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Secretary Napolitano Announces Full Deployment of Radiation Scanning Technology to the Northern Border Ahead of Schedule

Release Date: 
November 5, 2009

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the final deployment of non-intrusive scanning equipment to detect radiation emanating from materials used in nuclear devices at all Northern border land ports of entry—a major security milestone completed two months ahead of schedule that reflects Secretary Napolitano’s ongoing commitment to strong, layered security at the U.S.-Canada border.

“Securing our Northern border while facilitating legitimate travel and trade requires a strategic combination of technology, personnel and infrastructure,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This technology enhances our capability to guard against terrorism and criminal threats while expediting border crossings for lawful trade and travel.”

Radiation portal monitors (RPMs)—installed by the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—are capable of detecting radiation emanating from nuclear devices, dirty bombs, special nuclear materials, natural sources and isotopes commonly used in medicine and industry. The technology offers CBP a non-intrusive means to scan 100 percent of vehicles and cargo containers for radiation entering the country while facilitating the flow of legitimate travel and trade.

Completing this project ahead of schedule—the final installation of RPMs finished on Oct. 29 at the Trout River, N.Y., port of entry—represents another critical step in the Department’s efforts to strengthen the interconnected U.S. border security network by installing new technology, deploying personnel to key locations along borders and upgrading aging port infrastructure to meet modern-day security needs.

Using a system that operates without emitting radiation—much like a radio receiver—RPMs respond to certain types of energy and indicate the strength of the received energy to the trained operator. In the case of any alert by a portal monitor, CBP follows strict protocols to quickly determine whether the source of radiation is a potential terrorist threat, a natural source or a legitimate medical/industrial source of radiation

RPM technology currently allows CBP to scan 100 percent of all mail and express consignment mail/parcels, truck cargo and personally-owned vehicles arriving from Mexico for illicit radiological/nuclear materials as well as 100 percent of all truck cargo and personally-owned vehicles entering from Canada. Approximately 98 percent of all arriving sea-borne containerized cargo is also scanned—for a combined total of 99 percent scanning of all cargo entering into the country by these means.

To strengthen security along the Northern border, DHS has adopted a multi-layered, integrated detection strategy at ports of entry utilizing highly trained CBP officers equipped with stationary, mobile and handheld radiation detectors; radiation isotope identifier devices; nonintrusive inspection technologies such as radiography; information technology infrastructure; and physical searches.

For more information, visit www.dhs.gov.

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