Sandia Labs completes testing on mobile radiological scanner

The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories announced on Wednesday that a Sandia team finished acceptance testing on a large mobile scanner that detects smuggled radiological materials.

Sandia's Mobile Radiation Detection and Identification System allows for the scanning of containers in transit from one cargo ship to another. The recent test involved the eighth such unit that Sandia deployed worldwide.

Because standard radiation detectors are fixed at port exits and entrances, they are not able to scan transshipped containers, making the containers an appealing option for terrorist smugglers.

"In 2006, National Nuclear Security Administration recognized the need to also scan cargo that is taken off a ship and, in a short period of time, put on a second ship," Greg Stihel, a representative of Sandia's Systems & Mission Assurance Department, said.

Sandia engineers were directed by NNSA's Second Line of Defense program to develop the idea for MRDIS to develop a technology that could quickly scan transshipped containers. Following the successful development of prototypes, the NNSA ordered 12 MRDIS devices.

The first four went to Panama in November and the next four destined for Oman completed final acceptance testing in March.

Close to 90 percent of imported and exported goods travel throughout the world in shipping containers. Approximately 500 million containers travel by sea annually.

By 2014, MRDIS will start scanning cargo at two international airports.