Islamic State fanatics claim to have constructed a dirty bomb after stealing 40kg of uranium from an Iraqi university.
Militants boasted of the device on social media, with one even commenting on the destruction such a bomb would wreak in London, four months after the chemical was reported missing from Mosul University.
The transfer of some Al Jesira process samples to Mosul University could explain the higher than expected uranium chemical inventory. Thus, the 40 kilograms of uranium chemicals “stolen” from Mosul University probable consist of lab reagents such as uranyl acetate (plus other species), yellowcake, ammonium diuranate, uranium trioxide, uranium dioxide and there might be samples of UCl4 uranium tetrachloride], but only gram quantities…
None of that is concentrated, in the sense that the bits that go bang have been separated out from the bits which don’t go bang.
It’s not that unusual to find 100 ppm (parts per million) uranium in granite rock. There’s parts of Cornwall and Aberdeen that are so. That’s 100 grammes per tonne rock, so that 40 kg is about the amount of uranium we might expect to find in 400 tonnes of reasonably standard rock.
And I’m sure there’s one building or another in London that’s made out of 400 tonnes of granite. Doing no one any great harm over the centuries. And I’ll absolutely guarantee you that there’s 40 kg of uranium in the soil in Hyde Park. Heck, there’s probably that much in the bitumen on Oxford Street.
Imagine someone did set off such a dirty bomb in London. A quick spray down with some high pressure hoses (after the effects of the actual explosion of course) and you’d not actually be able to tell, from the residual radioactivity, that it had actually happened. For in that 40kg we are actually talking about 300 grammes of radioactive uranium (thereabouts).
Just to give some idea of the “danger” of this material. We used to use the same stuff as a glaze for pottery. We think it’s not a very good idea these days, that’s true, phased it out decades ago. But I’ve certainly seen stories of not very well managed school or art college potteries finding a bag or two of it (it sometimes came in 50 lb sacks) out in back left over from the old days.