Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DNDO Has Not Yet Collected Most of the National Laboratories' Test Results on Radiation Portal Monitors in Support of DNDO's Testing and Development Program

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Preventing a nuclear weapon or radiological dispersal device (a "dirty bomb") from being smuggled into the United States is a key national security priority. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through its Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), has lead responsibility for conducting the research, development, testing, and evaluation of radiation detection equipment that can be used to detect smuggled nuclear or radiological materials. Much of DNDO's work on radiation detection equipment to date has focused on the development and use of radiation detection portal monitors, which are larger-scale ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. March 9, 2007.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Preventing a nuclear weapon or radiological dispersal device (a "dirty bomb") from being smuggled into the United States is a key national security priority. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through its Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), has lead responsibility for conducting the research, development, testing, and evaluation of radiation detection equipment that can be used to detect smuggled nuclear or radiological materials. Much of DNDO's work on radiation detection equipment to date has focused on the development and use of radiation detection portal monitors, which are larger-scale equipment that can screen vehicles, people, and cargo entering the United States. Current portal monitors, made of polyvinyl toluene (plastic) and known as "PVTs," detect the presence of radiation but cannot distinguish between benign, naturally occurring radiological materials (NORM) such as ceramic tile, and dangerous materials such as highly enriched uranium (HEU). DNDO hopes that the next generation of portal monitors, known as "Advanced Spectroscopic Portals" (ASP), will be able to detect and more specifically identify radiological and nuclear materials within a shipping container. Given DNDO's goal of replacing PVT portal monitors with much more expensive ASPs, it is important for DNDO to fully understand the relative advantages and disadvantages of PVTs and ASPs before making the multibillion dollar investment that would be necessary to implement its current plan. Further, in light of the important role that DNDO foresees for state and local governments in radiation detection, it is also important that DNDO communicate this understanding to its state and local partners. Our October 2006 report concluded that DNDO's assessment of ASPs did not fully support DNDO's decision to purchase and deploy them. This report examines whether DNDO has fully collected and maintained all existing tests on PVTs in order to fully assess their advantages and limitations. To that end, we agreed with your offices to examine the extent to which DNDO has (1) compiled previous test results from the national laboratories on commercially available portal monitors, and (2) provided state and local authorities with information on the technical performance characteristics and operation of radiation detection equipment."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • March 9, 2007

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DNDO Has Not Yet Collected Most of the National Laboratories' Test Results on Radiation Portal Monitors in Support of DNDO's Testing and Development Program, text, March 9, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296141/: accessed April 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.