[ RadSafe ] LAT Article: Florida pawnshop's radioactive surprise ("Yellow cake")

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 12 11:15:17 CDT 2007


Florida pawnshop's radioactive surprise

A small amount of yellowcake uranium is discovered
among rocks from an estate sale.

By Stephen Hudak
Orlando Sentinel

March 12, 2007

BELLEVIEW, FLA. — Every blue moon or so, collectibles
dealer and pawnshop owner Frank Cafaro stumbles upon a
buried gem among an estate's junk and tchotchkes.

His latest find was so alarming he called

"We were in the warehouse and we pulled out this box
of rocks from an estate sale," Cafaro said.
"Everything was individually labeled. Amethyst. Topaz.
Uranium. The guy I'm working with says, 'What's that
last one? Uranium? I think that's illegal.' "

Within an hour, Gold Mine Pawn was swarming last week
with about three dozen emergency workers, including
Geiger-counter-waving members of a hazardous materials
team and the Marion County Sheriff's Office domestic
security task force.

They focused on a container the size of a soup can.
Labeled with radioactive markings, the container
protected a vial that held about an ounce of
yellowcake uranium, a processed mineral that, in
larger quantities, could be used to make fuel for
nuclear reactors or enriched for weapons.

In 2003, President Bush justified the decision to
invade Iraq, in part, on a now-discredited
intelligence report that claimed former Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein had tried to buy tons of
yellowcake, presumably to manufacture weapons of mass

"It was kind of scary when I heard how terrible this
stuff was," Cafaro said.

The mineral, which Cafaro traced to an estate sale in
Miami about 10 years ago, was turned over to the
Florida Department of Health for disposal.

Yellowcake, also known as uranium oxide, is far from
being a weapons-grade material, said Talat Rahman,
chairman of the physics department at the University
of Central Florida. She said it did not pose a serious
threat in small quantities.

"Yellowcake by itself is not dangerous," Rahman said.
"It has to be processed to be converted into something

Sharon Gogerty, a spokeswoman for the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement, said small amounts of
yellowcake were reported to the agency "on a regular
basis" and were not considered especially dangerous. 

“We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient — that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population; that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind; that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity; and therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”
-- John F. Kennedy 

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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