Dirty bombs: Glowing in the dark

COMPARED with a thermonuclear detonation, the destructive power of even a large amount of conventional explosives wrapped in nuclear fuel or other radiological material is rather tame, notes Thomas Reed, who has designed two American nuclear weapons. But a “dirty bomb” (technically a radiological-dispersal device) is far easier to build than a nuclear weapon and would spread not just radiation but panic, adds Mr Reed, who later served as secretary of the air force. Little wonder, then, that nerves were rattled after the theft on December 2nd of a lorry carrying highly radioactive cobalt-60 from a radiation-therapy unit in Tijuana to a nuclear-waste facility near Mexico City.Nuclear and radiological materials slipped out of regulatory control 2,331 times between 1995 and the start of this year, according to the Incident and Trafficking Database compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The materials are widely used in industry, agriculture and medicine. They are kept in many poorly guarded X-ray and cancer-treatment clinics. Such places are often not overseen with terrorism in mind. They have even been bought by crooks as front operations, says…

Link to article: www.economist.com/news/international/21591614-fight-against-trafficking-radiological-materials-experts-see-some-cause?fsrc=rss|int


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