Radioactive scare spurs FBI response | SierraSun.com

Radioactive scare spurs FBI response

Staff reports

Jason Kelley/Sierra Sun File PhotoA radiological screening arch at the CHP truck scales on Interstate 80 near Truckee was triggered by medical equipment carried in a big rig on Tuesday. The alert caused a large response from local and federal law enforcement.

The FBI responded to Interstate 80 in Truckee Tuesday morning after radiation was detected in a big rig at the truck scales, a Nevada County Sheriff’s official reported.

The radioactive material was detected by a radiation Geiger counter, spurring law enforcement from all over the region to respond in accordance to Homeland Security protocol, Nevada County Sheriff Ron Smith said.

“The FBI flew in and there was law enforcement all over the place,” he said.

However, the scare was a false alarm: The radioactive material was coming from medical equipment hauled by the truck.

The truck driver had forgotten to put the radioactive item on his list, triggering the response, Smith said.

The detector at the CHP inspection station on I-80 is called an adaptable radiation area monitor. It can detect radiation signatures from different chemicals, not just radioactive materials, according to the CHP.

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Tuesday’s false alarm isn’t the first at the scales. In July 2006, an empty uranium container in a UPS load hauled by a contract carrier triggered the radiological alarm. The measurements were determined to be within legal limits and no one was exposed to radiation.

In the 2006 incident, the driver didn’t have the appropriate paperwork, but it was later faxed to the weigh station.

The installation of sophisticated detection equipment at the CHP scales was spurred by concern over terrorist attacks. That fear lead to the installation of explosive detectors at truck weigh stations in California, including the Truckee scales.

As one of the major roadways into California, I-80 sees a large volume of commercial truck traffic, and monitoring the contents of the big rigs has become increasingly important, according to state law enforcement officials.

To that end, trucks now pass under an archway that contains explosive and chemicals detectors on their way through the Truckee weigh station, as well as an undisclosed number of others throughout the state.