DHS budget has little money for radiation detector devices

Published 26 February 2010

Placing radiation detectors at U.S. ports of entry would help prevent the smuggling of nuclear material into the United States — but it is also a business issue for Washington state: 400 employees work at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington; the proposed DHS budget contains only $8 million for these detectors, and the Washington congressional delegation presses for more

Hundreds of radiation detection devices at U.S. border crossings and ports were developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. They are designed to detect dirty bombs. KUOW.org’s Anna King reports that U.S. Senator Patty Murray is concerned that money for the program appears to be running out.

Near the banks of the Columbia River in southeast Washington, the Pacific Northwest National Lab has set up a test radiation detection system. It looks like a big yellow square archway. With reporters looking on officials demonstrated. A large truck just rolls on through the detection device.

The proposed DHS budget, however, does not include much money to keep rolling out these devices. Murray says the Obama administration’s plan to spend $8 million is not enough. She says that could leave smaller port vulnerable to threats like a dirty bomb.

Daniel Stephens, the project manager for the PNNL, says the radiation detection program employs about 400 people. “PNNL has worked with U.S. customs to develop a training program. And we’ve trained several thousand officers with this project in the specific use of these instruments and an understanding of radiation detection and what they are looking for in their mission.”

DHS secretary Janet Napolitano promised Murray a private meeting to talk further about the budget for radiation detection technology.