “CSI, through partnerships with CBP’s foreign counterparts, is designed to target and examine high-risk container cargo as early as possible in the global supply chain. CSI places CBP officers at select foreign seaports to work with host-country customs officials to identify and scan high-risk cargo before it is shipped to the United States.”
  9. “In addition to the challenges CBP faced in implementing 100 percent scanning at the select SFI pilot ports, CBP also faces a number of potential challenges in integrating the 100 percent scanning requirement with the existing container security programs that make up CBP’s layered security strategy. The 100 percent scanning requirement is a departure from existing container security programs in that it requires that all containers be scanned before CBP determines their potential risk level.”
  10. “Given that the feasibility of 100 percent scanning remains unproven and DHS and CBP have not yet identified alternatives that could achieve the same goals as 100 percent scanning, uncertainty persists regarding the scope of DHS’s and CBP’s container security programs and how these programs will collectively affect the movement of goods between global trading partners.”

Container Security, CSI, Nuclear, Radiological Surveillance


Sgt. Moore, Rachael K.A., “Landing Support Company Marines suit up” 5 April 2012,,, Last Checked 9 April 2012.

  1. “Marines with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group attended a hands-on readiness exercise for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 28.”
  2. ““My Marines and I can show a hundred different [presentations], but it doesn’t sink into the Marines until they get a chance to play with the gear and see how it all works,” explained Sgt. Steven D. Potts, a CBRN defense specialist and the lead instructor of the course.”
  3. “The LS Co. Marines learned about the different types of CBRN agents and the signs and symptoms to watch for. They also learned and practiced immediate actions for an attack by properly decontaminating themselves with rapid skin decontamination lotion and the M291 skin decontamination kit.”
  4. ““We wanted to demonstrate for [them] what to do in a real world CBRN attack and to also explain to them the potential CBRN hazards that exist out in the world,” said Potts, a Dayton, Ohio, native.”
  5. “The training also included learning about the different levels of Mission-Oriented Protective Posture, how and when to exchange MOPP gear, and how to function for an extended period of time while wearing MOPP gear. “I feel the training went very well,” said Potts. “The Marines gave us their undivided attention and even came up to my Marines and I after the classes to ask more questions.”
  6. “The training concluded with learning how to decontaminate vehicles by using a pressure washer. “Most Marines, including myself, are hands-on learners, and the training just doesn’t sink in until they get that chance to use it,” Potts concluded.”

Military, Emergency Response, Chemical, Bioterrorism, Nuclear, Radiological Surveillance


Schneidmiller, Chris, “Homeland Security to Extend Cargo Nuclear Scanning DeadlineGlobal Security Newswire. February 9, 2012. Last Checked May 15, 2013

  1. “WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department does not appear to be trying to meet a congressional mandate that by July all U.S.-bound cargo be scanned for weapon-usable radioactive materials before leaving foreign seaports, a senior congressional investigator said on Tuesday”
  2. “Instead, the agency anticipates it will extend the deadline for all ports to be ready by July 2014, Stephen Caldwell, a maritime security specialist with the Government Accountability Office, said in a prepared statement to a House subcommittee.”
  3. ““Have you given up on 100 percent screening?” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) asked during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee.”
  4. ““We are continuing to operate under the law,” responded David Heyman, assistant Homeland Security secretary for policy.”
  5. “Lawmakers acknowledged the difficulty or potential impossibility of covering the roughly 700 ports that ship cargo directly to the United States. Some, nonetheless, made it clear they are not satisfied by the current situation.”
  6. “The potential for terrorists to use the global shipping system to smuggle a nuclear or radiological weapon into the United States is one of many threats the Bush and Obama administrations have sought to address in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. A nuclear strike on the country is considered a low probability but high impact event, with the potential to cause devastating human and economic costs.”
  7. “The Sept. 11 Commission law passed by Congress in 2007 set a July 1, 2012, deadline after which no cargo container would be allowed to enter the United States unless it had been checked by radiation detection and nonintrusive imaging technology. The law allowed for extensions of the mandate in two-year increments, accompanied by advanced notification to Congress.”
  8. “Roughly 5 percent of cargo containers undergo the demanded physical scanning today either at the foreign port of departure or upon arrival in the United States, according Kevin McAleenan, acting assistant commissioner for field operations at DHS Customs and Border Protection.”
  9. “One lawmaker who pressed for inclusion of the screening measure in the legislation said scanning containers overseas is crucial to ensuring the United States is protected against cargo-carried weapons. Catching a nuclear bomb at a U.S. port “may very well be too late,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).”
  10. “The SAFE Port Act approved in 2006 called for a pilot program to determine whether 100 percent scanning could be reasonably implemented. The Homeland Security and Energy departments in December of that year launched the Secure Freight Initiative, which deployed technology to ports in Honduras, Hong Kong, Oman, Pakistan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.”
  11. “Both Caldwell and the Homeland Security officials identified a number of issues that hampered the test program, including safety worries, malfunctioning scanning technology and inferior images. The Sept. 11 act also failed to specify who could lead the scanning efforts at foreign ports and who would provide funding for the technology and scanning activities under the 100 percent demand, the GAO official said.”
  12. “The Homeland Security branch “documented numerous challenges associated with implementing 100 percent scanning including diplomatic challenges, international trade opposition, the need for port reconfiguration, potential for reciprocal requirements on the United States, and lack of available technology to efficiently scan transshipped cargo,” according to a joint statement to the subcommittee from McAleenan, Heyman and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft.”
  13. ““CPB’s budget documents and public statements from DHS and CBP officials, along with the elimination of SFI operations at all but one port, indicate that DHS and CBP are no longer pursuing efforts to implement 100 percent scanning at foreign ports by July 2012,” Caldwell stated.”
  14. “The U.S. customs agency since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has fielded 1,388 radiation portal monitors at U.S. border crossings. The systems have examined more than 679 million cargo containers and vehicles carrying goods and people in the last 10 years for illicit radiation sources, producing in excess of 2.8 million alarms, the officials said. None of the alerts turned up material intended for dangerous purposes.”

Container Security, Nuclear, Radiological Surveillance, Homeland Security


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