[ RadSafe ] Radiation Sensors to Scan U.S. Air Cargo

Clayton J Bradt cjb01 at health.state.ny.us
Thu Sep 11 14:09:52 CDT 2008

"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."   ~ James Joyce

Clayton J. Bradt
dutchbradt at hughes.net

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Radiation Sensors to Scan U.S. Air Cargo

The United States plans to begin scanning cargo shipments on freight and
passenger aircraft for potential radiological and nuclear-weapon materials,
USA Today reported today (see GSN, June 19).

The scanning program, based on a recommendation from the Sept. 11
commission (see GSN, July 23, 2004), is aimed at closing a security gap
terrorists have not specifically indicated plans to exploit.  The
technology is scheduled to be used first beginning this week at Washington
Dulles International Airport, followed by another four unspecified airports
by the end of 2008 and ultimately at the 30 largest U.S. airports.

“Our focus is on the international cargo,” although radiation detectors are
meant to scan all cargo, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy
Commissioner Jayson Ahern.

Some airports could use dozens of the radiation detection machines, which
each cost $450,000 to put in place.  However, Dulles is expected to only
need one of the Radiation Portal Monitors.

The United States should emphasize counterproliferation efforts overseas
rather than new airport checkpoints that could hinder the movement of
cargo, according to critics.

"This is a gross waste of money," said Randall Larsen, a terrorism analyst
formerly with the National War College.  "They're asking the wrong
question.  It's not how to prevent a nuke from entering the United States,
it's how do we prevent al-Qaeda from becoming a nuclear power?"

U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) backed the scanning effort.

"The detonation of a weapon of mass destruction or dirty bomb inside our
country would be a devastating blow, and we must make every effort to
thwart such an attack," he said.  "Given the severity of the security
threat, screening all incoming cargo for the presence of radiation is a
welcome and important development" (Mimi Hall, USA Today, Sept. 11).

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