The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 16, 2013

State’s only radiation monitor in place at I-44 weigh station

JOPLIN, Mo. — Since January, trucks coming through the eastbound weigh station on Interstate 44 in Joplin have been monitored for unsafe levels of radiation.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the state received the advanced spectroscopic portal radiation monitor through an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security. It’s the only one in the state, said highway patrol Capt. Tim Hull.

There has been no initial cost to the state.

The weigh station was selected because of the high level of truck traffic coming through the location, including a lot of it coming from out of state, according to the highway patrol.

Hull said the monitor is advanced and can distinguish between safe levels of radiation in trucks and unsafe levels. He said some trucks transport medical equipment that have some radiation, and a certain level of radiation occurs naturally with other types of cargo, including bananas.

He said if the monitor were to detect an unsafe level of radiation, the commercial vehicle inspectors on-site would receive immediate notification.

Highway patrol Sgt. Mike Watson on Friday said those on duty would have many options, depending on the threat level.

“We call whatever resources we need,” Watson said.

He said drivers simply drive under the monitor, with no delay or inconvenience.

“It’s a public safety issue,” Hull said. “It’s to make sure radiation is at a safe level to be traveling on highways.”

He said it also could stop terrorists with nuclear material.

$850,000 COST, INSTALLATION

Truck driver Conrado Martinez, of Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday said he had never encountered one of the monitors before in his travels. He said he didn’t know what it was.

“This was my first time seeing one,” he said.

The state hasn’t paid anything for the monitor, but Homeland Security paid $450,000 for it, plus another $400,000 for installation and the first-year maintenance.

The state and Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office are cooperating on the project. Missouri is one of four states with which Homeland Security has the cooperative research and development agreements.

The system has been installed under the one-year agreement, after which the agency and the state will discuss the transfer of the system and maintenance costs.

A Dec. 30, 2010, Congressional Research Service report lists annual maintenance costs at between $65,000 and $100,000 per unit.

Defense contractor Raytheon is the manufacturer.

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