[ RadSafe ] Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirty bomb'

Steven Dapra sjd at swcp.com
Sun Jul 23 20:44:30 CDT 2006

July 23

         Are you certain this article is not some type of bizarre satire?

Steven Dapra
sjd at swcp.com

At 12:20 PM 7/23/06 -0700, you wrote:
>What I find interesting is where these gauges were heading for and the 
>route they were taking.... Nothing like driving from Kent to 
>Tehran........Though the Iranians have better access to isotopes than what 
>was in these gauges if they wanted to build a dirty bomb...
>Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirty bomb' lorry heading for Iran
>By JASON LEWIS, The Mail on Sunday
>                Border guards seized a British lorry on its way to make a 
> delivery to the Iranian military - after discovering it was packed with 
> radioactive material that could be used to build a dirty bomb.
>  The lorry set off from Kent on its way to Tehran but was stopped by 
> officials at a checkpoint on Bulgaria's northernborder with Romania after 
> a scanner indicated radiation levels 200 times above normal.
>  The lorry was impounded and the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency 
> (NPA) was called out.
>  On board they found ten lead-lined boxes addressed to the Iranian 
> Ministry of Defence. Inside each box was a soil-testing device, 
> containing highly dangerous quantities of radioactive caesium 137 and 
> americium-beryllium.
>  The soil testers had been sent to Iran by a British firm with the 
> apparent export approval of the Department of Trade and Industry.
>  Last night, the head of the Bulgarian NRA, Nikolai Todorov, said he was 
> shocked that devices containing so much nuclear material could be sold so 
> easily.
>  He said: "The devices are highly radioactive - if you had another 90 of 
> them you would be able to make an effective dirty bomb."
>  And a spokesman for the Bulgarian customs office, said: "The 
> documentation listed the shipment as destined for the Ministry of 
> Transport in Tehran, although the final delivery address was the Iranian 
> Ministry of Defence.
>  "According to the documentation they are hand-held soil-testing devices 
> which were sent from a firm in the United Kingdom."
>  A leading British expert last night said the radioactive material could 
> easily be removed and used to construct a dirty bomb.
>  Dr Frank Barnaby from the Oxford Research Group, said: "You would need a 
> few of these devices to harvest sufficient material for a dirty bomb. 
> Americium-beryllium is an extremely effective element for the 
> construction of a dirty bomb as it has a very long half-life, but I would 
> be amazed to find it out on the street.
>  "I don't know how you would come by it as it is mainly found in spent 
> reactor-fuel elements and is not at all easy to get hold of. I find it 
> very hard to believe it is so easily available in this device."
>  Senior Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay called for the Government to tighten 
> up export controls to prevent the Iranian military getting its hands on 
> nuclear material.
>  He said: "The Prime Minister has accused the Iranian Government of 
> sponsoring international terrorism, yet his officials are doing nothing 
> to prevent radioactive material which has an obvious dual use being sold 
> to their military."
>  Little control
>  The discovery will add to fears about the lack of control over the sale 
> of nuclear material to so-called 'rogue states' which the Government 
> claims sponsor international terrorism, particularly as it comes at a 
> time when Iran is ignoring international calls to halt its nuclear programme.
>  The case has echoes of the arms-to-Iraq affair during which the DTI 
> approved exports of apparently innocent civilian equipment to Saddam 
> Hussein that was then used to build weapons.
>  Mr MacKinlay added: "Our export controls are a mess.
>  "The Iranians are resourceful and sophisticated and, just as we saw with 
> Saddam Hussein in the past, this is just the sort of method they would 
> use to get their hands on the equipment they need for their supposedly 
> banned weapons programmes."
>  Andrew Maclean, a director of Kent-based Orient Transport Services, 
> which was paid by another unnamed British firm to transport the 
> radioactive devices to Iran, said the shipment was perfectly legal.
>  He said: "We had a letter from the DTI confirming that no export licence 
> was needed to send these items to the Iranians.
>  "We also alerted customs officials about the goods we were transporting 
> before they left the UK and the truck carried all the appropriate warning 
> symbols to alert officials and the emergency services of what it was 
> carrying."
>  Last night a DTI spokesman confirmed: "Exporters do not need a licence 
> to transport this sort of material to Iran. It is not covered by our 
> export controls."
>  In August last year there was a similar incident when a Turkish truck 
> carrying a ton of zirconium silicate supplied by a British firm was 
> stopped by Bulgarian customs at the Turkish border on its way to Tehran, 
> after travelling from Britain, through Germany and Romania, without being 
> stopped.
>  Zirconium is used in nuclear reactors to stop fuel rods corroding and 
> can also be used as part of a nuclear warhead. The metal can be extracted 
> from zirconium silicate and its trade is usually tightly controlled.

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