Radiation Detection Testing Underway at Two Foreign Sea Ports

April 24, 2007
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that operational testing is underway in Honduras and Pakistan to strengthen global supply chain security by scanning shipping containers for nuclear or radiological materials before they are allowed to depart for the United States.

The tests represent the initial phase of the Secure Freight Initiative announced Dec. 7, 2006, which involves the deployment of nuclear detection devices to six foreign ports.

“Terrorists and criminals use global shipping networks, and we are deploying multiple layers of advanced technology to counter their tactics,” said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson. “Secure Freight creates a global nuclear detection network with shippers, carriers and foreign allies, to head off the worst possible form of attack, a nuclear or dirty bomb on our soil.”

Through these types of security efforts at foreign ports, the United States continues to “improve the overall security of the global maritime shipping network and hinder terrorists from smuggling in a nuclear device or dangerous material into a U.S. port,” said Thomas D'Agostino, DOE National Nuclear Security Administration acting head. “By teaming up with DHS in this important effort, NNSA is helping to bring our extensive overseas nuclear security and detection expertise to strengthen a key layer of our national defense,” he added.

Secure Freight Initiative testing in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, started on April 2. Tests in Port Qasim, Pakistan, the first port to participate in Secure Freight Initiative, began in March. Four other Secure Freight Initiative ports are expected to initiate tests this year. They are Southampton in the United Kingdom; Salalah in Oman; Port of Singapore; and the Gamman Terminal at Port Busan in Korea.

Data gathered from overseas scanning of U.S.-bound containers will be transmitted in near real-time to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working in overseas ports and to the National Targeting Center. The data will be combined with other risk assessment information to improve analysis, targeting and scrutiny of high-risk containers. All alarms from radiation detection equipment will be resolved locally, and protocols are being developed with host governments that may include instructing carriers not to load a container until the risk is fully resolved.

DHS and DOE, through its National Nuclear Security Administration, will contribute roughly $60 million to the Secure Freight Initiative for the installation of radiation detection devices and communications infrastructure that transmit data back to the United States. DOE will invest approximately $4 million in Puerto Cortes for detection devices and an integrated communications system that links new assets with existing equipment.

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