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The Military United States Technology

Radioactive Material Stolen In Iraq Raises Security Fears (reuters.com) 93

mdsolar writes with a link to a Reuters report that begins: Iraq is searching for 'highly dangerous' radioactive material stolen last year, according to an environment ministry document and seven security, environmental and provincial officials who fear it could be used as a weapon if acquired by Islamic State. The material, stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer, went missing in November from a storage facility near the southern city of Basra belonging to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford WFT.N, the document seen by Reuters showed and officials confirmed. A spokesman for Iraq's environment ministry said he could not discuss the issue, citing national security concerns.
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Radioactive Material Stolen In Iraq Raises Security Fears

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  • That shits long gone now...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Long gone, but useful. They can therefore run a "dirty-bomb scare", and justify military operations. You don't want someone scattering radioactive waste on your children, do you?

    • Despite the source not wanting to discuss this due to "national security concerns", it's almost certainly a nuclear density gauge [troxlerlabs.com]. If you really wanted one of those, you could steal it from any number of construction or mining firms in whatever country you're in.

      It's also far more likely to have been misplaced rather than stolen, it's a generic-looking piece of engineering gear that someone probably set aside and that got lost among the piles of other gear lying around. Think "contractors misplace demolit

  • Highly dangerous? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @06:25AM (#51533449) Homepage

    From the article:

    belonging to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford WFT.N

    Going out on a limb here, but that'll likely be a source for pipe inspections or similar jobs? Read: relatively small quantity, and no way that would be bomb-making material. Even if it fell into the wrong hands, then at worst such material could be used as ingredient of a small-scale dirty bomb: a conventional bomb with 'special sauce' to cause a "radioactive!" scare. For that purpose probably more dangerous to anyone trying to do so, than for the people in a target area.

    Granted, in terms of victims / environment / health hazards that could still do some damage. But in the greater scheme of things, I'd take "highly dangerous" with a grain of salt here.

    • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

      Or you could use it to poison food or water sources etc. Only retarded geeks think nuclear bombs is the only thing that counts when it comes to radioactive materials.

      • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @07:54AM (#51533621) Homepage

        If you're going to poison the water, I'm sure there are more effective and easier substances you could use than radioactive materials.

        • Like lead?

      • Yes, you could try to poison water source with something like this, but even if one were to devise a method to dissipate this in a water supply, it would likely have zero measurable health effects on those who consume the water.

        As far as bomb building, the bomb itself is what might be deadly, and again, the spread contamination would no likely result in any measurable health impacts to anyone.

        Dirty bombs are simply not practical. Those smart enough to make an effective one know that there are much eas
    • Could be. Halliburton [mrt.com] lost, then found, a rod containing radioactive Americium-241/Beryllium they were using for well testing in West Texas.

      A spokesman for Iraq's environment ministry said he could not discuss the issue, citing national security concerns.

      Hearing the gov't rep from Iran say it kind of brings home the phrase's absurdity.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @06:25AM (#51533451)

    A fear weapon aimed at panicky fools and the media that preys on and inflames their ignorance with hysterical half-truths.

    • So what is it here that you think are the "hysterical half-truths"?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Even if you think it is safe, it won't stop your property being massively devalued. Dirty bombs will hit you where it hurts - in the wallet.

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        Not for long. The first land developer who realizes that the land is cheap just because of pointless fear will redevelop it on the cheap, probably even begging for some money out of the government to "help" them.

        We nuked the shit out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They're not ghost towns today, they're cities with significant populations. You'd need an output like Chernobyl to really cause area denial like this, and this isn't even close to the sort of material you'd need for that effect.

    • A fear weapon aimed at panicky fools and the media that preys on and inflames their ignorance with hysterical half-truths.

      So, like, every terrorist weapon?

      At least those used so far. I hope it never moves beyond that.

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        So, like, every terrorist weapon?

        That's the most ignorant thing I've read this month (and there's a lot of ignorance on YT).

        At least those used so far.

        Suicide vests and truck bombs (which actually kill and maim people) spring instantly to mind.

        • Suicide vests and truck bombs (which actually kill and maim people) spring instantly to mind.

          Suicide vests and truck bombs do kill people occasionally. The cost of dealing with the fear of suicide vests and truck bombs outweigh the actual consequences. I mean, it's always ghoulish to compare someone's death to thousands of people inconvenienced. But, as a society, we kinda have to figure out how much to spend to save someone's life.

          And, with terrorism, we always overspend. We could provide free healthca

          • by Nutria ( 679911 )

            None of what you just wrote has anything to do with the stupidity that you previously wrote: At least those used so far. I hope it never moves beyond that.

            35 years ago, truck bombs went beyond just fear. Suicide vests... 25 years ago? Bombs in British postal boxes 40+ years ago.

            • Truck bombs didn't move beyond "just fear" "Just fear" is the larger consequence of then the deaths that actually happened. The US left Beruit over 283 deaths? No, the US left over fear.

              Moving beyond that means that the actual deathtoll is worse than the fear it engenders. Given the news coverage nowadays, that's likely going to be the result of a WMD.

