Friday, December 08, 2006

Port Scannig of "Nuclear" Material

I think they mean radioactive material.

More silliness by over kill.
All cargo sent by container ships to the United States from three ports — in Pakistan, Honduras and Southampton, England — will be scanned for hidden nuclear weapons or components starting next year under a federal antiterrorist program that some in Congress want to see mandated worldwide.

The program, called the Secure Freight Initiative, will require United States-bound containers before departure to pass through both a radiation detection machine and an X-ray device, a combination intended to find bomb-making materials that have intentionally been shielded.

It will cost a total of $60 million to set up the system in Pakistan, Honduras and Southampton, as well to begin scanning at least some United States-bound traffic from Korea, Singapore and Oman, officials said. The cost will be split by the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy, they said.

“There’s no weapon of mass destruction that is more formidable than a nuclear or a dirty bomb,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday in announcing the plan.
ALL containers? It would be simpler to do a simple scan and any containers with a high reading get scanned or any container over a certain weight gets scanned. Shielding weighs a lot, so scanning containers over a certain weight would be more selective. And yes, all container cranes have scales, so they can do that.

Seeing that radioactive materials are also quite easy to detect when not shielded, simpler detection techniques could be used to pre-check containers.
The radiation scan and X-ray image of each container will be transmitted electronically to the United States or to customs officials elsewhere, who will then be able to ask foreign officials at the ports to do more comprehensive searches.

“When in doubt, we pull it out and then we open it up and look at it,” Mr. Chertoff said.

Brilliant. Put in place a search procedure, but then take the risk of trusting the foreign agency doing the work. Not like the container couldn't be opened later on ship or even at the dockside and add the WMD. I wonder if they have any procedures for random inspections of the containers that pass through this early vetting?
Democrats in Congress want to mandate that all cargo be screened for radioactive material overseas before departing. Ultimately, Congress ordered that the program be tested at a small number of ports.
Great. Lead with your heart, don't engage the brain. Another one of those feel-good for limited gain security measures.

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