Review on“Contributing to shipping container security: can passive sensors bring a solution?” G. Janssens-Maenhout a, F. De Roob, W. Janssens, Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 2009 (CORE1096)

Summary: Illicit trafficking of fissionable material in container cargoes is recognized as a potential weakness in Nuclear Security. Triggered by the attacks of 11 September 2001, measures were undertaken to enhance maritime security in extension to the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention and in line with the US Container Security Initiatives. Effective detection techniques are needed that allow the inspector to intercept illicit trafficking of nuclear weapons components or components of other nuclear explosive devices. Report abstract is available at (one can ask for the full report e.g. vie ResearchGate):

[s2If is_user_logged_in()]

Full review: Many security measures focus on active interrogation of the container content by X-ray scan, which might be extended with the newly developed tagged neutron inspection system. Both active interrogation techniques can, with the current huge volume of container traffic, only be applied to a limited number of selected containers. The question arises whether a passive detection technique can offer an alternative solution.

This study investigates if containers equipped with a small passive detector will register during transport the neutron irradiation by fissionable material such as plutonium in a measurable way. In practice, 4/5 of the containers are about 1/8 filled with hydrogenous material and undergo a typical 2 months route. For this reference case, it was found that the most compatible passive detector would be an activation foil of iridium. Monte-Carlo simulations showed that for the reference case the activity of a 250 μm thin foil with 6 cm2 cross-section would register 1.2 Bq when it is irradiated by a significant quantity of Reactor-Grade PuO2. However this activity drops with almost two orders of magnitude for other fillings and other isotopic compositions and forms of the Pu-source. The procedure of selecting the target material for Pu detection is detailed with the theoretical methods, in order to be useful for other applications. Moreover the value of such additional passive sensors for securing maritime container transport is situated within the global framework of the First, Second and Third Line of Defense against illicit trafficking.

Full citation:   G. Janssens-Maenhout a, F. De Roob, W. Janssens (2009). Contributing to shipping container security: can passive sensors bring a solution?” Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 101(2):95-105 · OCTOBER 2009.

Keywords: Nuclear illicit trafficking, Maritime container transport, Passive detection technique


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *