Detection of radioactive materials at Astrakhan Page: 4 of 8
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Russia and Iran goes through Astrakhan. The volume varies, but during the summer
season approximately one ship per day leaves for Iran; the annual average is about 3
ships per week, with each ship carrying about 1000 tons of various goods (e.g., building
materials, machine products, raw materials, ore concentrates, fertilizers, hazardous
materials, agricultural products).
The Russian Federation State Customs Committee (RF SCC) operates two separate
facilities at Astrakhan which are physically separated by several kilometers, with a staff
of about 600 which covers both the seaport and the customs region. The first facility is at
the Astrakhan Seaport, which primarily ships exports to Caspian Sea nations (e.g., Iran);
the Seaport also is the primary fishing port. The second facility is at the Astrakhan Port
of Cargo Handling, which is the primary port for importation of goods from Caspian Sea
nations. This second port is the larger of the two, although each marine port at Astrakhan
has several cranes and the capacity to service several ships simultaneously. Cargo is
loaded and off-loaded using a combination of rail and truck access. Initially neither SCC
facility had operating radiation detection equipment. It is not surprising that RF SCC
identified Astrakhan as one of its top priorities for upgrading with modern radiation
detection equipment, and as one of the first two border control points to be equipped in
the Second Line of Defense (SLD) Program.
The purpose of the cooperative effort between RF SCC and DOE via the SLD Program at
Astrakhan is to provide the capability through equipment and training for RF SCC to
monitor and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials through Astrakhan. The first
facility (Astrakhan Seaport) was equipped with one vehicle and one rail portal monitoring
systems. The second facility (Port of Cargo Handling) was initially equipped with one
pedestrian, one vehicle and one rail portal monitoring systems. A second phase of this
project, just in the final stages of completion, will conclude the equipping of Astrakhan
by providing an additional rail portal monitoring system which is needed at the Port of
Cargo Handling as well as 2 hand-held radiation detection and identification units.
Associated with both phases is the necessary equipment and procedural training to ensure
successful operation of the equipment in order to detect and deter illegal trafficking in
nuclear materials. The overall response of the RF SCC in Astrakhan to potential illicit
trafficking in nuclear materials also includes links to the Frontier Service (which guards
foreign ships docked at Astrakhan), the local police response force, and institutes which
are approved to provide technical assistance.
RADIATION DETECTION EQUIPMENT One intention of the SLD program is to
accelerate the on-going acquisition of indigenous Russian manufactured radiation
detection equipment. The SCC, thorough a previously conducted test and evaluation
process, had selected Yantar equipment produced by Aspect. Consequently, to maintain
continuity and uniformity, and supported by U.S. laboratory and field testing, Aspect
equipment was purchased for installation at Astrakhan. Dual post pedestrian (Yantar 2P),
dual post vehicle (Yantar IA) and dual post rail (Yantar 1Zh) portal monitors were
purchased from Aspect (Dubna, Russia). The pedestrian monitor posts had a
recommended separation of approximately 1.5 m, and the vehicle and rail monitor posts
had separations of approximately 6.0 and 7.5 m, respectively, with maximums suggested
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Cantut, L; Dougan, A; Hemberger, P; Kravenchenko, Gromov, A; Martin, D; Pohl, B et al. Detection of radioactive materials at Astrakhan, article, July 1, 1999; California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc625605/m1/4/: accessed September 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.