US, Republic of Malta Commission Megaports System Aimed at Preventing Nuclear Smuggling

Press Release
Sep 18, 2012

MARSAXLOKK, Malta – Representatives from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Office of International Material Protection and Cooperation participated today in a commissioning ceremony at the Port of Marsaxlokk, Malta, to launch the operation of specialized radiation detection equipment installed by NNSA’s Megaports Initiative. In coordination with the U.S Embassy in Malta, Malta Customs and Freeport Terminals, this new installation can detect the presence of nuclear or radiological material that could be used in a nuclear or radiation dispersal device as well as other radioactive materials and will help to secure cargo containers passing through the port.

“Our success in equipping the Port of Marsaxlokk with radiation detection equipment highlights our shared commitment to keeping dangerous nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists, smugglers and proliferators,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “Equipping one of the major shipping points in the Mediterranean is a significant milestone that highlights our strong partnership with Malta and our shared commitment to combating nuclear terrorism.”

The Port of Marsaxlokk is the Mediterranean’s third largest transshipment port and represents a strategic shipping hub at some of the world’s busiest shipping routes in the heart of the Europe/Maghreb/Middle East triangle. Earlier this summer, NNSA installed and tested the radiation detection equipment and the associated communications system, as well as provided training activities on operations and maintenance of the radiation detection systems. Malta Customs is now successfully operating the radiation detection equipment. It is anticipated that they will be able to scan more than 50 percent of containers passing through the Port of Marsaxlokk. NNSA will continue to work with Malta over the next several years to provide continued sustainability support.

The Megaports Initiative is part of NNSA’s Second Line of Defense (SLD) Program, which works collaboratively with foreign governments at land border crossings, airports and seaports to install radiation detection equipment and associated communications equipment. The SLD Program also provides training to host government officials to operate systems that detect smuggled nuclear and other radioactive materials. NNSA has installed similar equipment at more than 425 sites and 42 megaports around the world.

For a fact sheet on NNSA’s Second Line of Defense Program, click here.

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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. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce 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.