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

Stewart Farber farbersa at optonline.net
Sun Jul 23 21:28:24 CDT 2006

Re: this article being a satire, I'm reminded of the old phrase to "carry coals fo Newcastle" which is to do something that is obviously superfluous [since Newcastle in England was a coal mining center].

If Iran needs some nuclear material for a dirty bomb or other illicit purpose, it certainly does not need a bunch of density gauges as a source. Rather droll.

Stewart Farber
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Steven Dapra" <sjd at swcp.com>
To: <radsafe at radlab.nl>
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2006 9:44 PM
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirty bomb'

> 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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