Some experts argue that searching every single container that comes into U.S. ports is not feasible. That's why the approach has been risk-based. But not everyone agrees.
While 742 ports around the world sent material to the United States last year, 99.5 percent of those shipments came from just 120 ports.
“It’s frequently cited that it’s too hard to keep track of all the ports,” said Dr. Stanton D. Sloane, president and CEO of the Decision Sciences International Corporation, “but if you really dig into the numbers, that’s really not the case.” Sloane pointed to research and development as a viable way to find a one-size-fits-all solution for those ports sending the majority of materials to the States. “The answer is a technological answer,” he noted. “We need to develop new technologies and field them quickly…. We have to get to a regime that scans everything. We have to find these bad devices, and we have to do this where the bad guys are going to be clever and shield it from existing technologies.”
Because of the global nature of shipping, international cooperation is absolutely crucial to preventing the threat of a nuclear weapon being smuggled through U.S. ports, said David Waller, former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and former assistant secretary of Energy for International Affairs. “Nuclear material arriving at a U.S. port in a container, in all likelihood, has arrived from elsewhere, and [was] shipped undetected from elsewhere. So that makes it very clear international cooperation is very important in securing our ports.” But, he noted, the government has not attempted to do it alone.
Panel members agreed that the nuclear threat was real. Rear admiral (retired) Jay Cohen, former Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology of the Department of Homeland Security expressed the views of many by stating: “It’s only a question of where, when, and to what magnitude.”
Flickr photo by Americansecurityproject