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M. Grypp, "An Analysis of a Spreader Bar Crane Mounted Gamma-Ray Radiation Detection System," Ph.D. Dissertation, Nuclear Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX (2013).


Over 95% of imports entering the United States from outside North America arrive via cargo containers by sea at 329 ports of entry. The current layered approach for the detection only scans 5% of cargo bound for the United States. This is inadequate to protect our country. This research involved the building of a gamma-ray radiation detection system used for cargo scanning. The system was mounted on a spreader bar crane (SBC) at the Port of Tacoma (PoT) and the applicability and capabilities of the system were analyzed.

The detection system provided continuous count rate and spectroscopic data among three detectors while operating in an extreme environment. In a separate set of experiments, 60Co and 137Cs sources were positioned inside a cargo container and data were recorded for several count times. The Monte Carlo N-Particle (MCNP) code was used to simulate a radioactive source inside an empty cargo container and the results were compared to experimentally recorded data. The detection system demonstrated the ability to detect 60Co, 137Cs, 192Ir, highly-enriched uranium (HEU), and weapons-grade plutonium (WGPu) with minimum detectable activities (MDA) of 5.9 ± 0.4 μCi, 19.3 ± 1.1 μCi, 11.7 ± 0.6 μCi, 3.5 ± 0.3 kg, and 30.6 ± 1.3 g, respectively. Details of this system are presented and advantages of this approach to cargo scanning over current approaches are discussed.

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Associated Project(s):

  • SHIELD (Smuggled HEU Interdiction through Enhanced anaLysis and Detection): A Framework for Developing Novel Detection Systems Focused on Interdicting Shielded HEU

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