Radiation Detection Efforts Begin at Three Megaports

Press Release
Feb 2, 2010

Radiation Detection Efforts Begin at Three MegaportsNNSA Expands Nuclear Material Detection Capabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has completed installation and testing of radiation detection systems at three new ports: Colon Container Terminal (CCT) and the Port of Cristobal in Panama, and the Port of Manzanillo, Mexico.  The equipment, provided through NNSA's Megaports Initiative, will be used to help deter, detect, and interdict illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials that might move through the global maritime shipping system. 

The announcement comes one day after NNSA unveiled its FY2011 budget request, which includes a 25.8 percent increase for programs aimed at implementing President Obama's commitment to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.

"These three new operational Megaports strengthen our capability to prevent dangerous nuclear and radiological materials from being smuggled in shipping containers transiting the global maritime system," said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. "Cooperation and support from our foreign partners like Panama and Mexico is key to the success of the Megaports Initiative as we work to meet the goals of the President's nuclear security agenda."

The Megaports Initiative has a significant presence in the Latin American and Caribbean region, underscored by the strong partnerships with Panama and Mexico.  CCT and the Port of Cristobal are the final two ports to become operational Megaports in Panama.  The Port of Manzanillo is the third operational Megaport in Mexico, with a fourth planned to be completed in FY 2011.  Additionally, there are operational Megaports in Honduras, Colombia, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. 

Work at the Port of Manzanillo was conducted under a cost-sharing arrangement, whereby Mexican Customs funded the design, construction and installation of the equipment, while NNSA provided the equipment and related communications system, training, and maintenance support.  Similar cost-sharing arrangements were accomplished at one of the Panama ports.  

The work is part of NNSA's Second Line of Defense Program's Megaports Initiative, which aims to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders and through the global maritime shipping system.  The Megaports Initiative provides radiation detection equipment, training, and technical support to key international seaports to scan cargo containers for nuclear and other radioactive materials.  The installation of radiation detection systems at these three new locations represents a significant step forward for the Megaports Initiative, which is now operational at thirty ports around the world.  Work is underway at additional ports in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The President's FY2011 Budget Request for NNSA highlights the critical role NNSA plays in implementing the nuclear security agenda President Obama outlined in his Prague speech last April and repeated in last week's State of the Union address.  The budget includes close to $2.7 billion in funding for programs like the Second Line of Defense activities announced today – a 25.8 percent increase over FY2010 funding levels. 

The Megaports work was accomplished with the support of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and NNSA's Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. 

More information on NNSA's Second Line of Defense program is available online.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371