We’ve all seen the movies where errant nuclear material makes its way into the hands of terrorists, who then plan an attack on U.S. soil. It’s pretty safe to say that this is a scenario no one wants to see play out in real life. In fact, in his first foreign policy speech, President Obama called it the “most immediate and extreme threat to global security." To help make sure that such a dramatic, and terrible, event never happens, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration created the Second Line of Defense Program (SLD) -- one of our nation’s most important nuclear nonproliferation programs. Part of our effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world, the Second Line of Defense program works to crack down on nuclear smuggling by installing radiation detection equipment at ports, border crossings and airports around the world.
During Secretary Chu’s visit to Russia this week, he will help build on our international collaboration by touring the St. Petersburg Seaport, which is part of the Second Line of Defense program. He’ll get to see and experience radiation detection systems in action. The Department of Energy is working in partnership with Russia to ensure that all the country’s border crossings be equipped with detection equipment by the end of this year. The Second Line of Defense program’s global goal is to have detection equipment set up at about 650 sites in 30 countries. More than half of those sites are in Russia, where almost 250 sites are already up and running. SLD also aims to have about 50 percent of global shipping traffic scanned by 2018, with equipment operational at more than 100 seaports.
Beyond simply installing equipment, our Second Line of Defense program also focuses on sustainability, specifically on ensuring long-term operation of these systems for all participating countries to maintain the level of caution necessary to protect everyone from nuclear terrorism.
The Secretary’s visit will bolster the cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Russia as we continue working together in this critical endeavor.