Bomb Detection Project Bombs

A key ingredient in a DHS technology for detecting smuggled nuclear bombs is in short supply. The demand for helium 3 appears to be 10 times the supply, according to an official from the Homeland Security Department.

In an article on the New York Times website, Matthew L. Wald says helium 3 is an “unusual form of the element that is formed when tritium, an ingredient of hydrogen bombs, decays.” The government, he adds, stopped making tritium in 1989.

Meanwhile, DHS has invested $230 million to develop nuclear bomb detection technology that relies on the use of helium 3. The new detectors, to be used in ports worldwide, were supposed to detect plutonium or uranium in shipping containers. Each machine cost $800,000, and the government wanted up to 1,400 of them, Wald writes.

Steve Fetter, an assistant director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the New York Times that other technologies would be developed. But he said people “should have known” that the helium 3 surplus at the end of the cold war “was a one-time windfall and was not sustainable.”

To read the New York Times article, please click here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/us/23helium.html?_r=1