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The Port of Oakland is First in the US to Check All Incoming Cargo

  • Charlene Sarmiento

The Port of Oakland, in the western state of California, is the first in the United States to check 100% of incoming cargo for radioactivity. New detectors are designed to deter terrorists from importing elements to make a "dirty" or radioactive bomb. Charlene Sarmiento reports.

As many as 5,000 cargo containers enter the U.S. every day through the Port of Oakland. And every one of them now passes through a radiation detection device.

Nat Aycox, with the Customs and Border Protection agency in the Department of Homeland Security says, "We're targeting cargo for implements of terror, and we're trying to devise various ways to interdict any cargo that might have an implement of terror, a weapon of mass destruction."

The radiation scanners act like radio receivers that react to certain types of energy. Every container moves through one radiation portal monitoring system and if the alarm sounds, a second scanner. If the second scanner's alarm is activated, the cargo is inspected with a hand-held device to confirm and locate the source of the radiation.

Officials say that the machines can "read" the cargo for any item emitting radiation including a radioactive or "dirty" bomb. They say these layers of defense will help protect the U.S. from terrorists and terrorist weapons.

There are about 15 to 20 false alarms triggered each day by some fruit, like bananas, and ceramic goods.

Chief Inspector Steve Baxter says, "The natural occurring radiation that I see most often are things like granite, earthenware, items with a high amount of potassium in it."

Four million dollars is being spent to equip the port of Oakland and the port city across the bay, San Francisco. Oakland is the first port in the country to scan every single cargo container. The Nation's other 300 ports will get similar devices in the future.

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