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Nuclear security agency gets West African foothold on nuclear smuggling

Henri Eyebe Ayissi

The agency in charge of stopping smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials signed a cooperative agreement with its first West African nation to monitor and control such activity.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) signed an agreement with Cameroon to begin a cooperative effort to deter, detect and interdict illicit smuggling of nuclear and other radioactive materials, according to the administration. Specialized detection and communications equipment will be installed in the country under the agreement.

The agreement is the first NNSA has signed with a nation in West Africa and paves the way for NNSA’s Second Line of Defense (SLD) program to work with the Ministry of Transport and other agencies in Cameroon to install radiation detection equipment and a communications system at the Port of Douala, said NNSA.

NNSA is part of the Department of Energy and is charged with--among other things--reducing the global danger from weapons of mass destruction and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Jackson and Cameroon Minister of External Affairs, Henri Eyebe Ayissi signed the memorandum of understanding during a ceremony in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

“This agreement represents our shared commitment to keeping dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, smugglers and proliferators,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation. “This landmark partnership with Cameroon is a major step toward achieving our goal of equipping 100 ports with radiation detection equipment by 2016 and implementing President Obama’s nuclear security agenda. We look forward to working with our partners in Cameroon to enhance safety and security across West Africa and here in the United States.”

NNSA’s SLD program is a collaborative effort with foreign governments at land border crossings, airports and seaports to install specialized radiation detection equipment and associated communications equipment. Through the program, NNSA also provides training to host government border guard officials and other personnel to detect smuggled nuclear and other radioactive materials. NNSA has installed similar equipment at more than 350 sites and at 34 megaports around the world.

In addition to providing and installing SLD equipment, NNSA will train Cameroonian officials and fund the initial maintenance of this equipment.  NNSA is working to expand its SLD Program efforts throughout Africa.

 
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