18.05.2015

Stolen radioactive material highlights urgent need for new detection technology

Arktis Radiation Detectors has told how a series of worrying events involving the stealing and discovery of dangerous levels of radioactive materials is generating growing interest in its range of innovative new detection technologies.

Authorities in Mexico City issued an alert after thieves snatched potentially deadly radioactive material. The event has raised fears that radioactive material - which in the hands of terrorists could be used to devastating effect - is now being used as a new source of revenue by organized gangs. Recently, customs officials at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport seized a half-ton shipment of sanitary pads packed in thirty containers that were found to contain more than 35 times the accepted level of radioactivity and an unusually high level of radiation was recently found close to a children’s play area in a park in Tokyo prompting speculation that hazardous material has been buried there.

The news of these recent events comes on the back of a report that highlights the number of times where nuclear or radiological materials—the raw materials for nuclear and radiological terrorism—were lost, stolen or discovered out of regulatory control. These sources are called "orphaned sources". The report - produced by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) with support from NTI - claims there were 170 such events in 2014, a significant increase on 2013.

Responding quickly to the situation, Arktis Radiation Detectors has developed a range of innovative new detection products to find such sources and prevent them from being misused. Arktis is now urgently working with governments and agencies across the globe to bring these detection systems to market.

The proprietary technology, developed by scientists at the company’s headquarters in Zurich, is unique in that it features the use of noble gases for neutron radiation detection. Many legacy radiation detection systems – such as He-3 based neutron detectors – were based on rare, expensive or even toxic materials. Noble gases are abundantly available, low-cost and an ex-tremely safe resource.

Scientists and engineers at Arktis have been quick to spot the potential of noble gases and have developed proprietary radiation detection technologies based on research originally undertaken at ETH Zurich, on behalf of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Arktis has been able to use this new technology to produce a range of products that perform better, achieve more, yet cost less to deploy and operate than most other systems on the market. The products are highly versatile and can be used for a variety of applications from security screening of containers and lorries at borders and ports to the identification of contaminated materials headed for the supply chain.

Such is the interest in the new technology that Arktis is now a rapidly emerging player in the radiation detection business. The company is on a planned growth path and has achieved sales in all its key markets. In the last few months alone, Arktis has supplied one of its Flash Systems to Swiss Steel where it is being used to conduct a final check for inadvertently contaminated scrap metals headed for the furnaces, Arktis was one of the companies that the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) authorised to develop a next generation neutron detection platform and a system ordered by The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has recently passed site acceptance testing.

Rico Chandra, CEO of Arktis Radiation Detectors said “ Against a backdrop of increased fears over acts of terrorism, our scientists have created a range of detection systems that stand apart from anything else on the market. The response from potential customers has been very positive indeed. This new technology will play a key role in countering the threat to safety of individuals and organisations across the globe.”

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