Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Program: Background and Issues for Congress [September 03, 2009] [open pdf - 197KB]
"The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with developing and procuring equipment to prevent a terrorist nuclear or radiological attack in the United States. At the forefront of DNDO's efforts are technologies currently deployed and under development whose purpose is to detect smuggled nuclear and radiological materials. These technologies include existing radiation portal monitors and nextgeneration replacements known as advanced spectroscopic portals (ASPs). Radiation portal monitors are used to detect radiation emitted from conveyances, such as trucks, entering the United States. Combined with additional equipment to identify the source of the emitted radiation, they provide for a detection and identification capability to locate smuggled nuclear and radiological materials. The ASPs currently under testing integrate these detection and identification steps into a single process. By doing this, DHS aims to reduce the impact of radiation screening on commerce while increasing its ability to detect illicit nuclear material. […]Laboratory and field tests of the ASPs, cost-benefit analyses, and other activities are under way to inform the Secretary's certification decision. Among the issues Congress faces are whether to further define the expected performance of the ASP systems through additional legislation; how to assess whether the ASP systems are technologically ready to be deployed; how to weigh the potential economic and security benefits of ASP deployment against its financial cost; and whether the certification process developed by DHS to establish a 'significant increase in operational effectiveness' is well founded."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34750