[ RadSafe ] Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirtybomb'lorry heading for Iran
Muckerheide, Jim (CDA)
Jim.Muckerheide at state.ma.us
Mon Jul 24 21:38:30 CDT 2006
Note that Saddam Hussein gave up producing a "dirty bomb" (to be an actual deliverable bomb) around 1988.
Even using a radioisotope that was activated in a reactor, they reached the obvious conclusion that, either the dispersion would result in exposures that are too low to be effective, or be too small an area if the source dispersion was limited to achieve a high enough concentration to be a hazardous dose. A contaminated "exclusion zone" could be easily avoided by the opposition by going around or moving quickly through a contaminated area (among other problems).
A 1000 r/hr exposure is just 50 r for 3 minutes - which is at a low enough dose rate to be (marginally) beneficial! :-)
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl on behalf of Ed Hiserodt
Sent: Mon 7/24/2006 5:57 PM
To: 'Gerry Blackwood'; 'Rad Safe'
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirtybomb'lorry heading for Iran
The questions I hope someone might help me with are:
1. What do the dirty bomb makers intend to do?
(a) Kill a bunch of people by exposing them to 4-7 Sv?
(b) Significantly raise the 20-year cancer rate for the victims?
(c) Take advantage of the fact them 99% of the population has no
of what level of radiation is dangerous level and will panic?
If (a) or (b), I'd think it would take several decades' of the total world
production of soil testers to have an effect. If (c), they could get by
with one tester and one "environmentally conscious" New York Times reporter.
2. How big an area do they intend to victimize?
a. Manhattan Island?
b. Central Park?
c. The Men's Room at Wendy's?
Perhaps someone could calculate the number of devices with "easily removed
radioactive material" it would take for making a perpetual wasteland of
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf
Of Gerry Blackwood
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2006 2:21 PM
To: Rad Safe
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Outcry as border guards seize British 'dirty bomb'lorry
heading for Iran
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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