[ RadSafe ] Dirty Bomb Material Crosses Border

Jim Hardeman Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us
Tue Mar 28 23:24:12 CST 2006

Barbara et al. *
GAO never used the word "exempt" in either their report or their testimony before Congress ... what they said was ...
"As part of our investigation, we purchased a small quantity of the radioactive sources from a commercial source by posing as an employee of a fictitious company. This was to demonstrate that anyone can purchase small quantities of radioactive sources for stockpiling because suppliers are not required to exercise any due diligence in determining whether the buyer has a legitimate use for the radioactive sources and suppliers are not required to ask the buyer to produce a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) document when making purchases in small quantities."
I'm sure that this MEANS that they purchased exempt sources, but worded that way it implies more gloom and doom, especially to members of Congress, who wouldn't know a microcurie from a fortnight.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that these WERE 10 uCi Cs-137 sources ... according to the handy-dandy pocket cards I received ~10 years ago when I took NRC's RTM-96 training, a 1 Ci Cs-137 release would (given average meteorology) lead to a dose a 0.25 miles of 5.97E-3 rem CEDE ... so one of these exempt sources would be 100,000 times less than that ... or 5.97E-8 rem CEDE ... or a little less than 5 SECONDS worth of background radiation (assuming ~360 mrem/yr as a national average). If I surveyed, might a find a few square meters contaminated? Yes. Would it hurt anyone? Only if they were near enough to the "blast" to be hurt by blast effects. Even if they 100 of these exempt sources (unlikely) ... or 1 mCi of Cs-137, you're now up to 5.97E-6 rem CEDE ... ~6 microrem ... hardly worth getting all worked up about.
I agree that it's time to stop the insanity. I have yet to see where NIST says that this amount of activity is sufficient to make an RDD ... I believe what NIST has said, through various instrumentation standards, is that in order to LOOK FOR an RDD (or material to make one) your instrument has to be sufficiently sensitive to see X amount of material ... a far cry from saying that this amount of material is sufficient to make an RDD.
For a little "perspective", the IAEA sealed source Code of Conduct shows that a Category 2 Cs-137 source is 1.0 TBq (~30 Ci) ... this is the level that Congress told NRC that they had to track in their National Source Tracking System, or Registry, or whatever they're calling it. Yeah, when you get up into the curie range (or even the hundred or more millicurie range, and there are still quite a few generally-licensed sources in that range out there) ... now let's talk ... these might be worth getting a little spun up about. But 10 uCi ... give me a <expletive deleted> break!
Jim Hardeman
Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us

>>> <BLHamrick at aol.com> 3/28/2006 21:16:09 >>>

I don't believe the isotope or activity has been released, but you can read  
between the lines in the report.  They purchased exempt quantities (so  likely 
in the multi-microcurie range), they told the business it was to  "calibrate" 
radiation pagers, and they "focused only on the procedures for  [detecting] 
gamma radiation," so it appears this was a gamma-emitting  isotope, commonly 
used for calibration....Hmmm...what could that be?

I also just want to point out that two deranged people with guns (which  also 
"can be obtained for malicious intent" in case the GAO hadn't noticed)  
terrorized the Washington, DC area for weeks, and actually killed people.   I can't 
think of a comparable event using exempt sources of radioactive  material.  I 
can't actually imagine a comparable event using exempt  sources.

I'm not advocating one way or another on gun control, but puh-lease!!   We 
need to put the issue of the commercial availability of radioactive material  
into some perspective.

Senator Coleman was "alarmed" that radioactive material was available for  
commercial sale.  Why, he'd absolutely FLIP if he knew how much free  
radioactive material I have for the taking in my backyard soil.

Someone really needs to put a halt to this insanity.

Barbara L. Hamrick, CHP, JD

In a message dated 3/28/2006 5:59:52 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,  
Cehn at aol.com writes:

Does  anyone know how much activity was "smuggled" across the border in the   
(failed) test of border security?  I've heard it was Cs-137, and it  was  
as much as in a smoke detector.  I suspect both  reports are  incorrect.  Is 
the actual data  classified?

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