Revolution in Nuclear Detection Affairs

FAS held a briefing Tuesday about the new strategies and technologies being used in nuclear detection. Dr. Huban Gowadia, Deputy Director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at the Department of Homeland Security, gave the presentation and described the “revolution” taking place.

Throughout history, various technologies have redefined the way wars have been fought, e.g. the long bow, gunpowder, tanks and eventually nuclear weapons. There is a gap, however, between the development of technology and when it becomes operationally and strategically effective. After all, it was centuries after gun powder’s invention that the use of muskets and cannon drastically changed warfare. In the case of nuclear detection, the technology, which once took up an entire room and required a trained physicist to analyze, has been compressed into a handheld device that any trained law enforcement officer can use.

Whereas detection previously relied on chance encounters through passive, or portal detectors, DNDO hopes to increase the amount of informed encounters through a well-trained police force at the state and local levels equipped with handheld and other mobile detection devices.

New, more active technologies, include the Roadside Tracker, which can scan and isolate passing vehicles moving up to 70 mph, the Advanced Radiation Monitoring Device, which possesses neutron and gamma detection abilities, the Standoff Radiation Detection System, a mobile radiation detector, and the Intelligent Radiation Sensor System, which connects a group of detectors in a network of sorts to more quickly and more accurately locate a signal.

Gowadia illustrated that one of the biggest challenges any detection effort has to overcome is separating the background radiation, or noise, from the threat signal. By monitoring the background radiation in an area over an extended period of time, it may be easier to spot a desired signal.

In 2006, DNDO began its Securing the Cities program in New York City. The program supplied more than 8,000 pieces of detection equipment to New York law enforcement and trained some 13,000 personnel. The first of its kind, the program was only a trial run, but plans have been made to replicate it elsewhere.

By keeping a dialogue with the user community at nearly every step of the process, DNDO has fostered equipment directly addressing the feedback of users and filling their needs.

While fielding questions, Gowadia explained DNDO’s role in the forensic side of nuclear detection. Their efforts can provide useful data points for any potential attribution, but DNDO itself does not make a decision regarding attribution.

Gowadia also explained that while DNDO is looking into better ways to detect radiation sources that are being hidden, or shielded, the technology has not yet been developed to the extent that it can be made operational and put into the field.

Current research and development will influence the way DNDO engages in future radiation detection, and, while it has already started, Gowadia expressed hope that private industry would grow more involved in the production of new nuclear detection technologies.

 

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2 Responses to “Revolution in Nuclear Detection Affairs”

  1. Mohammad June 20, 2012 at 5:26 PM #

    but your invention fails to discover radiation arises from a moving factory with speed more than 70 mph , like mine ,factory ^_^

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