Finding highly enriched uranium is “a really hard problem,” Oxford conceded. Customs inspectors already use imaging equipment to scan for unusual shielding inside some shipping containers, but his office is supporting research to investigate more mobile and effective systems. “We agree that solving this through passive systems alone is not sufficient,” Oxford said. He compared the challenge to that undertaken during fifty years of research to support anti-submarine warfare during the Cold War. There, too, the challenge, he said, was to “extract unique signatures out of a very cluttered environment. It’s not just the detector itself but the software algorithm and the signals-processing” that make such a system more or less effective.More wickets, more difficulty.
Even crude or faulty sensor systems might expose a sophisticated attacker, Oxford said. “I don’t think it’s ever possible to provide a hundred-per-cent shield; I don’t think ballistic-missile defense ever believed that they would be able to do that. I think that every step and every defensive layer that we put in complicates an adversary’s plan to be able to do this, and gives us other opportunities, to use other means…to try to identify that something may be planned.”
Hat tip: NOSI.