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1 Introduction In 2007, more than 11 million cargo containers arrived on ships and were offloaded at U.S. sea ports. An approximately equal number arrived by truck and another 2.75 million arrived by rail across land borders. The previous year, the SAFE Port Act (P.L. 109-347) was signed into law and required that “not later than December 31, 2007, all containers entering the United States through the 22 ports through which the greatest volume of containers enter the United States by vessel shall be scanned for radiation. To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall deploy next generation radiation detection technology.” Cargo screening at ports of entry to the United States 2 is carried out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO, also in DHS) coordinates federal, state, and local detection efforts to address the threat of nuclear terrorism, and develops, procures, and supports the deployment of detection equipment within the United States. One of DNDO’s chief clients is CBP. This report concerns efforts to develop, test, and deploy next generation radiation detection technology. The following paragraphs provide some history of events that preceded the request for this study. DNDO requested proposals for the next generation of radiation detectors for cargo screening (called advanced spectroscopic portals, or ASPs) from commercial vendors. DNDO selected three vendors for full testing, awarding contracts worth up to $1.2 billion for both testing and acquisition. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and others raised questions about the reliability of DNDO’s testing of the devices. Consequently, Congress restricted use of the funds for “full-scale procurement of Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Monitors” until the Secretary of Homeland Security submits to Congress “a report certifying that a significant increase in operational effectiveness will be achieved” by deploying ASPs to replace the screening devices that are already in place. 3 The GAO has on-going audits of the ASP testing and procurement program and has raised several objections to the way the program, including its testing, evaluation, and life-cycle cost analyses have been conducted (GAO 2006; 2007a; 2008a), as well as criticisms of the larger “global architecture” of which the cargo screening is a piece (GAO 2008b; 2009). In August 2007, the DHS Secretary formed a group to carry out an independent review. That group issued its draft final report in November 2007. 4 In December 2007, the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161) stated “[t]hat the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consult with the National Academy of Sciences before making such certification.” In its Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the legislation, Congress clarified its intent and this statement was the basis for the committee’s statement of task (see Appendix A). The ASP testing and evaluation program encountered some delays in 2008, which delayed any NAS report but created an opportunity for the NAS committee to provide input on 2 “A Port of Entry is any designated place at which a CBP officer is authorized to accept entries of merchandise to collect duties, and to enforce the various provisions of the customs and navigation laws (19 CFR 101.1).” 3 See Title IV of division E of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Public Law 110-161. 4 The Independent Review Team’s final report was issued in February 2008. Some of its findings are discussed in Chapter 3. 8

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 9 how testing and evaluation and the cost-benefit analysis should be completed. This interim report provides that advice to support future decisions by the Secretary of Homeland Security concerning development, certification, and deployment of ASPs. This chapter describes the origin of the study, the broader context of the threat of nuclear terrorism, and the currently deployed system for screening cargo containers for radiation. Chapter 2 gives readers who are not familiar with technologies for radiation detection some background on how detectors work. Chapter 3 provides the committee’s views on ASP testing and analysis conducted by DHS offices both prior to 2008 and during 2008, including findings and recommendations on how to complete the work. Chapter 4 provides the committee’s findings and recommendations for completing the ASP cost-benefit analysis. A final report will contain the committee’s findings and recommendations on DNDO’s completed tests and analyses. WHY SCREEN FOR RADIATION? THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR TERRORISM The possibility of nuclear terrorism has become more credible as it has become clearer that non-state actors may have or be able to acquire the means for a nuclear attack: gaining the knowledge of how to design a weapon, the materials for a nuclear explosive, and the ability to deliver and detonate the device. After the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, there is little doubt that well-funded, well-organized, and capable groups have the motive and intent to carry out high-consequence attacks on the United States. The knowledge of how to build a nuclear explosive is increasingly seen as a small hurdle, as designs of simple weapons have been discovered in non-nuclear weapons states, and given reports that A.Q. Khan’s black market nuclear distribution network offered a weapon design, in addition to designs and equipment for uranium enrichment. 5 Production of special nuclear material (SNM)—the fuel for a nuclear explosive—is still generally thought to require the resources of a nation, but the material could be acquired by other means, such as theft or black market sales. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and Russia agreed to work together to ensure that scientists with weapons-design and production expertise remain in Russia, and not sell their expert services to others. They agreed to begin to account for and secure weapons-grade material in states of the former Soviet Union and to emplace radiation detectors to catch special nuclear material illicitly leaving Russia (the second line of defense). It became evident through this cooperation that the Soviet Union had not kept careful records of its inventory of special nuclear material at several dozen locations, so it is unknown whether material was already stolen from the stockpiles. 6 To detonate a nuclear device on U.S. soil (including smuggled weapons, improvised nuclear devices, or dirty bombs), a terrorist must either acquire the necessary materials within the United States or smuggle them across U.S. borders. One potential path would be to bring the material in through one of the 327 official ports of entry into the United States, including land, air, and seaports, concealed as apparently ordinary cargo. Each day in 2007, U.S. container ports 7 handled an average of 71,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs, a measure of container size) of cargo. 8 In addition, an average of 22,000 5 See, e.g., Corera (2006). 6 See, for example, reports from the National Research Council on materials protection control and accounting (NAS 2009, 2007, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c, 1999, and 1997) 7 In this case, “container ports” refers to sea ports, and excludes cargo coming into the United States via land border crossings.

