• GAO: $4 billion border radiation detectors program a bust

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported Wednesday that the $4 billion program to install radiation detectors at U.S. border crossings yielded few tangible results; the detection machines were too big for border inspection lanes, and the software for the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography Systems also was not up to the task; DHS: “We are mindful of getting something delivered that has a credible basis for the implementation plan that follows”

  • Rapiscan in $12 million nuclear detection contract

    DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) has contracted Rapiscan Systems for detection of shielded nuclear materials; the company has been tasked with developing a Liquefied Noble gas detector — in collaboration with Yale University — a threshold activation detector, a human portable system, and an aircraft inspection solution

  • Flir to acquire sensor maker ICx for $274 million

    Flir, maker of thermal imaging technology, is acquiring ICx for $274 million; the merger will give Flir the capability to expand into the market for advanced sensors for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear explosives (CBRN) detection for homeland security and defense

  • Many ways to smuggle nukes into the United States

    The United States focuses on scanning shipping containers for nuclear smuggling; with nearly 10 million cargo containers arriving in the United States by sea or on land each year, this is a difficult task; the GAO says this is not enough, and that the government must find ways to keep an eye on 13 million recreational boats and 110,000 fishing vessels which go in and out U.S. sea ports — and also on freight trains, which are often more than three kilometers long

  • U.S. has no plan to keep nuclear bomb materials from crossing border

    In 2006 the George W. Bush administration announced a $1.2 billion project to deploy thousands of scanners for screening vehicles and cargo at U.S. ports to block the importation of radioactive materials that could be used to make a bomb to protect the United States; the scanners — known as the advanced spectroscopic portal (ASP) machines — proved a failure, and in February, following one setback after another, officials abandoned full-scale deployment of the machines; GAO says that the attention and resources invested in the ill-fated ASPs delayed the creation of a “global nuclear detection architecture” to protect the United States

  • U.S. lab center of information gathering effort in the event of nuclear terror

    In a laboratory on the edge of the vast Nevada desert, U.S. officials would gather some of the first critical information that could affect the lives of millions in the aftermath of a nuclear terrorist attack in an American city

  • UN: Iran has fuel for two nuclear weapons

    IAEA says Iran has enough nuclear fuel for two nuclear weapons; the toughly worded IAEA report says that Iran has expanded work at one of its nuclear sites; it also describes, step by step, how inspectors have been denied access to a series of facilities, and how Iran has refused to answer inspectors’ questions on a variety of activities, including what the agency called the “possible existence” of “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”

  • Bureaucratic hurdles delay NYC dirty bomb defenses

    NYPD says that since last fall, it has been trying to obtain an $8 million federal grant for a radiation detection system which would instantly read data from 4,500 sensors in cop cars across the region to intercept vehicles carrying explosive devices; NYPD is still waiting

  • U.K. firm investigated over sale of dirty bomb material to Iran

    British company sells cobalt aluminate; the material can be used to produce alloys as well as the lethal radioactive isotope cobalt 60; for this reason its sale to nations like North Korea and Iran is tightly limited; cobalt is considered by nuclear experts as more likely to be used in a dirty bomb than in a nuclear warhead

  • Engineers to enhance crane-mounted cargo scanning system

    VeriTainer, a venture-backed specialist in crane-based radiation detection technology for scanning shipping containers, enters into a three-and-a-half years, $4 million n R&D agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to enhance the gamma and neutron detection sensitivity of the company’s radiation scanners

  • Planned security network for Lower Manhattan would not have identified bomber

    New York City plans to install a protection system in Lower Manhattan which will consist of surveillance cameras, license plate readers, and chemical sensors; the system will be able to record and track every vehicle moving between 34th and 59th Streets, river to river; because neither the S.U.V. used in the attempt last Saturday nor the license plate on it had been reported stolen, it would not have raised any immediate red flags

  • Source of radioactive poisoning in India found; nuclear watchdog seeks explanation

    Indian investigators find source of the cobalt-60 which poisoned several scrap-metal facility employees (one of them died last week): Delhi University bought a gamma irradiation machine from Canada in 1970 for use in experiments by chemistry students; the machine, which had not been used since the mid-1980s, was sold at an auction in February; scientists say that although the radioactive substance in the machine had decayed, it was of high intensity

  • How much radiation can the human body take?

    Radiation doses are measured in sieverts; each year we receive an average of 2.4 millisieverts from natural sources such as radon; the threshold for an early death is around 2 sieverts, and death is highly likely at 6 sieverts

  • How safe are the world's nuclear fuel stockpiles?

    There is a lot of weapon-grade nuclear material in the world — 1,600 tons of HEU and 500 tons of separated plutonium; keeping these stockpiles safe will take more than barbed wire; one method is a seal for HEU fuel rods with a pattern of flaws visible on ultrasound scans that cannot be removed without leaving telltale signs; the seals were installed last year in Romania and Pakistan; scientists work on other detection and safety methods

  • The U.S. faces severe helium-3 shortages; nuclear detection, science suffer

    The decay of tritium, the radioactive heavy-hydrogen isotope used in nuclear weapons, long produced more helium-3 than could be used; the United States stopped making new tritium in 1988, and so the remaining supply has been dwindling as it decays; the post 9/11 rush to build and deploy radiation detectors, however, increased dramatically the demand on the U.S. declining helium-3 resources — and now scientific research dependent on helium-3 suffers, and soon there will not enough even for security devices