              • by Nutria ( 679911 )

                So there's only terrorism and WMDs?

                • Umm... no. Terrorist's biggest weapon is fear. The only weapon I can think of more effective than that is a WMD.

                  • by Nutria ( 679911 )

                    But "OMG!! Terrorists with a WMD!!" is the whole purpose of this article.

                    • But the whole purpose of the conversation thread you're participating in is that they only have enough for a relatively weak dirty bomb, explicitly not a WMD. The whole thread is about how the weapon is a lot more fear than real.

                      Yay, context.

                    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

                      I didn't write that *I* believe it. I wrote that the *article* said it.

                      Boo, lack of reading comprehension.

  • by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @06:27AM (#51533453)

    The security failure is a bit worrying but I doubt this is really that big a threat. If it was so radioactive that it could kill lots of people from acute radiation sickness, then it will be very hard to smuggle anywhere without being detected. Certainly much harder than just a big cache of conventional weapons/explosives. On the other hand, a radiation weapon where ISIS then announces that those exposed may have a 50% increased chance of dying from cancer in the next 30 years seems rather preferable to a bunch of nutters unloading assault rifles into a crowd.

    This is really just a continuation of the 'OMG freak out about nuclear thing' that has been with us since the 60s. Nuclear can be bad, but there is also radiation all around us, and we do know how to detect and manage radiation risks. People still live next to Chernobyl and Fukushima did actually melt down, yet Japan was still there when I visited last year.

    • (...) radiation all around us, and we do know how to detect and manage radiation risks.

      Wrong! Most people still refuse to wear sunscreen.

      (...) and Fukushima did actually melt down, yet Japan was still there when I visited last year.

      Good to know, thanks!

      • by Creepy ( 93888 )

        Sunscreen is overrated. Sure it prevents you from radiation burns from too much UV-B, but you're also out in the sun too long exposed to other radiation, some of which is more likely to cause cancer than UV-B. I'd rather be out in the sun less time and collect the Vitamin-D I get from UV-B radiation, personally. Also some of it is toxic and may cause cancer on its own. Not to mention it kills the reefs, so you're not supposed to go into the water near reefs until it soaks into your skin.

    • This is really just a continuation of the 'OMG freak out about nuclear thing' that has been with us since the 60s. Nuclear can be bad, but there is also radiation all around us, and we do know how to detect and manage radiation risks.

      Small package of radioactive tracer material left unattended.
      Dude walks past and notices,hey, this shit isn't nailed down.
      Dude thinks, maybe I can score some bucks off of this.
      Dude takes it and stashes it somewhere.
      Dude starts asking around, who wants to buy [this thing?]
      Everyone says, "Don't let the Americans know you got that. They're fucking crazy!"
      Dude just gives up.
      Company searches for the thing. It's gone.
      Company believes in responsible (wince) disclosure.
      Company is wincing because Americans shrug at

    • Don't you realize that this is the sum of all fears?!

  • Once again user "mdsolar" is back to spread FUD about alternatives to his solar energy business. In this case the "logic" is particularly absurd: some radioactive material is unaccounted for -> terrorists could make a radioactive bomb -> all radiation is bad -> nuclear energy also involves radiation -> you should use solar.

    Perhaps it's time for user "mdnuclear" to post about how the sun is dangerous because some people in Australia got skin cancer?

  • by sad_ ( 7868 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @07:35AM (#51533577) Homepage

    ... about a certain Emmett L Brown.

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @07:52AM (#51533619)
    A dirty bomb is only fearful as much as the population fears it. In effects a dirty bomb is pretty much useless as far as effects goes. It ain't a nuke folks. At worst it contaminate a wide area of a few hundreds feet with a bit of radioactive materials which you have to clean off. Basically to have a health effect you have to have people ingest it , or to have it in huge quantity enough that exposure become dangerous. Spread it /dilute it enough to have a wide area and it loses its effects, OR have it effects, and the area/volume become so small as to not eb a concern. the only concern is the PANIC folk would have because dumb politician and media have used for year RDD as a kind of scarecrow. The PANIC would be what would massively kill people.
    • by Creepy ( 93888 )

      They said in the article this stuff is a gamma emitter (which also means it's a different isotope of iridium than most people know about), so no, you don't have to ingest it. A dirty bomb made with an alpha emitter would need to be ingested to be most effective (because dead skin stops it). Beta is a mixed bag. In any case, you are correct that dirty bombs definitely don't have the range or killing power of a nuke by a long shot.

  • It was just a matter of time until they found them... er, i mean, lost them.

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  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @09:49AM (#51534017)
    Iridium 192 is apparently industrial gamma source. "Up to" 10 grams were taken. Not seeing much reason for hitting the panic button here.
    • Exactly.. Things like this are bouncing around in the back of hundreds of Pickups rumbling around west Texas right now. Yes, they are dangerous if you take them out of their containers, mostly to the idiots who do stupid things like breaking out the hacksaws, hammers and blow torches on things marked a radiation hazard. Making a "dirty bomb" out of 10oz of this stuff is more likely to harm the bomb maker than anybody else.
  • I hear they lose stuff all the [zdnet.com] time [foxnews.com].

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