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Old June 5th, 2005, 06:54 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Los Angeles & Long Beach Ports Getting Radiation Detectors

Radiation Detectors To Scan Cargo At S Calif Ports
3 June 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP)--The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will receive radiation detectors to scan every incoming cargo container for nuclear weapons or dirty bombs, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday.

The 20-foot-high devices, already in use in at seaports in Jersey City, N.J., and elsewhere, should be at the Southern California ports by the end of the year, Chertoff said. They are part of the U.S. government's strategy to prevent a possible attack by terrorists using nuclear or radiological weapons at the nation's busiest port complex.

"A key element of that strategy is detection," Chertoff said after touring the waterways surrounding the ports aboard a Coast Guard ship. "If we know this radiological material is coming in ... we can take the appropriate steps to intercept a threat."

About 4.3 million containers are shipped to the dual ports each year. The Southern California harbor will become the second major U.S. harbor to have all incoming cargo screened, Chertoff said.

In April, officials announced Oakland was the first major harbor to install enough radiation machines to check all incoming cargo. It has 25.

Trucks carrying containers unloaded from ships will pass through the detectors. If the machines find signs of radiation, containers will get another scan and possibly inspection by hand-held devices.

At a cost of about $250,000 each, the machines were funded by federal dollars and take about five seconds to screen each container, officials said.

Union officials representing port workers said some cargo containers linger on the docks for hours or days - and might not be checked right away.

"We think it's hypocritical that they don't screen it immediately after it's unloaded," said Miguel Lopez, port representative of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, whose union has about 500 truckers at the ports. "It puts everybody in jeopardy, not just the truckers."

Chertoff said the process of checking containers could be optimized to reduce delays in scanning, citing officials in Baltimore who found ways to speed up the process.

He also said scanning would not slow the flow of cargo at the ports, which last year experienced delays handling a large volume of cargo from the Far East.

"Taking an extra couple minutes to promote homeland security is something the trucking industry would endorse," said Patty Senecal, vice president of Transport Express Inc., a harbor trucking and warehouse company. "It's a different story if trucks are delayed for hours and hours ... but we don't expect that."
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 04:55 PM   #2
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New radiation detectors being tested in U.S. are next generation in port security
3 October 2006

NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) - More than 200 times each day, authorities detect radiation in containers arriving off cargo ships at Port Newark in the U.S. state of New Jersey. It's in ceramic tiles, granite, pottery, kitty litter -- all natural products made from Earth's elements.

This month, the port is getting a new generation of radiation detectors that will more quickly distinguish those natural products from dangerous nuclear materials, which could be used by terrorists.

It's just one of several new technologies being used at the nation's third busiest seaport to help screen for dirty bombs or terrorist weapons.

The devices being tested at Port Newark represent the next generation in port security, according to Kevin McCabe, chief of seaport enforcement for the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in New York and New Jersey. If they prove successful, they could change how ports across the nation screen for threats, he said.

"Of all the areas that need to be addressed, this is the Holy Grail. This is the one that's the scariest," said Tom Barnes, a maritime security expert with Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey and retired U.S. Navy captain.

"You can make a lot of people sick or even kill a lot of people," he said. "When you talk about radiation, that's what shuts areas down for 50 years. Just think Chernobyl."

Customs agents use hand-held isotope identifiers to confirm that cargo emits only naturally occurring radiation if an alarm is triggered by stationary sensors.

This can happen every few minutes at Port Newark, where 5,000 to 6,000 containers arrive daily.

One recent morning, the light on one of the radiation detectors changed from green to red as a tractor trailer passed through with a loaded container behind it.

A customs inspector then walked alongside the container holding up a radiation detector that took readings on what was inside. The readings soon showed the radiation was nothing to be concerned about. It was ceramic tile -- exactly what the truck's paperwork indicated.

The alert was canceled, and the truck continued on its way out of the port, all within about three minutes.

The new detectors, Advanced Spectroscopic Portals, would identify the cargo as trucks haul the containers out of the seaport, without the need for officers to walk around the truck, pressing hand-held units against its side and waiting for sensors to determine what's inside.

Port Newark will be the first U.S. seaport to test the ASP detectors, which cost US$1.1 billion to develop. If the tests are successful, they likely would be deployed nationally, McCabe said. Testing will start this month, and they should be operational by early 2007.

Other major security initiatives either under way or planned for Port Newark include an advance imaging system capable of peering far deeper into cargo containers than the current technology allows, and the deployment of four portable radiation detection trucks that can scan cargo containers and create an image of what's inside.

Where current imaging systems can penetrate up to about 5 inches (12 centimeters) of steel, the new system, mounted on a vehicle resembling a large Winnebago camper, can see about a foot and a half (about half a meter) inside.

About 7 percent of the containers that come into Port Newark -- 350 to 400 as day -- are considered to be high-risk, singled out for extra inspections, either because of their points of origin, their listed contents or unfamiliar shippers. Of those, 25 to 30 are completely emptied and checked by hand.

All cargo is screened using a computer database that lists virtually everything that has entered or left the port in the past 25 years and is a useful source on past shipping patterns. The screening makes anomalies easily apparent, McCabe said.
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Old July 11th, 2009, 05:21 PM   #3
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New gear to improve radiation detection
13 December 2007
The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star

A new breed of radiation detectors is being deployed to scan all imported cargo containers hauled from the Virginia Port Authority's three Hampton Roads terminals.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is spending about $2.5 million to update some of the Port Authority's scanners to the latest standards, replacing the rest with new equipment.

The work comes amid a congressional mandate that the biggest U.S. ports scan all cargo containers for radiation by the end of 2007. The goal is to eliminate the possibility that a terrorist could sneak a nuclear bomb or other destructive device into the country by hiding it inside an ordinary-looking truck-size container. Customs is installing radiation monitors at all of the nation's container ports.

Radiation scanning is nothing new for the state-controlled authority, which owns marine terminals in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News. The authority bought and installed its own sensors in late 2002 in what is believed to have been the first deployment of radiation detection technology at a U.S. port.

That equipment needed to be modernized, officials said.

"This will kind of bring us into the next generation," said Ed Merkle, the Port Authority's security director, of Customs' efforts. "It's much more sophisticated equipment."

The work has been completed at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal and at the north gate of Norfolk International Terminals.

Work is under way at the Newport News Marine Terminal, and at the Norfolk terminals' south gate and railroad facility, said Mark Laria, Customs' Hampton Roads port director.

The effort should be done by year's end, he said.

Both the updated and new equipment look the same: flat, rectangular panels mounted on both sides of the terminals' exit lanes. Trucks drive slowly through the pair of sensors that reach up the height of the containers, allowing the cargo inside to be checked.

More radiation alerts may result from the new gear, Merkle said. The authority's previous radiation sensors were typically triggered about 1,000 times per year, he said. Forty percent of those stem in some way from truck drivers, usually from medical treatments they are receiving.

"My suspicion is that this will not come without some pain and suffering along the way," Merkle said, based on other ports' experiences.

With the upgrades, the Port Authority should save some money.

Customs will take care of the replacement equipment it is installing, shifting some maintenance expenses away from the authority, Merkle said.

The federal agency is also taking responsibility for operating and maintaining the scanners for the containers leaving the Norfolk terminal by train.

Earlier this year, Customs installed radiation detection equipment at APM Terminals' new $450 million Portsmouth terminal.
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