Uranium seized. Slovak coppers prove to have balls of lead

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by freedomman, Nov 29, 2007.

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  1. Linky: Balls of lead?

    Standard Al Quesadilla dirty bomb using former Soviet nuclear whatnots scare story from the Torygraph:

    'Dirty-bomb plot' thwarted as uranium seized
    By Duncan Hooper and agencies
    Last Updated: 3:55pm GMT 29/11/2007

    Slovakian Police believe they may have thwarted a radioactive terror attack after seizing uranium of a high enough quality to build a "dirty bomb".

    Police show confiscated radioactive material
    Two Hungarians and a Ukrainian were arrested after being caught allegedly trying to sell a pound (0.5kg) of powdered uranium for £483,000.

    "It was possible to use it in various ways for terrorist attacks," Michal Kopcik, a senior police official, said.

    Security agencies have long worried that terrorists such as al-Qa'eda might attempt to acquire a dirty bomb - which uses conventional explosives to scatter radioactive debris.

    The authorities had been conducting a surveillance operation for weeks and had hoped to swoop on the prospective buyers once a deal was concluded.

    However, they were forced to act when the sale was delayed and are now working on uncovering for whom the delivery was intended.

    Initial analysis of the radioactive material, discovered near the border with Hungary, indicated that it was composed of 98.6 percent uranium-235. Uranium is considered weapons-grade if it contains at least 85 percent uranium-235.

    The material appears to have originated in one of the former Soviet Republics, according to the Slovak police.

    In Washington the arrests will be seen as a vindication of years of work with police in former Iron Curtain states, where a combination of a supply of nuclear materials and poor law enforcement have made US officials concerned that al-Qa'eda or other terrorist groups could acquire materials for a "dirty" nuclear bomb or something even more powerful.

    A spokesman for the FBI said: "The director has expressed his concern that al-Qa'eda is planning future attacks and we know they have actively sought weapons of mass destruction materials to attack the US."

    News of the seizure came as the New Scientist published details of a secret report by Swedish and Russian experts. They are said to have exposed "gaping holes" in arrangements to stop theft of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium from sites in northwest Russia.

    Specialists at the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI) and Atombesopastnost, a subsidiary of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), found a large number of the 35 sites on the Kola peninsula to have "insufficient" security measures, it said. "The illicit trafficking problem is for real," the magazine quoted the report as saying.

    The investigation was completed earlier this year and was presented in summarised form last week at an International Atomic Energy Agency conference on nuclear smuggling in Edinburgh.

    A member of the Swedish investigative team confirmed the existence of the report but refused to give any immediate details about it.

    The Kola peninsula, which borders Norway and Finland, is thought to hold the highest volumes of radioactive waste in the world.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog has recorded 1,250 cases of smuggling and other crimes related to the handling of radioactive material since 1995.

    Nuclear material is often smuggled from the former Soviet Union.

    Police in Slovakia's former federation partner, the Czech Republic, found 6 lbs of high-enriched uranium in Prague in 1995, intended for illegal sale.

    In 2003, police in the Czech Republic arrested two Slovaks in a sting operation in the city of Brno after they allegedly sold undercover officers natural depleted uranium for US$715,000

    However, I was startled to see the photo of this incredibly dangerous radioactive substance that accompanies the story. For those of you unable to view reationary web-sites, let me paint a picture with wurdz.

    Lead sample container: check.
    Lead-lined carrying case: check.
    Glass jar filled with evil substance: check.
    Some fellers' hand holding the fcuking jar: check?

    Dunno if it's just me over-reacting, but the thought of getting within arms-length of this stuff makes my goolies shrivel just thinking about it.

    Are all Slovak coppers balls made of lead then?

    Bad miss on their part for not picking up the buyers as well.
    On that note, I have a couple of old tritium source compasses in the loft so I'll open the bidding at $1 million or £25 (whichevers' higher tomorrow).
  2. Good drills, those coppers.

