(This was originally posted in News18 by Aman Sharma)
The Narendra Modi government has decided to install Radiation Detection Equipment (RDE) at all eight Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) on the country’s borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal, to detect smuggling of radioactive materials. This is an important move in light of the developing situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and follows a nearly two-year-long exercise by the government through a Request for Interest (RFI) issued by the government in 2020 to seek inputs on system requirements for such RDE globally, like what has been supplied by the US in Afghanistan.
A tender for installing RDE at all the eight ICPs on the borders has now been finally issued by the government last week. This Request for Proposal (RPE) document has been reviewed by News18, and it says the RDE should be installed within three months of an order being placed. This could mean an early 2022 deadline. The government has said it intends to procure RDE to deter and detect illicit trafficking of radioactive materials across international borders. “It is vital to equip border crossings, Integrated Check Posts and Land Ports, since these may be used as smuggling routes for materials needed for a nuclear device or radiological dispersal device,” the document says. The idea is to facilitate safe and secure movement of trade across all its land ports as normal X-ray equipment is unable to detect radioactive material.
WHAT WILL THE RDE DO?
The ICPs at the borders regulate the entry and exit of passengers and goods. “For the purpose of further strengthening security of cargo movement across ICPs, Security agencies at the ICPs could use the RDE, which could be installed in a drive-through monitoring station that monitors trucks and their cargo. The equipment is capable of raising separate gamma and neutron radiation alarms and generating video frames of target object,” the document says.
The RDE will also have the ability to differentiate between “special nuclear material and naturally occurring radiation in fertilizer or ceramics as well as high-energy gamma isotopes which are an attribute of recycled uranium”, the document adds. The bids will open next month and government has sought them from agencies who have commissioned at least 20 drive-through RDEs in the last five years abroad and set up the maintenance systems in the country. The RDE will be installed at the ICPs at Attari (Pakistan border), Petrapole, Dawki, Agartala and Sutarkani (Bangladesh Border), Moreh (Myanmar border) and Raxaul and Jogbani (Nepal border).