January 31, 2005

Box ship in radiation scare

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, utilizing radiation detection devices, discovered the presence of radioactive Cobalt 60 during a routine boarding inspection of the Maersk containership Toledo at Los Angeles seaport on the night of January 26.

CBP Laboratory personnel and the Department of Energy began testing and found that a gauge used to test the ship’s fire extinguishing system was the source of the radioactive emission. The tests determined that the source posed no threat.

At 8:30PM (PST) on January 26, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were performing a routine boarding inspection of the ‘Toledo,’ a Maersk container ship which had arrived at the Port of Los Angeles from Kwang Yang, South Korea. During the boarding, the CBP officers were alerted to the possible presence of radioactivity by their personal radiation detectors, devices worn on the belts of CBP officers which look similar to pagers and emit audio signals and numeric alerts when radiation is present.

Officers found the greatest intensity of radioactivity near the ceiling of the engine storage room. A scan of the area with a radiation isotope identifier device, similar to a Geiger counter, appeared consistent with the presence of Cobalt 60—a metal used for medical and industrial purposes.

CBP officers secured the area and information was relayed to the CBP Laboratory and Scientific Services at the National Targeting Center. At 6:30 AM on January 27, the Department of Energy Radiation Assistance Program (RAP) team was dispatched from Las Vegas, Nevada. The RAP team began testing the suspicious area about 10:00 AM. By noon it was determined that the level of radiation emission posed no threat.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Energy assisted CBP.

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