ARAM can detect gamma ray emissions and, with additional attachments, neutrons — a clear indicator
of the presence of nuclear weapons-grade material. According to Dunlop,
the ARAM went three-for-three,
detecting samples ranging from
miniscule to small in the test vessels.
But the exercise wasn’t just about
testing equipment. Naval Postgraduate School participants used it
to hone the communications process
for recognizing radioactive materials
and notifying necessary response
teams. Local agencies, including the
Orange County Hazardous Device
Section and Harbor Patrol, used the
opportunity to test its equipment.
“We kind of want them to know
if they see a true neutron signature,
it should stop them in their tracks,”
Lawrence Livermore’s exercises,
which began as quarterly research
and development tests to build equipment, have grown
into twice-yearly, full-scale events involving federal,
state and local authorities. In fall 2008, the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey asked the laboratory to conduct training in its jurisdiction. The San
Francisco exercise followed this spring.
The exercises are not part of the DNDO pilot program, but they are coordinated with DNDO, Dunlop
said. Currently, the DNDO program, which relies heavily on the Coast Guard model for boarding and monitoring, is in full swing in Puget Sound and San Diego.
In its response to the GAO report, the DNDO said it
has identified gaps in the nuclear-detection architecture and is working to identify and develop solutions
for dealing with the vulnerability. It also believes that
state and local governments will be able to sustain any
DNDO-created programs by requesting grant funding
for equipment, training and implementation.
“GAO’s explanation of the status of these efforts does
not present a complete and balanced picture of what’s been
accomplished and what’s being done,” wrote Michael
McPoland in the DNDO’s response to the GAO report.
At the Coast Guard, McDaniel sees the layers of
oversight and the agencies that make up the domestic
detection architecture as a comfort, not a concern.
“I sleep safe at night knowing that we are doing
the right things for the right reasons and with all the
other agencies dealing with the issue. When I first
started doing this job in 2003, I didn’t sleep so well,”
McDaniel said. ■
U.S. COAST GUARD
Eight Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels participated in a multi-agency radiation
detection exercise on San Francisco Bay in March 2008 along with an Alameda
County Sheriff’s patrol boat with Coast Guard Sector San Francisco personnel
onboard and the Remote Operated Vessel sensor vessel Sea Fox. Some of the
Auxiliary vessels had observers aboard from participating agencies, such as the
Naval Postgraduate School and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“Radiation is a part of life. Our primary goal is to handle any incidents inside the Coast Guard. If an inspector
has an abnormal reading, he’ll check the cargo manifest
and, if necessary, go to the next level,” McDaniel said
With smaller boats, the Coast Guard hopes lessons
learned by the service regarding training, equipment use
and inspection methods can be taught to state and local
agencies developing their own capabilities. These lessons
are gleaned from a Cold War service-wide capability for
nuclear, biological and chemical threat detection that
was revived two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“The only way to seal America from this threat
would be to break the bank of the nation and lock it
down. We can’t do that. We recognize terrorists are
going to use every means [at their] disposal to try to
get a device in, and we have a lot of tools at our disposal to deter them,” McDaniel said.
Through the DNDO, the Coast Guard continuously
explores the technologies for radiation detection. In the
April exercise, coordinated by partners Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory and the Naval
Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., the Coast
Guard provided the platforms needed to test an “
adaptable radiation area monitor,” or ARAM, developed by
Lawrence Livermore to be an “everyman’s tool” for
finding nuclear materials, said William Dunlop, a senior scientist at Lawrence Livermore.
Deployed on a 25-foot Defender-class small boat, the
ARAM screened Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels for radiation as they motored past an inspection checkpoint. An
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009