NNSA Transfers Radiation Detection System at Port of Antwerp to Belgium Customs

Press Release
Feb 24, 2009
Partnership Aimed at Detecting Smuggled Nuclear Material

New York, N.Y. – The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) joined the Federal Public Service of Finance of the Kingdom of Belgium Customs and Excise Administration (C&EA) today to celebrate two successful years of radiation detection operations at the Port of Antwerp.  In a ceremonial transfer at the Belgian Consulate, NNSA entrusted all of the Port of Antwerp's radiation detection equipment and property to the C&EA and Antwerp Port Authority.

The Port of Antwerp, located in northern Belgium on the North Sea, is one of the largest ports in Europe in terms of container traffic volume.  Under NNSA's Megaports Initiative, radiation detection equipment was installed on both the right and left banks of the port at the gates to 10 container terminals and other strategic exit/entry points.  The equipment installed scans import, export, and rail container traffic at the port.  The C&EA monitors the traffic from two central alarm stations and is responsible for radiation alarm analysis and response.  Under a special cost-sharing arrangement, C&EA contributed to the detection efforts by funding the installation of the radiation detection equipment at two of the terminals.       

"The Government of Belgium is a strong partner of the U.S. in the prevention of nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said Ken Baker, NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.  "With two years of successful operation, the Belgian Customs and Excise Service has demonstrated its commitment and ability to secure Belgian ports from illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials."

NNSA cooperation with Belgium in radiation detection efforts at the Port of Antwerp began in 2004.  The first terminals were commissioned in 2007 and the last two terminals in October 2008.  NNSA continues to work with Belgium to augment the system with state-of-the-art equipment.  NNSA and the Government of Belgium are also working together and sharing costs on the installation of radiation detection equipment at the Port of Zeebrugge.  The installation of equipment at both ports supports the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Container Security Initiative, which targets and pre-screens maritime cargo containers destined for U.S. ports. 

NNSA has also partnered with Belgium on export controls, with the International Nonproliferation Export Control Program (INECP) demonstrating its Commodity Identification Training (CIT) to an EU-wide audience in Brussels in October 2007.  NNSA also provided its CIT Instructor Training – a "train the trainer" course – to Belgian Customs personnel.  This year, Belgium will launch its own CIT program.

The work at the Ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge is part of NNSA's Second Line of Defense Program's Megaports Initiative, which aims to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders and through the global maritime shipping system.  The Megaports Initiative provides radiation detection equipment, training, and technical support to key international seaports to scan cargo containers for nuclear and other radioactive materials.  Around the world, the Megaports Initiative is currently operational in 19 ports and work is underway at over 20 additional ports in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise.  NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. 

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371