Skip navigation
A. Protecting Our Nation's Ports

Narrator: This is Science Today. In an effort to protect our nation's ports, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are developing a unique system to detect nuclear materials in cargo containers. Dennis Slaughter is lead investigator of the project, which they call the 'Nuclear Car Wash'.

Slaughter: What we're trying to do is detect a nuclear weapon or pieces of a nuclear weapon that might be smuggled into the country in a cargo container.

Narrator: This is done using a low-intensity neutron beam to radiate the cargo inside passing containers.

Slaughter: I have a long array of detectors along both sides of the container and those detectors have a reasonable chance of detecting whatever natural radioactivity might be there. But when I crank up the beam, if there's something besides natural radioactivity, detectors will go off and set off an alarm. The Department of Homeland Security is having a competition next year and we mean to be part of that competition. Now, we're not selling a system, but we mean to compete next year and there will be a procurement for this system in early '07.

Narrator:  For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.