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Press Release

Panama Begins Radiation Detection Efforts at Two Ports
Dec 12, 2008

Panama Begins Radiation Detection Efforts at Two Ports



Panama Begins Radiation Detection Efforts at Two Ports Partnership Aimed at Detecting Smuggled Nuclear Material

COLÓN, PANAMA – The U.S. and Panama announced today that radiation detection efforts have begun at two of the busiest seaports in Latin America.  Officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) participated in a ceremony today in Panama.

Under a special cost-sharing arrangement, Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT), located in Colón at the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, contributed to the detection efforts by funding the design and installation of the radiation detection equipment at the port.  The Port of Balboa,  located in Panama City at the Pacific entrance to the Canal and operated by Panama Ports Company, a subsidiary of Hutchison Port Holdings, is assisting with efforts to scan containers that are transiting by rail between the Port of Balboa at the southern terminus of the Canal and MIT, Colón Container Terminal, and the Port of Cristobal at the northern terminus of the Canal.

"We are working closely with the Panamanian National Customs Authority and with the private terminal operators in Panama to prevent nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation William Tobey.  "The success of this project reflects a strong commitment and desire on behalf of the Government of Panama to secure its ports from illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials."

The radiation detection equipment at both ports is designed to facilitate activities conducted under the Container Security Initiative (CSI).  Panama Customs and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have been cooperating on CSI for over a year at these two ports, as well as at Colón Container Terminal in Panama.  The National Customs Authority is responsible for operating the radiation detection equipment and for analyzing and responding to radiation alarms.  However, close coordination with CBP officers on-site allows for technical reach-back on alarm anomalies when necessary.

The work is part of NNSA's Second Line of Defense Program's Megaports Initiative that 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 nineteen ports and work is underway at over twenty 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