The Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten) officially launched on Wednesday the operation of a radiation portal monitor (RPM) at Belawan Seaport in Medan, North Sumatra, to detect the possible entry of nuclear materials and radioactive substances into Indonesia.
Bapeten head Asnatio Lasman said the detector was donated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and was the first given to Indonesia.
The agency will later install the same device in Makassar, South Sulawesi; Manado, North Sulawesi and Semarang, Central Java.
“This device was especially given to Indonesia as part of the IAEA’s program, which is sponsored by the European Union, to strengthen global nuclear safety,” he said on the sidelines of the launching ceremony on Wednesday.
Belawan, according to Asnatio, was considered to be one of Indonesia’s strategic points of entry given to its proximity to the Malacca Strait and neighboring countries, making it an ideal location for the installation of the RPM.
He added that the RPM could detect particular nuclear materials and radioactive substances hidden within a container without having to open the container for inspection.
The RPM, which resembles two sets of pillars, was installed on both sides of the exit gate of the Belawan International Container Terminal (BICT). All containers transporting imported goods from the port are required to pass through the RPM’s pillars.
Asnatio said the RPM’s ability to detect nuclear content was very high and that even the smallest amounts of nuclear material — such as cobalt 60, cesium-137 and uranium — inside the containers could be detected by the device.
Once a container is identified as carrying nuclear materials or radioactive substances, the device will notify Bapeten via a direct connection to the its office in Jakarta.
Asnatio said that the device was primarily designed to detect the transportation of nuclear materials by terrorist groups as it was quite possible that such practices were already underway.
He also said his office had coordinated with the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) when it found any indication of nuclear materials or radioactive substances entering Indonesia.
Separately, the deputy head of Bapeten’s licensing and inspection division, Martua Sinaga, said that just few days after the RPM was installed at Belawan Port, the device detected a container alleged to contain dangerous radioactive substances.
“We have yet to learn which goods have been flagged for containing radioactive substances as we just detected them,” said Sinaga, adding that it was the first detection that the device had made since its installation at the port.