Homeland Security asks industry to build standoff capability to detect hidden nuclear explosives

WASHINGTON, 19 Dec. 2006. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington are asking industry to design a mobile system to detect smuggled or hidden nuclear explosives at relatively long ranges, and data link the location and type of the suspect nuclear devices to government command posts.

Dec 19th, 2006

By John Keller

WASHINGTON, 19 Dec. 2006. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington are asking industry to design a mobile system to detect smuggled or hidden nuclear explosives at relatively long ranges, and data link the location and type of the suspect nuclear devices to government command posts.

This initiative, which recognizes the catastrophic risk posed by the use of a nuclear weapon within the United States, is part of an overall U.S. homeland security push that has prompted DHS leaders to integrate all nuclear-detection research into one organization -- the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.

DHS issued a broad agency announcement, BAA07-01, Dec. 15 entitled Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) of Stand-Off Radiation Detection Systems. Officials say the program will lead to technologies and prototypes that will lead to a dramatic improvement in national capabilities in nuclear and radiological detection and verification.

Companies interested in participating must respond to the BAA by 31 Jan. 2007.

DHS experts have been able to identify only few effective, affordable, near-term technological solutions for radiation monitoring along unattended air, land, and sea borders, department officials say.

DHS is asking for industry proposals to develop gamma-ray detection technologies that provide significantly enhanced stand-off detection of localized sources of gamma radiation that will detect weak or shielded sources at a distance, and discriminate between naturally occurring radioactive material and medical isotopes.

Technologies to be developed will enable rapid search by air, land, and sea by allowing a sensitive survey for radiation sources in a large instantaneous area. Spectroscopic and localization and directionality capabilities, in combination with discrimination algorithms, should significantly reduce false alarm rates, DHS officials say.

Companies that participate in this program must develop at least one prototype system that is compatible with a vehicle-sized radiation detector system with the capability for determining the direction, flux and energy spectrum of the incoming gamma radiation from a broad instantaneous area.

The detector system must be able to operate without a scientifically trained operator. Instead, the system must be able to detect, analyze, and assess threats autonomously through software algorithms, and will alert the operator of threat sources within seconds of source detection, DHS officials say.

The system prototypes must have the ability wirelessly to communicate the presence of threat and non-threat sources, and provide information of the likely nature of these sources to a reach-back center.

DHS officials may make one or more two-year contract awards. Total funding available from 2007 through 2009 for this project is about $25 million.

Companies interested in participating must submit proposals no later than 31 Jan. 2007 via the DNDO/OTR&D Website at www.dhs.gov/dndobids. Companies may submit questions about this broad agency announcement by e-mail to DNDOBAA07-01@hq.dhs.gov.

A potential bidders teleconference will be at 11 a.m. easter time on 16 Jan. 2007. More information is available online at http://www2.fbo.gov/EPSData/DHS/Synopses/37711/Reference%2DNumber%2DDNDOBAA07%2D01/BAA07%2D01SolicitationFinal%2Edoc.

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