Cobalt aluminide

This is a rather strange case:

A BRITISH chemicals firm is involved in a secret MI5 inquiry into the illegal export to Iran of material that could make a radioactive “dirty bomb”.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) raided the Essex home of the firm’s former sales manager after a tip that potentially lethal chemicals, including cobalt, were sold to Iran last summer.

The trade went ahead despite warnings from Whitehall officials that it posed an “unacceptable risk of diversion to a weapons of mass destruction programme of concern”.

Details of the dirty bomb case are disclosed in dozens of pages of documents lodged in the High Court by Remet UK, a chemicals firm based in Rochester, Kent.

At the centre of the probe is Jarrad Beddow, a 42-year-old married father of two, from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.

Beddow, who lives with his wife Jennifer at a £400,000 detached home in a quiet cul-de-sac, last week denied any wrongdoing, saying that the material he is accused of exporting to Iran — cobalt aluminate — was not banned at the time of the transaction.

Now it is true that cobalt aluminide could be used to make a dirty bomb. Stick it in a reactor and you\’ll get some Cobalt-60 in it and that would indeed be a nasty thing to put into a dirty bomb (ie, one which spreads radioactivity around rather than one which is a fission or fusion explosion). but then the same is true of any cobalt salt or even of the metal itself.

The list of dual use items is here and while I\’ve not gone right through it I haven\’t, in scanning it, seen cobalt mentioned at all. The reason being that while, yes, there is this possible dual use it\’s one of the really rather remote ones.

Especially since Cobalt 60 is widely (well, widely for a radioactive material) used in food irradiation and in cancer treatments. Someone who really wanted to make a dirty bomb wouldn\’t go to the trouble of making their own Cobalt 60, they\’d get it as scrap from someone already using it.

And even if you did want to make your own sending someone with a suitcase full of cash to Rwanda or Eastern Zaire (umm, maybe southern Zaire actually) would be a much easier way to get it.

Now, the actual way the bloke sold this stuff does look dodgy but I can\’t really see that it is a controlled material.

Wonder what\’s really happening here?

5 thoughts on “Cobalt aluminide”

  1. This is probably HMRC in ‘For god’s sake, let’s do something to redeem ourselves in the eyes of the public after that disc debacle’ mode…

  2. Sounds like someone has been consorting with crusading investigative journalists again. Pass the red mercury please.

    Oh, and send them a copy of the periodic table, and suggest they list the constituents as prohibited exports.

  3. We better ban vitamin B-12, terrorists will soon be irradiating pallets of vitamins into WMDs.

    There is plenty of Cobalt in dead speaker magnets and rechargable batteries.

  4. Apparently you can make – is it deuterium – out of water, we had better ban that as well. I know someone who got caught up in something like this during the cold war because they exported a blank floppy disc or something else similarly “dual use”..

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