Under a US$4.3 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Raytheon Company is developing next-generation panels that can scan rail cars to detect nuclear weapons and other materials.
The new panels are an additional configuration in Raytheon's advanced spectroscopic portfolio, a series of panels that can be used in various ways to screen cars, trucks, cargo containers, and now rail cars at seaports, border crossings, and airports. Raytheon's integrated defense systems develop the panels for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office within DHS. The panels will be tested this summer in Tacoma, Washington.
Ports of entry, courier facilities, airports and similar locations are now using first-generation radiation monitors to scan cargo containers that are placed on trucks. But those devices are not as effective in scanning rail cars, and they cannot distinguish between nuclear materials that pose a threat and the naturally occurring radioactive materials in fertilizer and bananas. Consequently, there can be frequent false alarms.
With the new panels, after a cargo container at a seaport has been loaded onto an 18-wheel flatbed truck or onto a rail car, the truck or car will pass between two panels that will scan it for illicit materials. It will be similar to driving a motor vehicle between two toll booths on the highway. One advantage of the new panels is that they will be taller than the existing version, so they will be able to scan the top of a rail car.
The new panels represent what is called an advanced spectroscopic On-Dock Rail configuration. The portfolio also includes panels that fit into a sport utility vehicle to detect nuclear materials passing on one side or the other of the SUV.