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The nuclear car wash


cargo containersWe've written about the cargo container as the smuggler's vehicle of choice, and a recent Chronicle article highlights scientists tackling the cargo container's worst case scenario: a smuggled nuclear weapon. Since ordinary X-rays can't detect nuclear material, scientists at Lawrence Livermore Labs and UC Berkeley have begun work on a "nuclear carwash" prototype which would fire neutrons at the container as it rolls across a conveyor belt. The neutrons would split the atoms with any fissionable material, emitting electromagnetic radiation that is hopefully detected by two sensors. Though skeptics might not like the sound of cargo such as food and wearable goods getting the radiation treatment, their main client, The Department of Homeland Security, seems to approve, pouring $4 million into the project for this year alone.              

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