Skip to comments.DIRTY-BOMB NIGHTMARE
Posted on 02/15/2003 1:42:57 PM PST by dennisw
DIRTY-BOMB NIGHTMARE: Read here, here, and here to educate yourself about the threat posed by a "radiological dispersion device," aka a dirty bomb. The bottom line: This is a nightmare weapon.
Not because it would kill a lot of people -- it probably wouldn't. And not because of the short-term panic, which could be horrible but would subside relatively quickly. No, the nightmare is the economic and psychological consequences of long-term contamination. A dirty bomb that contained the right amount of the right radioactive material could render big chunks of Washington, D.C. or Manhattan, uninhabitable for decades.
Read through these grim scenarios, sketched out in Senate testimony this past March by Henry Kelly of the Federation of American Scientists:
Example 1:Just try to imagine what it would be like if D.C. or New York were turned into a ghost town. The economic costs would be horrendous, to be sure. But I'm afraid that the dollar figures are just too vast to process mentally. What I focus on -- what I'm having trouble not thinking about since yesterday -- is the image of a great American city sealed off and abandoned. Think about the outrage you feel because the Twin Towers are gone. Now think about the unbearable obscenity of a whole city gone. Worse than gone, maybe. Dead but unburied. Mummified. A gigantic, haunting monument to the destructive power of evil.
Cesium (Gamma Emitter)
Two weeks ago, a lost medical gauge containing cesium was discovered in North Carolina. Imagine that the cesium in this device was exploded in Washington, DC in a bomb using ten pounds of TNT. The initial passing of the radioactive cloud would be relatively harmless, and no one would have to evacuate immediately. However, residents of an area of about five city blocks, if they remained, would have a one-in-a-thousand chance of getting cancer. A swath about one mile long covering an area of forty city blocks would exceed EPA contamination limits, with remaining residents having a one-in-ten thousand chance of getting cancer. If decontamination were not possible, these areas would have to be abandoned for decades. If the device was detonated at the National Gallery of Art, the contaminated area might include the Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress.
Cobalt (Gamma Emitter)
Now imagine if a single piece of radioactive cobalt from a food irradiation plant were dispersed by an explosion at the lower tip of Manhattan. Typically, each of these cobalt "pencils" is about one inch in diameter and one foot long, with hundreds of such pieces often being found in the same facility. Admittedly, acquisition of such material is less likely than in the previous scenario, but we still consider the results. Again, no immediate evacuation would be necessary, but in this case, an area of approximately one-thousand square kilometers, extending over three states, would be contaminated. Over an area of about three hundred typical city blocks, there would be a one-in-ten risk of death from cancer for residents living in the contaminated area for forty years. The entire borough of Manhattan would be so contaminated that anyone living there would have a one-in-a-hundred chance of dying from cancer caused by the residual radiation. It would be decades before the city was inhabitable again, and demolition might be necessary.
For comparison, consider the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, in which a Soviet nuclear power plant went through a meltdown. Radiation was spread over a vast area, and the region surrounding the plant was permanently closed. In our current example, the area contaminated to the same level of radiation as that region would cover much of Manhattan. Furthermore, near Chernobyl, a larger area has been subject to periodic controls on human use such as restrictions on food, clothing, and time spent outdoors. In the current example, the equivalent area extends fifteen miles.
And it wouldn't be that hard to do. The necessary radioactive materials are right here in the U.S., and they're practically begging to be stolen:
Thousands of private companies and universities use cesium, strontium, cobalt or americium to treat cancer patients, irradiate food against harmful microbes, sterilize equipment, monitor the operation of oil wells and inspect welding seams. The quantities involved range from tiny traces of americium in smoke detectors to thick rods of cobalt, each a foot long, that are used by the score in a single food processing plant.We know what a dirty bomb attack could do. We know that the raw materials are right here -- ready, waiting, and basically indefensible. And we know now that people scattered around the world are actively plotting such an attack. There's only one viable response: We have to rid the world of those people. We have to crush radical Islamism and all the states that breed or foster it. And we have to do it sooner rather than later.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported last month that U.S. companies have lost track of nearly 1,500 such radioactive parts since 1996, and more than half were never recovered. Up to 30,000 radioactive parts are believed to have been abandoned or thrown away, according to an Environmental Protection Agency estimate.
Of the thousands of nuclear sources still in use, or decommissioned to known storage sites, many are thought to be vulnerable to theft or black market sale. And few hospitals or food processing plants are secure enough to withstand an armed attack by people intent on seizing the materials by force.
Most of the lost and stolen items generate small amounts of radioactivity, but some are potent enough to be used in a dirty bomb.
As recently as March, an industrial gauge with a significant quantity of cesium turned up at a scrap-metal plant near Hertford, N.C., where someone had accidentally discarded it. That find led to the recovery of at least three other gauges that had been thrown away by a company in Maryland.
Posted by Brink Lindsey at June 11, 2002 03:25 PM
JIM We need a place to post breaking events that ARE NOT a news article!!!
Clean up the blast area, wash it down, sweep the streets.
Render? They are already uninhabitable by normal human beings.
Destroying these people is one approach. Is this approach really possible to achieve? Destroying the elements which create their existence might be a better one by giving them something to LIVE for, rather than DIE for. Our national security is impacted directly by how many enemies we create.
I extend by deepest sympathy
(Naw. Sorry. What was I thinking of?)
Cobalt (Gamma Emitter)
there would be a one-in-ten risk of death from cancer for residents living in the contaminated area for forty years. The entire borough of Manhattan would be so contaminated that anyone living there would have a one-in-a-hundred chance of dying from cancer caused by the residual radiation.
Someone tell me why this is supposed to be so scary ??? We're ALL going to die eventually. Smallpox scares me, this is a pipsqueak threat.
As an aside, all of us had smallpox vaccinations so I'm not even too worried about that--am going to get one of the new ones when possible to see if it takes--
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