[ RadSafe ] How tough is it to build a dirty bomb?

Franz Schönhofer franz.schoenhofer at chello.at
Thu Feb 10 15:53:53 CST 2011


Your comment is - as usual - right to the point. 

"Common sense" should tell even the interested layman, that RDD stands for
"Radiological Dispersion Device", which contains the word "dispersion" which
is obviously a hint that radioactive material would be dispersed. The
easiest way to disperse it, is to use any explosive for that purpose. The
only obstacle might be to obtain suitable and material active enough from
hospitals, rfesearch institutes or from technical applications of
radioisotopes. Since the aim of such an "attack" would be to raise fear and
chaos the amount and the concentration of such radioactive substances is
hardly of any importance. Headlines in the mass media like "Plutonium bomb
spreads deadly radioactive material in downtown...." would be enough to
create chaos - whether it were a mBq or some GBq. 

By the way, this issue has been discussed so often and so extensive on
RADSAFE, including the radiological consequences, that I do not believe that

more discussion is necessary. 

As for the "experts" on mass media (i.e. journalists), they are funny: On
one hand Al Kaida is "developing" radiological bombs (!), on the other hand
they give the impression that a nuclear weapon will be immediately finished
or at least built by them in the near future. There is a terrible uproar,
when a few milligram of "weapons" material (enriched uranium) is reported to
have been seized. On one hand the terrorists are regarded to be so stupid
that they do not know the principle of a RDD. What should be hidden??? On
the other hand they can construct something so utmost complex like an atomic

Best regards,


Actually we had about 35 years ago in Austria an incident with a dispersion
of radioactive material. Somebody - he was never found - poured the content
of an ampoule with I-131 onto the seat in a train. There were headlines in
the news, but nobody really was scared. It was just taken as a curiosity.

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

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] Im Auftrag von Doug Huffman
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 10. Februar 2011 19:27
An: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Betreff: Re: [ RadSafe ] How tough is it to build a dirty bomb?

Hash: SHA1

"Common sense" about a dirty bomb, here in America taking its science
from public broadcasting by journalists?

Radiation safety and health professionals might do some arithmetic
involving an area, some energy levels, some concentrations, use those to
pick some nuclides and calculate their masses and mass specific activity
and know - as professionals - just what will be required to build a
credible device.

If it's too hot to handle (as in clean up) then it's too hot to handle
to build.  I am not a professional but I have made a formally
falsifiable assertion and it should be formally falsified and not merely
controverted argumentum ad verecundiam.

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