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10 EVALUATING TESTING, COSTS, & BENEFITS OF ASPs: INTERIM REPORT truck and rail containers entered the U.S. by land each day in 2007. In fact, an average of one in nine containers carrying global trade is bound for or is coming from the United States (USDOT, 2007). According to testimony from Jayson Ahern, acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in March 2009, radiation portal monitors (RPMs) in place now scan about 98% of the shipping containers entering U.S. maritime ports, 96% of trucks at Northern land border crossings, and 100% of those at Southern border crossings. 9 Additional monitors are being installed in the remaining ports and border crossings, and plans are in development to cover rail lines. This is a significant accomplishment. However, it is only a first step. The system does not cover small water vessels or general aviation, and much uncertainty remains about how to improve the overall capability of the system to reduce the threat posed by nuclear terrorism 10 in view of ever-increasing technological innovations and limited financial resources. EFFORTS TO INTERDICT NUCLEAR MATERIALS AT PORTS OF ENTRY The U.S. government—both the administration and Congress—concluded that it would be valuable to screen people, luggage, vehicles, and cargo entering the United States for nuclear and radiological material. U.S. Customs and Border Protection put in place a system of RPMs that use passive devices to detect radioactive material entering the country. Typical RPMs at a small border crossing are shown in Figure 1.1. In the towers on each side of the roadway or traffic lane are two panels (one high, one low) containing radiation detectors. The RPMs use PVT plastic scintillation detectors, which detect gamma rays emitted by most radionuclides, but have a limited ability to characterize the source of those gamma rays. The PVT detectors are capable of measuring only crude spectral information. The RPMs also have neutron detectors, which can detect neutron-emitting materials, such as plutonium. Cargo screening is just one of several overlapping layers of defense against unlawful import of nuclear material, none of which offers perfect protection. The layered defense system begins with securing the materials in the facilities where they reside overseas and has additional layers for detecting and preventing smuggling efforts at foreign nations’ borders and interdicting in transit. The Department of Energy, through the Second Line of Defense and other programs, uses many of the same detectors as CBP but deploys them overseas at border crossings and sea 8 The numbers cited for container traffic can be confusing. The maritime industry counts twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) when counting cargo containers of varying lengths—a forty foot container is two TEUs—but others count actual containers, or even conveyances. In this report, TEUs will only be used to describe overall container traffic for sea ports. 9 Statement of Jayson P. Ahern, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security before the Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, April 1, 2009. 10 In 2008, David Maurer of the Government Accountability Office testified that the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) “lacks an overarching strategic plan to help guide how it will achieve a more comprehensive architecture.” (GAO 2008b)

