Engineers enhance cargo scanning system

Engineers in California are working to enhance the sensitivity of a crane-mounted cargo scanning system capable of detecting whether shipping containers are being used for transporting radiological or nuclear threats.

A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is helping enhance both the gamma and neutron detection sensitivity of California-based VeriTainer Corporation’s patented cargo scanning system, which has been operated for the past four years in field tests at three ports and in five different terminals.

VeriTainer’s crane-mounted radiation detection system passively scans containers and then uses computer algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

Steven Kreek, the leader of LLNL’s Nuclear Detection and Countermeasures Research Program, said that the VeriTainer technology occupies a unique security niche in that it can be used to scan cargo that is passed between ships – a process known as transshipment.

It was originally thought that crane-mounted scanning was not feasible owing to the high shock environment on the crane and the impact that this would have on the laboratory equipment needed to perform spectroscopic analysis. However, the trials have demonstrated that, thanks to a patented shock absorption system used to isolate the gamma and neutron detectors embedded in the system, this is not the case.