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Breakthroughs Magazine

Mission Critical

First on the block for first line of defense

A marathon of testing of personal radiation equipment, including pagers and handheld devices, is being completed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Results of the testing will be available to agencies in the business of first response, including law enforcement, fire patrols, hazardous material experts and other emergency first-responders needing specific tools for effective threat detection.

As requested by the Department of Homeland Security, the results will enable first responders to make educated selections about how equipment will perform under varying scenarios. The Coast Guard has a keen interest in how equipment survives exposure to salt water and extreme temperatures; urban-area security personnel look closely at features such as portability, discreetness, and detector reaction time.

"The success of this testing is a win in several arenas," said Joseph McDonald, a PNNL physicist who chaired the committee tasked with developing the standards. "Agencies that have urgent business in the line of first response and use DHS funds will be able to select reliable equipment that is best suited to their needs. Ultimately, the new performance criteria will raise the bar for quality in personal detection devices."

All testing was conducted in a National Institute of Standards and Technology-traceable radiological calibration laboratory at PNNL where experienced staff, state-of-the-art facilities and specialized instrumentation provided DHS the expertise to complete this first-line-of-defense project in record time.

For more information please contact Kelvin Soldat, 509-375-6810 .

Marine lab makes a splash with Congress

With 95,000 miles of coastline in America, protecting the coastal environment from terrorists is a big challenge, but Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists think they're up to handling it, and Congress seems to agree.

PNNL's Sequim Marine Research Operations facility in Sequim, Wash., has been appropriated $4.2 million from Congress to fund a coastal security program, which will support the development of advanced sensors for providing early warnings of biological, chemical or nuclear material releases in marine and coastal environments.

The funding will go toward several different research activities. One will be developing a new generation of sensors and technologies that detect signatures associated with weapons of mass destruction. By evaluating the living marine systems, including clams and mussels, researchers at the marine lab hope to detect the presence of biological, chemical or nuclear materials in coastal waterways, beaches and estuaries.

Another element of the program will look at developing nanomaterials designed to selectively capture and preconcentrate signatures of weapons of mass destruction in the marine environment. "The vision is to establish a network of sensors and biosensors that can be easily and inexpensively deployed across wide regions on or near the shore. This network would serve as an early warning system for coastal security," said Karen Steinmaus, PNNL project manager for the program.

Along with these programs, PNNL researchers will use the funding to enhance the integration of imagery and measurement technologies so intelligence and national and homeland security agencies can better identify and describe potential terrorism threats. They will also develop and improve ocean transport computer models that can analyze where a signature came from and predict where it's going.

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