ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Nuclear detection is the capability to identify and report the presence or movement of nuclear or radioactive materials from one point to another. It can be achieved through various technological devices and while detection activities are mostly conducted by customs and border guard forces, other agencies can contribute during, before and after a national-level threat.
As a recent example, Soldiers from the Nuclear Disablement Team (NDT), 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Command, hone their skills completing training on nuclear detection pods at the Maryland National Guard Aviation facilities in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Feb. 19.
NDTs use these pods to track airborne radiation and analyze particulates and gasses to identify the origin of a determined threatening nuclear source.
According to Maj. Howard Titzel, nuclear research officer for the NDT, one of their missions, is to support the National Technical Nuclear Forensic by analyzing the area after a nuclear blast to determine how much radiation is in the zone and when and where it is considered safe.
Implementing the use of NDTs can prevent the illicit movement of radioactive materials or weapons across and within their borders.
"The benefit of this system is that each of these pods have four detectors in it," said Titzel. "If we put four of these gamma pods on we get 16 detectors on one aircraft, therefore we get more resolution on our data."
Although it is not their main effort, the NDT can also support interdiction missions.
"Let us say somebody stole some medical supply source to do something bad with; they need us to fly down the freeway, and find where he is," said Titzel. "We have exercise that in conjunction with other agencies, and it has proven quite effective."
Moreover, these devices not only can trace radiation but according to Lt. Col. Les Hawkins, the NDT commander, they do more than that.
"This system is of operational benefit to a Commander since the radiation mapping information it provides can inform both decisions on prioritization of resource as well as development of plans that keep Soldiers safe in a hazardous environment." added Hawkins.
The NDTs are specialized teams of nuclear-related specialists, chemical technicians, health physicists, and explosive ordnance disposal personnel who have the ability to disable nuclear weapons of mass destruction infrastructure, package, transport, and safeguard nuclear and radiological materials, collect and transport samples of radiological material for forensic analysis, and conduct sensitive site exploitation operations on nuclear sites.