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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lots of material for a dirty bomb in Libya

This should make you feel all warm and fuzzy. A former IAEA inspector says that Libya has lots of radioactive waste and uranium fuel left over to make a dirty bomb.
Tajoura continues to stock large quantities of radioisotopes, radioactive waste and low-enriched uranium fuel after three decades of nuclear research and radioisotope production, he said.

"While we can be thankful that the highly enriched uranium stocks are no longer in Libya, the remaining material in Tajoura could, if it ended up in the wrong hands, be used as ingredients for dirty bombs. The situation at Tajoura today is unclear."

A so-called dirty bomb can combine conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive material.

Experts describe the threat of a crude fissile nuclear bomb, which is technically difficult to manufacture and requires hard-to-obtain bomb-grade uranium or plutonium, as a "low probability, high consequence act" -- unlikely but with the potential to cause large-scale harm to life and property.

On the other hand, a "dirty bomb", where conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, is a "high probability, low consequence act" with more potential to terrorise than cause large loss of life.

After the fall of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in 2003, looting of nuclear and radioactive material storage took place at the Tuwaitha nuclear research centre near Baghdad, Heinonen said.

"Most likely due to pure luck, the story did not end in a radiological disaster," Heinonen wrote, adding the rebel Transitional National Council would need to be aware of the material sitting around Tajoura.

Once a transition of power takes place, "it should assure the world that it accepts its responsibility and will take the necessary steps to secure these potentially dangerous radioactive sources", he said.
What could go wrong?

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