AW: [ RadSafe ] re: News Report

Franz Schönhofer franz.schoenhofer at
Thu Apr 16 15:38:42 CDT 2009


Thank you for your message. I expected something similar, because in almost
all (but not 100%) of cases the story turns out like this - the first
speculations of mass media are totally unfounded and cannot be verified. But
the goal of their news distributions has been reached - raise the adrenalin
level of the readers. 

We had in Austria several similar cases. One person from South Africa was
arrested because he wanted to sell nuclear weapons grade uranium. He
transported it in his rucksack. What it really was: Some low grade natural
uranium ore. I have taken such specimens with me after my last visit to my
beloved US South West - no complaint either on departing the USA nor
arriving in Vienna. For some criminals it seems to be worth a try to find
people who are willing to pay millions for nothing - what a good business. I
do not intend to enter this business with my Colorado rocks, because I do
not want to spend my retirement even for a month in prison! Since I know
that in the USA (not in Europe) americium based smokedetectors can be put
into the waste bin it should not be to difficult to find enough of them to
pretend "material for a dirty bomb". 

Probably some authorities should take it a little more easy with all these
alarms. What I extract from your message is, that the Ukrainian authorities
still have good instrumentation and trained scientists. But I know this,
since I was in 1988 in Kiev in the course of post-Chernobyl activities. 

Just out of curiosity: If you find out more about the case, please keep the
RADSAFE community informed!

Best regards,


Franz Schoenhofer, PhD
MinRat i.R.
Habicherg. 31/7
A-1160 Wien/Vienna

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: radsafe-bounces at [mailto:radsafe-bounces at] Im Auftrag
von Joel C.
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 16. April 2009 19:22
An: radsafe at
Betreff: [ RadSafe ] re: News Report

Here's an update from the NYTimes:

Ukraine Says 3 Tried to Sell Bomb Material


Published: April 14, 2009 

MOSCOW — The metal cylinder supposedly contained eight pounds of plutonium
239, a highly dangerous radioactive material that could be used in a nuclear
weapon or a dirty bomb. The price: $10 million, sought by three Ukrainian
men, officials said Tuesday.

The men did not make a sale, the officials said, but were arrested in an
undercover operation in Ukraine last week that was conducted by the
Ukrainian Security Service. Still, while the plot was foiled, it underscored
longstanding concerns that unsecured radioactive material in the former
Soviet Union might fall into the wrong hands.

Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service, said it
had turned out that the radioactive material was not plutonium 239. A
preliminary analysis indicated that the material was most likely americium,
a much more common and less potent radioactive material, Ms. Ostapenko said
in a telephone interview from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

She said americium could be deployed in a dirty bomb but not in a nuclear

“They wanted to sell it as plutonium,” she said. “They were asking for $10
million for it because they thought that it was plutonium.” ... 

Joel I. Cehn, CHP
Oakland, California
joelc at 

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