Colombia\’s government has claimed that Leftist rebels were plotting to make a "dirty" radiological bomb after security agents seized 60 lb of low-grade depleted uranium.

Maybe they were plotting to do that: but it wouldn\’t work very well. Depleted uranium is chemically, but not radiologically, dangerous.

Then again, it would set off  a screaming panic which is rather the point of terrorist activities.

6 thoughts on “Eh?”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Not only a screaming panic, but just a screaming panic.

    Arguably Osama was too successful on 9-11. Terrorists should slowly cook the frog so that people become used to a certain level of violence. They should not go straight for the act of mass murder. A *real* radioactive bomb would be hard to move around and would cause real damage. The US would go ape-sh!t. A fake one would just cause panic.

  2. “chemically” dangerous? How?

    Tim adds: It is, after all, a heavy metal, and is toxic to humans.

  3. Surely it would only be ‘toxic’ if it sliced through your body. It’s not as though you are licking the stuff all day.

  4. Depleted uranium is essentially pure U238 (it’s what’s left after we’ve scavenged the 0.7% of useful uranium isotopes from ore). It is very, very weakly radioactive with a half life of 4.7 billion years. Sure, inhaling U238 dust is probably not the wisest thing to do, as it is an alpha emitter, which is nasty to have in your lungs where the energetic alphas can do bad things to DNA. But as a bulk metal, its radioactivity can be contained with a couple of coats of paint. A curie of radiation from U238 is nearly three tons of the stuff. They use it as tank armour, as radiation shielding, even as tail ballast in passenger jets.

    From a toxicity standpoint, the bioavailability of uranium is very low. It is a heavy metal, and therefore toxic, but is absorbed so poorly by the body as to present no appreciable hazard.

    It is indeed true that the primary effect of a radiological bomb (especially one made out of depleted uranium) would be economic. The terms ‘radiation’ and ‘nuclear’ are so potent as boo-words that Nuclear Magnetic Resonance had to be re-named Magnetic Resonance Imaging to calm hoi polloi.

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