[ RadSafe ] U.S. Plays Down Colombia Uranium Threat
Clayton J Bradt
cjb01 at health.state.ny.us
Mon Mar 31 08:23:36 CDT 2008
U.S. Plays Down Colombia Uranium Threat
There is little chance that uranium recovered in Colombia could have been
used to produce a radiological “dirty bomb,” U.S. officials said in a Los
Angeles Times article published today (see GSN, March 27).
Colombia’s vice president said earlier this month that laptop computers
recovered following a strike on a rebel site in Ecuador indicated the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was seeking material that
could be used in a radiological weapon. The nation’s Defense Ministry
announced this week that a 66-pound stash of uranium had been found near
Colombian officials have indicated that the material was depleted uranium,
said State Department spokeswoman Heidi Bronke.
Depleted uranium would not possess the radioactivity needed for a dirty
bomb, which would use conventional explosives to disperse dangerous
material, said Charles Ferguson, a nuclear weapons analyst at the Council
on Foreign Relations.
A depleted uranium weapon could “have panicked people for a little while,
but the alarm wouldn’t have lasted,” he said.
The information on the computers has not yet been independently verified
and could be part of a disinformation campaign against the rebel group,
analysts said. The U.S. intelligence community believes that at least some
of the information is probably true, a senior official said.
However, since the recovered material was “depleted, not enriched … what’s
the use of that other than irritating people?” the official said.
The rebel group might have been scammed into buying a form of uranium that
is cheap and easily found, said another U.S. official.
“The real story is the very fact that FARC is looking for uranium, even if
they got scammed this time,” the official said. “The very fact that they
are out there looking for it is troubling” (Los Angeles Times, March 28).
What is the basis for the assertion that a depleted uranium weapon could
“have panicked people for a little while, but the alarm wouldn’t have
lasted”? The ALI for U-238 is nearly four orders of magnitude lower than
for Cs-137 and the panic generated by a Cs-137 RDD is assumed, for planing
purposes, to create sufficient disruption to close down Wall Street and
wreck the national economy. Why won’t people be just as panicked by DU as
As I have stated previously, what we know of the physics of dirty bombs
comes from the national labs, but what we know of the psychology comes from
Clayton J. Bradt
dutchbradt at hughes.net
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