Port security technology review with a focus on current and anticipated systems related to finding nukes and nuke materials in shipping containers (about 70 million containers per year).
Millimeter radiation and advanced X-ray scattering analysis images appear to provide images detailed enough so that a 30 cm block of lead would stand out.
Since 2002 Seattle’s port has been using gamma ray emitters to scan containers. Beaming the gamma rays into the containers to look for objects. Instead of X-rays, VACIS uses highly penetrative gamma rays at low levels — roughly 5 microrems per hour, or a quarter of what anyone gets simply by standing in a Seattle street — to see through metal containers, detecting anything from possible stolen cars to slight anomalies in density. The system can also effectively see through containers on railroad cars moving 10 mph. The device can detect false walls or ceilings, explosives, weapons, drugs — even people — and whether the cargo matches a manifest. Nuclear material that could be contained in a so-called “dirty bomb,” for example, could be distinguished. They can see through about 4.5 inches of metal. Higher power than the 1.3 Megavolt systems are needed to see through more metal.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is funding research to explore another imaging and detection capability. The proposed system, called fluorescence imaging in the nuclear domain with extreme radiation (FINDER), could be used to image the isotopic composition of materials inside well-shielded objects, such as cargo containers moving through an inspection terminal.
Livermore researchers are developing a system that combines the capabilities of a Thomson-radiated extreme x-ray (T-REX) system with a nuclear resonance fluorescence technique to detect small amounts of nuclear materials and image their isotopic distribution. The system could be used to inspect well-shielded objects, such as cargo containers moving through a terminal.
Companies with detection systems that are being worked on or already deployed in 2003.CZT detectors (expensive but provides easy to understand readouts, cheaper versions could get widely deployed)
VACIS and other systems for looking through more metal. (metal penetration from a few inches to a foot or more with higher power ratings)
Eagle X-ray scanner for both X-raying and causing nuclear materials to emit more detectable neutrons and gamma rays.
Pulsed fast neutron analysis beams neutrons into cargo containers, which shows the approximate chemical composition of scanned objects.
So there are systems that look like they will be quite effective and systems that are fairly effective now if they were fully deployed and if all of the containers get sent through the installed detectors. However, only some of the ports have enough of the good equipment. So the $1.15 Billion for port security will not have a full rollout until 2011.
Advanced Spectroscopic Portals with sodium iodide detectors can detect at longer ranges. The wired article did indicate problems with how things are currently operated at the ports, so better systems are needed in order to improve actual security. Systems that are more tolerant of sub-par operators and drivers circumventing the detectors.
A senator is saying that by 2007 radiation detection of all containers entering into the 22 busiest seaports must be in place.
The government will be spending many billions.
Parts of the
$30.9 Dept Homeland Security budget relate to port security and to researching new security and sensor systems. Parts of defense and various research budgets are also related.
More detections of activity with this kind of technology can be fed into analysis software to determine who is working on bombs and where they are doing it.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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