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US says cannot meet deadline to screen cargo for nukes

Port of Los Angeles.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 2, 2009
Top US security official Janet Napolitano on Wednesday admitted her government will fail to meet a 2012 deadline to scan all incoming ship cargo, measures designed to prevent a nuclear terror attack.

The Homeland Security Secretary said she would seek an extension to Congress's deadline, citing inadequate technology and multi-billion-dollar costs involved in screening the 10 million containers that enter the United States each year.

"In order to implement the 100 percent scanning requirement by the 2012 deadline, (the Department of Homeland Security) would need significant resources for greater manpower and technology, technologies that do not currently exist, and the redesign of many ports," she said.

"These are all prohibitive challenges that will require the Department to seek the time extensions authorized by law."

She said the cost of meeting the deadline would run to at least 168 billion dollars, or eight million dollars for each of the 21,000 shipping lanes into the United States.

The measures had been designed to ensure the detection of weapons of mass destruction brought into US ports, which are described by experts as a soft underbelly of US security.

In testimony prepared for the Senate transport committee, Napolitano admitted that rolling out existing technology would also hit trade.

"Expanding screening with available technology would slow the flow of commerce and drive up costs to consumers without bringing significant security benefits."

Her comments came as the government's own accountability office on Tuesday released a damning report on Homeland Security's "limited progress" in screening cargo, which left the "feasibility of 100 percent scanning largely unproven."

While the Department of Homeland Security has long hinted that the 2012 deadline would not be met, Napolitano's comments are likely to ease concerns among foreign governments that non-compliant ports could be blacklisted.

Napolitano hinted that a stripped-down version plan may now be needed, one that would screen cargo from a handful of the 700 ports linked to the United States.

"It is also important to keep in mind that about 86 percent of the cargo shipped to the United States is sent from only 58 of those more than 700 ports," she said.

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French reactor shut down following loss of cooling
Paris (AFP) Dec 2, 2009
One of four reactors at the Cruas nuclear power station in southern France was shut down late on Tuesday following a lapse in the cooling system, France's nuclear safety agency said. French energy company EDF reported the incident at 2250 GMT and followed its emergency procedures to shut down the reactor, it added. The cooling system for the reactors use water from the Rhone river and ... read more

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