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 11 (a) (b) Figure 1.1 (a) The tall pillars closest to the foreground in this photograph are RPMs at a land border crossing between Canada and New York. (b) A truck is shown passing through a series of RPMs and ASPs on a test track. SOURCE: CBP (2008). ports under agreements with the foreign governments where they are located. 11 The final layer is at our borders’ ports of entry, with the RPMs (and the associated hand-held radiation detectors). Over 1070 RPMs were in operation at U.S. ports of entry, as of July 2008. Hand-held radioisotope identification devices (RIIDs) 12 also were in operation at ports of entry at that time. Every container of foreign origin carried by a truck passes through screening. At sea ports, the procedure is not totally consistent at each site or for each container. Containers may be loaded onto a chassis which is then connected to a tractor that drives the container through an RPM and off the terminal. Containers destined for rail transport may be carried by a truck to a nearby location with a rail line where the train is built (some of these are screened with a RPM when the truck is pulling them) or they may be loaded directly onto rail cars (so-called on-dock rail or roll-on, roll-off rail loading). Mobile detectors are used for some of the containers that are not conveyed by truck. The ASP-C RPMs are only used for containers conveyed by truck. The current concept of operations (CONOPS) for screening of cargo containers for radioactive material consists of a two-stage screening process. In the first stage, primary screening, the container is driven through a PVT RPM. When an RPM used in primary screening detects radiation levels above a gamma-ray or neutron alarm threshold, the container is diverted to a lane dedicated to secondary screening. Because there is radioactive material in a small but significant fraction of ordinary cargo, radiation alarms in primary screening are quite common. This radioactive material includes naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM), 13 as well as 11 The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), runs these programs. The committee refers to DOE here and throughout the report for simplicity. The similarity and overlapping nature of the DOE and CBP-DNDO programs has led DNDO to consult and cooperate with DOE on some aspects of the ASP program. 12 The term “isotope identification” or “radioisotope identification” is commonly used, although it is usually not technically correct. It is only meaningful to refer to an isotope in the context of a specific element. The same is true of the term radioisotope. A nuclide or a radionuclide may be any isotope of any element. In this report, the terms “isotope” and “radioisotope” are synonymous with nuclide and radionuclide, respectively, consistent with common usage. 13 NORM comprises many materials derived from rocks, such as granite table tops, porcelain, and kitty litter, and materials high in potassium, such as bananas and potassium chloride (salt substitute).

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12 EVALUATING TESTING, COSTS, & BENEFITS OF ASPs: INTERIM REPORT radiopharmaceuticals used in medicine and industrial radiation sources. Even when radiation is not detected at a primary RPM, secondary actions may be taken based on independent information about the cargo or a CBP agent’s judgment that the cargo is suspect. In secondary screening, the container is driven through another RPM and examined with a “spectroscopic” detector, which in principle is capable of identifying specific radioactive substances. The spectrometer currently in use is a handheld radioisotope identification device (RIID, see Figure 1.2). One or more CBP officers examine the container with a RIID to identify whether the source is NORM, an industrial source, medical radionuclides, a threat object, or some combination of these. CBP may decide to send the spectrum electronically to a centralized group of specialists, called Laboratories and Scientific Services (LSS), for analysis. CBP may also open the container and visually inspect the contents as well as further monitor the contents with the RIID. At some ports of entry, the container may also be subject to additional inspections such as imaging with an X-ray type machine (a radiography device with a gamma or X-ray source) to look for localized heavy metal objects (shielding or SNM), and direct examination of the cargo, including removal from the truck or shipping container. Figure 1.2: A handheld RIID. SOURCE: DNDO (2008a) Committee members observed secondary screening operations at two border crossings and three ports. The committee’s observations were consistent with descriptions given in briefings to the committee by CBP in May and October. A truck carrying a container that triggers a primary alarm may be delayed by 5 to 15 minutes or more, depending on the configuration of the port of entry and the relative ease or difficulty of identifying the source of radiation. First, because of the layout of the primary and secondary screening areas, at some ports of entry it may take several minutes for a truck stopped in primary screening to be diverted to secondary screening. At some ports of entry, it requires that a CBP officer stop all lanes traffic through the RPMs to allow the truck that caused the alarm to cross to the secondary screening area. Switching to ASPs would not reduce this delay for a truck that triggers a primary alarm, but to be certified for primary screening, ASPs must alarm on fewer trucks. The result of deploying ASPs that meet the criteria would be some reduction in the time spent in screening overall. Screening a truck with a handheld RIID may take several minutes or more, depending on how quickly the alarm can be resolved. However, the time required to carry out screening is only part of the picture of actual operations at ports of entry. CBP has stated repeatedly that the current system of radiation screening, using PVT RPMs and RIIDs, does not impede the flow of commerce. The committee’s observations were, again, consistent with those statements. In no case that the

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 13 committee observed was there a backup of trucks resulting from radiation screening. Other steps—manifests and immigration at border crossings, and safety inspections at border crossings and ports—had trucks waiting. While an alarm on the primary screening detectors sometimes stopped traffic for all of the lanes, typically it resulted in no net delay for the trucks that did not trigger the alarm. This is because the queue at the next inspection station usually had not yet cleared. DNDO and CBP officials also told the committee that replacing the current system with an ASP system would not reduce the number of CBP officers who conduct radiation screening at ports of entry.