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Response to formercia (Reply #4)

Fri Nov 2, 2012, 09:18 AM

5. It's not quite that easy

If it were we'd be using scales and infrared thermometers and we'd be done. If you've got enough radioactivity to make a package thermally hot you're really not going to be able to shield the radiation. Most shielding will be pretty dense, but all kinds of legitimate cargo can also have high density.

What the muon scheme does is give an isotopic breakdown of the contents, which is what you really want anyway. The problem is that you don't have a lot of muons to work with, so you need to make the most of what you have (high efficiency detectors, fast algorithms for analyzing the scattered muons) in order to make the screening time tolerable. Even in a best-case scenario I don't think you screen everything, just what may seem suspicious (e.g. cargo with unusually high density, as you suggest).

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