    It's not just you; I once considered joining the Nuke Plods, but did'nt for two reasons:

    1)I did'nt fancy making a career out of stagging on.

    2)I decided the further I was away from radioactive material, the better; people already think I'm a Mutant... :roll:
  3. Good job that IMHO
  4. Common misconception, as the bishop said to the actress:cough:

    In the halcyon days of my youth, before I was forced by thirdworld-sized debt into a career of sorts, I took a temporary job at one of our creaky old atomic power stations. I was trained and certified thoroughly incompetent as a health physics monitor, and worked as one during a overhaul shutdown. Oh the power! Being able to tell a queue of grizzled scaffolders and mad geordie welders to down tools and wait at the barrier 'cos "I have to check all your bars and clamps". I counted myself lucky if I was only sworn at. Scanning and swabbing a full pallet of scaffolding is definitely in my top ten bone jobs.

    As a result of this hard-won nous, I can say with a bit of confidence that uranium metal isn't very hazardous in that state. I wouldn't sprinkle it in on the cheerios, but I'd be happy to tote the jar around with nothing more prophylactic than a stout pair of rubber gloves, so the chap pictured is just larging it for the camera.
  5. Not sure how true it is, but according to wikipedia a dirty bomb would cause less deaths than a bomb made from pure explosives, and that it is more of a psychological weapon than one that will cause mass death & destruction.

    Can anybody confirm this?
  6. I think, that as well as being a psychological weapon, it actually causes more deaths over a long period. Eg:- Cancer, etc...
  7. That Wiki appears to be wrong.

    A Radiological dispersal device is considered essientially psychological. A 'dirty bomb' will still produce a yield and hence a nuclear detonation, it is just not deemed as effective as it could be with the materials involved and an exact science applied.
  8. Beware of Wikis. You are correct in the above. If you get a critical mass together for long enough it will go bang - maybe not efficiently but it will go bang. The resultant fallout will be a combination of nuclear isotopes formed as a result of the nuclear reaction and unused fissile material.
  9. 1/2 a kilo of u235 will not cause a nuclear reaction in a dirty bomb. There simply isn't enough material to do the job properly.

    on a second point. u235 is actually reasonably stable. you can be near it for short periods without much trouble. If this was plutonium, they would become very ill very quickly. either way, they were showing off for the cameras, which isn't a good attitude to have if you work with that sort of stuff!

  10. Correct - it isn't critical mass - which is why it would be a radiological bomb.
  11. A 'dirty' bomb in the technical sense is a garden variety fission weapon with a quantity of something wrapped around it that will produce radioactive debris with long half lives; the classic example quoted in most texts is Cobalt. After the bang this converts partially into Cobalt 60, a strong Gamma emitter which has a half life of a little over 5 years.

    As has been pointed out 1/2kg of Uranium is nowhere near a critical mass, so only of use in making a 'radiological device'.
  12. -------

    Disclaimer! -

    I am not in any way an expert on this subject. I have however done some research in the past as I felt I should be reasonably well informed on such an important issue.


    my bold above.

    no, fission (or fusion) is not required in a dirty bomb. all you need is radioactive material. the explosive is merely a means of dispersing the radioactive material. as pointed out a 'dirty bomb' is a radiological weapon, NOT a nuclear weapon.

    With conventional weapons, at least the ones we currently have, the detonation is very efficient. we want all the material to 'go bang' as that improves yield. With weapons of a poor design, you get a 'fissle'. This is rumoured to be what the north koreans achieved. The weapon didn't go bang properly. This would leave a large amount of fall-out as only a small proportion of the radioactive material was consumed by the explosion.

  13. 1. Eh? - bUt I know what you mean :D

    2. Actually you can get variable yield weapons (Dial a Bang!).Not all of the fissile material goes bang - ever. Therefore there is inherent dirt (fallout) from any bomb.
  14. you are quite correct, poor english on my part!