[ RadSafe ] Radiation screening devices beef up US port security
sandyfl at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 21 17:01:21 CDT 2005
Radiation screening devices beef up US port security
Radiation cargo-scanning devices installed at CA ports
Moscow aims to prevent illegal nuclear trafficking
India gave too much away in nuclear deal with United States
Radiation screening devices beef up US port security
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. border guards have increased cargo
inspections six-fold since the Sept. 11 attacks, a customs official
said Wednesday during a visit to the nation's busiest port, but
critics say the ports are still vulnerable.
Robert Bonner, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,
said the department has been installing devices such as radiation
portal monitors, which screen trucks and cargo for the presence of
nuclear and radiological devices.
The Bush administration says around $700 million in federal grants
have gone toward protecting ports but critics, such as Democratic
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, argue only a fraction of that money
has been spent and ports are vulnerable.
Bonner said the port of Los Angeles, which handles about 40 percent
of incoming container traffic, was one of the first seaports to get
radiation portal monitors.
Fourteen such monitors are in use at the port and another 76 will be
installed by the end of the year, Bonner said.
The department expects to have 2,398 such systems by 2009 at seaports
across the nation, he said.
Containers trucks are screened in seconds with the new technology.
About one in 100 containers set off an alarm, Bonner said. All the
tested containers had been found to carry innocuous materials.
Bonner also said U.S. customs officials have been posted in 37
foreign ports to pre-screen cargo destined for the United States.
Those ports, which include the 20 busiest ports in the world such as
Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Rotterdam, account for about three-
quarters of all containers shipped to the United States.
Radiation cargo-scanning devices installed at ports of Long Beach,
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The head of the U.S Border Patrol unveiled
radiation detectors to scan incoming ocean cargo for nuclear weapons
and dirty bombs, a measure he says will not choke the flow of trade
at the nation's busiest port complex.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said the
20-foot-(six-meter-)high devices would substantially boost security
at the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor complex without causing major
"We have to save American lives, but we also have to do it in a way
... that preserves American livelihoods," Bonner said during a visit
Wednesday to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
The dual ports handle more than 40 percent of all cargo shipped into
this country, and 80 percent of the imports from Asian manufacturing
countries such as China and India.
The federal government has installed about 14 of the monitors, with
plans to install a total of 90 by year's end.
Trucks carrying cargo unloaded from ships will pass through the
systems, a process that takes a matter of seconds.
If the machines find signs of radiation, the container will get
another scan and possibly an inspection by hand-held devices to help
identify how much and what kind of radiation is present. That
secondary inspection can last 10 minutes or longer.
Should authorities still have trouble identifying the container's
contents, data will be sent to a federal research center in Virginia
to determine whether the cargo is harmless or contains plutonium or
highly enriched uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear
In the meantime, the container could be isolated instead of closing
"We're serious about doing everything we reasonably can to secure
this port, "Bonner said.
Nearly 540 radiation portal monitors, which cost approximately
$250,000 (207,245) each and are federally funded, are being used at
seaports and border crossings nationwide, officials said.
About one out of every 100 to 150 containers bears cargo that sets
off the scanner, prompting a secondary inspection, officials said.
The error rate is about one in 10,000.
Still, terminal operators and shipping companies aren't overly
concerned about delays, said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Pacific
Merchant Shipping Association, which represents the ocean carriers
"Right now there's a fair amount of confidence that these things work
and work well," he said.
New command center in Moscow aims to prevent illegal nuclear
MOSCOW (AP) - U.S. and Russian officials on Thursday inaugurated a
new U.S-financed command center aimed at improving Russia's ability
to prevent illegal trafficking of nuclear materials.
The center in Moscow will automatically receive data from border
posts across the vast Russian territory, which until now had
communicated by telephone or electronic mail with headquarters in the
"As partners in the war on terrorism, we hope we can build on this
program and strengthen our cooperation in this field," said Daniel
Russell, deputy U.S ambassador to Russia.
The United States for several years has been financing programs aimed
at improving nuclear security in Russia and preventing terrorists
from getting their hands on nuclear fuels.
The deputy head of the Russian customs service, Vladimir Shamakhov,
said 80 percent of border posts were currently equipped with
computers able to link up to the new control center. He said it would
take three years for the rest of the country's frontier posts to be
connected to the centralized system.
"Russia, as you know, has the largest borders in the world. There are
13 time zones in this territory," he said, adding that many border
posts were located in isolated areas.
In 2004, border guards on 200 occasions prevented materials with high
levels of radioactivity from illegally crossing the frontier, he
said. In 95 percent of those cases, monitoring equipment detected the
radioactivity. Only in one in five cases was the material being
exported from Russia; 80 percent was entering the country, he said.
Since 1998, the United States has provided millions of dollars
(euros) to help strengthen Russian border controls over the transport
of nuclear and fissile materials, including the purchase of hundreds
of portable monitors.
Former prime minister says India gave too much away in nuclear deal
with United States
NEW DELHI (AP) - The man who was prime minister when India tested
nuclear weapons in 1998 said his country has given away more than it
gained in a deal with the United States aimed at securing more
nuclear power technology.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee slammed his successor's
agreement on Monday to separate India's civilian and military nuclear
programs, to open its facilities to scrutiny and to prevent the
spread of weapons technology in exchange for U.S. President George W.
Bush's help in convincing the U.S. Congress to share civilian nuclear
"We believe that separating the civilian from the military would be
very difficult, if not impossible. The costs involved will also be
prohibitive. It will also deny us any flexibility in determining the
size of our nuclear deterrent," Vajpayee said in a statement released
"In fact," he said, "it is difficult to resist the feeling that while
India has made long-term and specific commitments ... the U.S. has
merely made promises, which it may not be able to see through either
the U.S. Congress or its friends in the exclusive nuclear club."
A key ally party of current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's
government also criticized Singh's deal with the United States,
saying it showed continuation of a pro-U.S. shift in India's foreign
In a statement Thursday, the Communist Party of India (Marxists)
expressed concerns that the United States would impose restrictions
on India pursuing an independent nuclear policy.
"There is also the question whether research activities for
overcoming reliance on import of nuclear fuel will be hampered," it
Singh shrugged off Vajpayee's remarks.
"If that statement has been made, it is based on misconceptions,"
Singh told reporters while visiting Washington. "The separation
between civilian and strategic components of the program is a
Singh left Washington Thursday and was set to reach New Delhi on
Friday after an overnight stop in Geneva.
India carried out multiple nuclear tests in May 1998 during
Vajpayee's tenure, provoking sanctions from the United States and
other Western countries.
Most of the sanctions have since been lifted, and the U.S. Congress'
approval of Monday's nuclear deal would enable U.S. companies in the
civilian nuclear industry to sell technology and material to India,
including fuel for India's nuclear reactors at Tarapur near Bombay.
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