gram manager for weapons of mass
The Department of Homeland
Security, DNDO’s parent organization, did not respond to a request
for comment for this report by
The threat of nuclear smuggling
is real: Between 1993 and 2006,
there were 1,080 confirmed cases
of illicit trafficking of nuclear and
radiological materials worldwide,
according to the International
Atomic Energy Agency. Eighteen of
these cases involved plutonium
and enriched uranium — materials
that can be used to make a nuclear
weapon. And more than 120 cases
involved radioactive materials that
could be used to manufacture a
At U.S. ports, the CBP oversees
radiation monitoring for cargo arriving in ships over 300 gross tons —
those subjected by law to tight security regulations. The Coast Guard,
with its mission to protect mariners
and ensure the safety of the ships
themselves, boards these large ships
and conducts inspections as well.
Thus its members also are first-line
defenders in ports.
Along the coastline, the Coast
Guard is responsible for ensuring
the safety of the nation’s registered
small vessels — those ranging in
size from small sailboats and personal watercraft to fishing vessels
and large passenger ferries.
Coast Guard boarding teams,
whether they embark on a 700-
foot cargo vessel or 42-foot sailboat, carry a pager-sized instrument that is a personal
radiation detector costing roughly $2,800, according
to McDaniel. Should it go off, and they do — radiation
can be found in cargo such as roofing tiles, bananas
and kitty litter — boarding teams can access larger,
more accurate handheld detectors staged on cutters
and their commands.
They also can bring in $30,000 backpack-sized detectors, called RADPACKS, to further locate sources of
gamma ray and thermal neutron radiation and transmit
the data to a central Homeland Security processing center, called Laboratories and Scientific Services.
U.S. COAST GUARD
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Marika Binggio and Petty Officer 3rd Class
Michael Lynch, both members of the Maritime Safety and Security Team in
Alameda, Calif., inspect a possible source of radiation with their hand-held equipment during an April multi-agency exercise aboard Keystone State, a Maritime
Administration Ready Reserve Force vessel homeported in Alameda.
and local law enforcement and maritime agencies have
radiation-detection capabilities as well.
The DNDO’s job is to make sure that myriad agencies on the water, from CBP and the Coast Guard to
state fish and wildlife departments and local law
enforcement, can contribute to the domestic detection
capability. The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency
for port and waterways security, but its frontline personnel make up just a handful of those responsible for
locating and interdicting threats.
“The challenge really is one of coordinating response,” said Kenneth McDaniel, the Coast Guard’s pro-
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009