Cargo Container Portal Monitor for Rapid Detection of Special Nuclear Material

Technology #14846

Identifies nuclear material inexpensively using Helium-4 detectors and a neutron generator

This monitor, which includes Helium-4 fast neutron detectors and a neutron generator, rapidly identifies special nuclear material within cargo containers to address an important, unresolved security problem. Each year, millions of cargo containers are shipped to the United States, not all of which can be adequately inspected using existing technology. Available scanners take too long to scan (which disrupts shipping chains), have too many false alarms, or cannot detect shielded nuclear material. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a new cargo active scanning system that combines state-of-the-art Helium-4 fast neutron detectors and a neutron generator to rapidly detect special nuclear material in cargo with fewer false alarms. The system can even scan moving and shielded cargo, paving the way for 100 percent inspection of containers that will enable adherence to rules set forth by the U.S. Congress. According to BCC Research, the global market for radiation and hazard monitoring equipment, now worth $62 billion a year, is expected to double by 2019.


A portal monitor that scans moving cargo containers to detect special nuclear material quickly and accurately


  • Uses detectors based on Helium-4 gas (not affected by the Helium-3 gas shortage), ensuring supply can meet growing demand
  • Has the ability to scan moving cargo, eliminating disruptions in shipping chains
  • Can detect shielded special nuclear material, greatly decreasing the number of false alarms


Radiation Portal Monitors generally detect fissile materials by inducing small scale fission. Neutrons are shot into the container of interest and, in response, the fissile materials undergoes a short-term fission reaction that can be detected passively over a period of minutes. University of Florida Researchers have developed a multispectral active neutron interrogation analysis (MANIA) that makes it possible for a container to be irradiated by more than one neutron source, after which the program compares fission rates identified by a Helium-4 neutron detector. Improved sensitivity allows for increased accuracy, somewhat increased speed, and the development of smaller monitors.

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