Thursday, May 13, 2004

Dirty Bomb Watch 2

Some people may think I'm an alarmist nutbag with the Dirty Bomb Watch. Well, perhaps the story of the Radioactive Boy Scout will change your mind.

In 1995 a 17 year old high school student attempted to make nuclear device in a shed in his mother's back yard. Using information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he compiled the americium-241 from 100 broken smoke detectors and the lithium from a thousand batteries to build a "neutron gun" in an attempt to make uranium-233. It failed. But he didn't give up. Next, he tried to make a "radium gun." He collected the radium from old clocks he found in antique shops and junkyards. This too failed. Again the kid didn't give up.

He got an idea from an old physics textbook. He combined the americium-241 with the radium and a few other elements, wrapped them in aluminium foil and duct tape. No one had any idea that he had build a crude breeder reactor in the backyard. It only ended when the boy himself got worried about his "experiment". It was getting really hot and giving off radiation. The backyard shed required a $140,000 SuperFund clean up effort.

But I mean terrorists wouldn't think of this, right? I mean that was 9 years ago. Terrorist aren't as smart as a high school boy scout. They couldn't build a device just a little more efficient, one that gave off a little more radiation and a little less heat. They couldn't build it in a rented house near an airport or a mall or in an apartment building in a densely populated neighborhood of a large city. They couldn't turn on the device, leave town, and pay the rent through the internet from Riyadh. Surely someone would clue in. Surely someone would notice men buying lots of smoke detector and batteries and old clocks. Surely some government agency is tracking unusual radiation levels in US cities. Surely secret agents would swoop down and bust open the doors and stop this before people started getting radiation poisoning.

Of course the would dear reader. And stop calling me Shirley.

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