Canada installs first port radiation detection devices

Published 14 December 2005

Canada begins to beef up radiation detection in the country’s seaports, but the U.S.— and Canadian security experts argue that these are only first steps

Federal officials have installed Canada’s first radiation detector at the port of Saint John in New Brunswick. All major Canadian ports soon will be equipped with the anti-terrorism technology. “It is the first port in Canada to have the equipment up and running,” Jennifer Morrison of the Canada Border Services Agency said Tuesday. “It is designed to detect potential shipments of nuclear or radiological materials entering Canada.”

The radiation detection program is a key part of the Canadian government’s $172-million plan to shore up marine security. The devices, which have been in use for two weeks in Saint John, detect radiation inside containers. The detector is located on two large concrete columns. The containers are driven through the scanning portal after they have been taken off the ship and loaded on trucks.

Some criticize Ottawa for not going far enough. “They’re going for the first step,” said Douglas Ross, a professor of political science at Simon Fraser University. “That’s better than no step, but they may be one step behind anybody who is seriously interested in trying to smuggle nuclear materials into the United States or Canada.” Ross said Canada needs to seriously consider a more expensive, double-barreled protection system, employing not only radiation detection equipment but also X-rays that can reveal mysterious dark spaces inside containers. “They’re looking for radiation and if something is really shielded, there will be no radiation and the stuff will get through” Ross said.

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