IRMA is POR CReO FESR 2014-2020 effort of Regione Toscana (01/21/2021 – 07/20/2022).
IRMA will create an innovative portal to identify the presence of radioactive material dispersed, or hidden, in containers in transit in port areas. To do this, IRMA will adopt technologies used to date only in the most advanced research in nuclear physics and modern artificial intelligence tools. Statistics from the International Atomic Energy Agency show that many incidents of illegal transport of radioactive material occur every year. Circumstances vary in different regions of the world but mostly they are due to negligence. Also in Italy there are recent episodes in which undeclared radioactive material landed in our ports. In 2019 5 tons of Coltan, without indication of the level of radioactivity, were unloaded in Livorno and transferred to Trieste, endangering the health of the personnel involved. In 2008, 30 tons of Cobalt-60 contaminated steel from China passed through La Spezia. Probably a source used to measure the thickness of the refractories lining the blast furnaces had been melted into the metal. The contamination was discovered only in the companies that were working the steel blocking them for a long time, with serious economic damage. In 2018, 4 containers carrying semi-finished metal products from China were found to be contaminated with Cobalt-60 and were seized in the port area of La Spezia, causing serious management problems and alarm among the staff. To reduce these episodes to a minimum, to safeguard the health of workers, to limit the damage deriving from the blocking of company activities and the costs for decontamination, it is necessary to intercept these dangerous loads at the port customs gate.
Although it is unlikely that Italy will be affected by smuggling episodes, in some areas of the world, the fear of illicit trafficking of uranium or plutonium, coming from the black market, is great. There are fears that terrorist groups will build dirty bombs, that is, conventional bombs containing nuclear material. Despite having a modest explosive power, these bombs can cause serious damage for the costs of land decontamination, and have a great psychological impact.
We will develop a new generation portal to quickly identify the presence of nuclear material inside the containers starting from the movement between ship and quay. The portal will perform reliable scans without introducing slowdowns in container handling. This will be possible using more modern materials for the detection of radiation than the portals currently available on the market. We will create an economical, robust, reliable portal that can be used easily by the airport staff, and with excellent performance (extreme sensitivity for radioactive material and false alarms within a pre-established threshold).