The Impact of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Radiation Detection Instrumentation

M.C. Cox (DHS consultant)

There are a few milestone incidents that have affected the developments and applications of radiation detection instrumentation. The discovery of x-rays and naturally occurring radioactive materials in the nineteenth century did. In the last century the peaceful applications of radiation for medicine, nuclear power and the development of nuclear weapons also did. A full spectrum of radiation detectors was developed to measure the ionizing radiation in these cases, primarily for radiation protection purposes. The terrible and tragic events of 11 September 2001 had little immediate effect on radiation detection. In late 2002, the DHS was proposed as a federal department, so a number of radiation detection experts was summoned to the National Institutes for Technology and Standards (NIST). The DHS wanted 4 American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards quickly developed for instruments for use by DHS personnel. These standards covered 1) personnel photon detectors with optional neutron detection, 2) portable radiation detectors for exposure measurements, 3) portable radionuclide identifiers with neutron detection capabilities, and 4) portal monitors for personnel, packages, containers and vehicles. The 4 standards were published within 1 calendar year. The DHS mandate aroused a sleeping giant, the industry that provides radiation detectors. The principles driving the four standards were that 1) existing commercially available radiation detectors would be considered, and 2) new, innovative technology was encouraged toward the development of new instruments. Prior to the DHS movement the existing radiation detection technology was considered mature with few new applications. No new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States in twenty years so that market was nearly saturated, the US Department of Energy laboratories had nearly all of the instruments needed and the medical market was growing slowly. This scenario was stable with little growth and radiation detection instrument manufacturers being merged, acquired or out of business. The DHS requirements changed much of that. This presentation outlines some of the new enthusiasm, new developments and newly related products caused by the direction of visionary people at NIST and the DHS.

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