Radiation Safety for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers


L. McCormick


Yearly, many thousands of packages containing legitimately imported radioactive materials enter the United States through over 300 ports of entry. In an effort to expedite legitimate importation and detect contraband, new modalities of non-intrusive inspection (NII) equipment are brought into use by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as they become available. Health physicists with the Department of Homeland Security/Customs and Border Protection (DHS/CBP) perform surveys on each new modality and prepare procedures to ensure customs and border protection officers using the NII equipment and officers handling radioactive shipments maintain exposures ALARA. Procedures are in place to ensure that dose to members of the public, including stowaways and non-CBP port workers, is kept below the regulatory limits. While promoting legitimate trade across our borders, DHS/CBP has the additional duty of preventing the movement of radioactive materials, hazardous chemicals, biological agents, and persons that may be part of terrorist activities. CBP employs radiation detection, quantification, and spectroscopic equipment that allows officers to identify radioactive items, illegal substances, hazardous chemicals, and biohazards. Procedures for determining which are legitimate items and which are not are integrated with the DHS/CBP radiation safety program. In order to make the best use of this technology, CBP has located NII equipment in preclearance facilities in foreign countries. This adds a layer of complexity to the program, since each country has different licensing regulations and restrictions on what types of equipment may be used, and who may operate it. This paper presents both the unique and the mundane methods DHS/CBP uses to run this essential program, keeping our officers and the public safe while meeting our mission as the guardians of our nation's borders.


This abstract was presented at the 38th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Materials Control and Security: Risk Assessment, Handling, and Detection", Advances in Instrumentation, Materials Detection and Measurement Session, 2/13/2005 - 2/16/2005, held in New Orleans, LA.

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