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C. A 'Nuclear Car Wash' to Protect our Nation's Ports

Narrator: This is Science Today. A bomb detector that would scan cargo containers for a hidden nuclear device is under development at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Nuclear physicist Dennis Slaughter, who is leading the development team, says it's called Active Neutron Interrogation of Cargo, but they call it the nuclear car wash project.

Slaughter: We call it a car wash because our notion here is that you'd have this neutron beam, perhaps below ground, aimed upward or perhaps in a bridge aimed downward and you'd two a container passed this thing, either over it or under it, depending on the arrangement.

Narrator: The researchers are working out a variety of issues, including the speed of this technique.

Slaughter: The containers are off-loading off the ships nationwide at the rate of about twelve a minute, 24/7. In any one port, they're coming off the ships often times at one a minute. So, to look at a container, you've got one minute to make up your mind whether this container's OK for release or not and so we're aiming to do our screening in one minute or less than that. We'd like to get down to twenty seconds per screening and we might get there, but today we're gunning for about a one-minute scan.

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