In June 2019, a paper was published by the Nonproliferation Review and says that while detection systems are now deployed at strategic locations for the purported purpose of detecting and deterring the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials (such as major UK container ports), and despite considerable investment in this area, few studies have examined how these programmes are implemented or the operational challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. The paper seeks to address this with a focus on radiation-detection efforts at maritime facilities. It says that the results clearly demonstrate that the implementation of these systems varies significantly across different national and organisational contexts, resulting in a fragmented global nuclear-detection architecture, which arguably undermines efforts to detect trafficked nuclear-threat materials. Greater consideration should therefore be given to developing international standards and guidance, designing and adopting tools to support key parts of the alarm assessment process, and broader sharing of good practice. The theft and accidental loss of nuclear and radioactive materials, resulting in so-called material out of regulatory control (MORC), is a global issue of long-standing concern. In the UK, under Project Cyclamen, fixed radiation-detection systems were installed to scan incoming goods at three major UK ports and one international airport. This has since evolved into Programme Cyclamen, which now covers most major UK port facilities, major airports, and rail links with mainland Europe. The paper says that there are particular challenges to detecting smuggled nuclear and radiological material in the maritime environment – largely due to the volume and speed of trade flows, and recent estimates put the number of 20- or 40-foot containers in circulation at over 43 million. At a busy international port, such as Rotterdam, more than 10 million TEU pass through port facilities each year, processing tens of thousands of containers every day.
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