New high-tech facility to detect harmful materials at Singapore's ports

An officer working inside the new Radioactive and Nuclear Analysis Laboratory.
An officer working inside the new Radioactive and Nuclear Analysis Laboratory. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, K, Shanmugam touring the new Radioactive and Nuclear Analysis Laboratory.
Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, K, Shanmugam touring the new Radioactive and Nuclear Analysis Laboratory.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Terrorists could strike on Singapore soil using non-conventional weapons, such as chemical and nuclear agents, and that is why the country has taken steps to strengthen its border security, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Friday (July 15).

"If you look at the type of terror threats that have been coming, many of them attack with rifles, bombs, suicide bombs and so on. But we also have to plan for a time when the terrorists can get access to weapons of a different nature - nuclear, biological, radiological... It's not far-fetched," he said.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the opening of the Protective, Analytical and Assessment Facility (PAAF), which aims to improve the detection of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials at Singapore's ports using advanced technology.

Located at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's (ICA) Ports Command, it forms a key element of the country's move to beef up its overall counter-terrorism strategy.

Noting the latest attack in Nice, France, on Friday, where a lorry crashed into a crowd and killed more than 80 people, Mr Shanmugam said: "(Attacks) happen every week and we're no longer surprised. It's a question of when and where... So we just have to prepare ourselves."

The three-storey building, with a space of about 2,880 sq m, is the largest among existing facilities at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints. It was first announced in 2011 at the ICA workplan seminar.

The building has six laboratories, including one with an added capability to analyse radiological and nuclear materials. Using the latest equipment customised to Singapore's needs, it allows in-depth analyses of security-sensitive material to be conducted on site and in real time.

Previously, further checks on such materials would be carried out at the relevant agencies, depending on its nature.

The facility also houses an assessment centre designed to hold two 45-foot trucks for inspection. The centre can also be used to conduct trials on new technology.

In addition, its Scientific Demonstration Suite will allow Home Team officers to familiarise themselves with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials, and the ways to detect and foil these threats. It comprises multimedia displays and interactive exhibits, including a scent station.