[ RadSafe ] Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirty bomb' lorry heading for Iran

Dan W. McCarn mccarn at unileoben.ac.at
Sun Jul 23 21:30:52 CDT 2006

A view from a geologist:

Iran is a huge oil producer, and the very nature of petroleum exploration /
development entails geophysical borehole logging - always with gamma-gamma
density and neutron porosity tools with sources comparable to the IAEA Category
2 and 3. I'm sure that they have scores of neutron and gamma sources in the
Iranian & private petroleum industry currently in use, and have retired many
more over the past 4 or 5 decades. Not to mention large cobalt and cesium
teletherapy sources for cancer treatment (remember the problems with abandoned
sources in Mexico & Brazil?) or food preparation / sterilization.

The more "pedestrian" sources for waterwell borehole logging that I've used are
125 mCi Cs-137 and 2 Ci Am/Be sources.

Somehow I feel that the journalist is "reaching" a bit to say that the load was
addressed to the Iranian military.  More likely it was the Iranian agricultural
ministry or someone building roads, etc. And only 10 of them. Sounds reasonable.
 I could use a soil moisture / density tool in my project work if the Bulgarians
would like to send one...

I think that you are correct in saying that Dr. Frank Barnaby doesn't get out
much.  Perhaps he should read Article IV, Paragraph 2 of the NPT.

Dan W. McCarn, Geologist
AIPG CPG #10245, Wyoming PG #3031, EurGeol #462
Houston, TX

Quoting Jim Hardeman <Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us>:

> Gerry --
> I agree ... let's do the math ... each one of these devices has
> (nominally) 10 mCi of Cs-137 and 50 mCi Am-241 ... so the Bulgarians
> have now defined a "dirty bomb" as 1 Ci of Cs-137 and 5 Ci of Am-241.
> Guess it depends on how much dose you want to deliver, or how much area
> you want to crap up. Seems like a lot of effort to me ... to steal, or
> otherwise obtain, 100 moisture-density gauges ... and then disassemble
> them and prepare the "ingredients" ... all for a relatively ineffective
> device.
> Just for comparison, the IAEA Category 3 sealed source limits are 2 Ci
> for Am-241 and 3 Ci for Cs-137 ... and 10X these values (i.e. 20 Ci for
> Am-241 and 30 Ci for Cs-137) for Category 2 limits ... which is (at
> present) the lower limit of what will be tracked by NRC's National
> Source Tracking System (NSTS).
> As to how easily the radioactive materials can be removed ... I don't
> know. I've seen these things burned, run over by dumptrucks and
> bulldozers, and not once have we seen an accidental release of
> radioactive materials. The sources are fairly robust ... it would take
> some doing to successfully recover the few micrograms of radioactive
> material from each of these devices.
> Looks to me like Dr. Frank Barnaby doesn't get out much ... these
> devices are among the most commonly used industrial radioactive
> materials devices in the world. If these things are "dirty bombs" then
> there are literally thousands of "dirty bombs" running around the US
> every day ... and several being lost or stolen every month.
> My $0.02 worth for the day ...

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