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Uranium theories

So, the Met would tell me exactly what uranium they’d found at Heathrow. And yes, I did talk to them. So I can’t in fact give an opinion on what was being smuggled, or it was a mistake, or what. Because I don’t know what the scrap was, nor what type of uranium it was.

We can make one assumption, it was scrap moving by air. So, the scrap was worth more than $5 or so a kg. Not steel therefore, not unless it was a high stainless. Other than that, dunno.

If it was zirconium tubing contaminated – ie, a smearing or some powder – with U then that’s evidence of someone playing naughty games with U concentration etc. But not dangerous at this end. If it’s a chunk of depleted U then who knows? Bit off a helicopter rotor? Some tank scrap from a firing range?


If it were xyz scrap with a chunk of U sitting in the middle, well, maybe someone smuggling the U.

He told The Telegraph: “If you were to use depleted uranium in a ‘dirty bomb’, like any isotope it would cause a contamination issue – but there are a lot more radioactive isotopes out there that would be easier to get hold of and would have a much greater effect.

“It’s definitely a possibility that this could have been some form of reconnaissance or dry run to test how the security was operating during the industrial action.”

Mr Ingram said that while the discovery of the uranium was concerning, there was some comfort to be found in the fact that even a small amount had been successfully identified during routine checks at Heathrow.

Well, yes, except depleted U wouldn’t normally be detected in the usual sort of radioactive sensors. Someone runs a Feuss over it then it’s obvious, obviously.

It is understood the uranium was contained within metal bars, and experts have said it is “pretty much unheard of” to ship scrap metal around the world by air freight because of the cost.

Depends which metal. But as at the top, fair point except for some real funnies.

Oh, and as to dirty bombs, he’s quite right. You’d not, by preference use U anyway. One of the medially used isotopes would be far preferable. The stuff made by a U fusion explosion that is, not the U itself – or something close at least.

17 thoughts on “Uranium theories”

  1. U fission explosion, shurely? If you have enough energy to get stuff with atomic mass in the 230s to fuse then you really don’t need to be playing with dirty bombs!

  2. And should we assume that “would” at the beginning should be “wouldn’t”? You don’t have editors, do you?

  3. Since the junk’s supposed to have come from Pakistan, maybe some would-be terrorist wanted to cause a fuss. Or maybe someone thought they could make a few quid from the scrap.

    Or perhaps some kid just wanted to brag that he had a bit of a nuclear reactor??

  4. I find the idea of anyone at the Met knowing anything whatsoever about metals highly amusing. They wouldn’t understand what you were talking about if you spent an hour explaining it. Their expertise is on what transsexuals find threatening in Twatter posts.

  5. Doing expert advice on metals for City (and Devon and Cornwall, I think) was fun. Having to go right back to the beginning to explain why rare earths simply were not a consumer or retail investment that could possibly work. This being something that those selling such should’ve known……

  6. Accidental contamination?

    Some years ago a quantity of lead was found to be radioactive because the lead had been recovered and melted down, from scrap in a South American Country, and among the scrap had been a junked, obsolete radiotherapy machine (which had a high lead content) with its (unnoticed) radioactive isotope still in situ in its lead shielding. A little goes a long way.

    The contaminated lead found its way into lead-rubber sheeting in radiation protection apparel used in hospital radiology departments in USA & Europe, which rather than protecting from X-radiation became an X-ray & gamma source. Oops.

  7. Bit of doublethink here.
    U238 harmless, that’s why we sprayed it all over Iraq (and Iraqis) from chain-guns. No problem.
    U238 deadly, contaminated scrap means we are all DOOMED! Cap’n Mainwaring!

    PS Anybody in the Met panicking about crashing Boing aircraft? (I forget the model, but one of the poular ones). They have U238 weights at the back. So after-crash fire, and that’s uranium oxide dust well distributed to breath in. Just the place for an alpha emitter.

  8. Tim: That was my pondering as well. Depleted uranium is, well, depleted of the useful radioactive bits, that’s what ‘depleted’ means. I would expect it to be the left-over U238 annoying waste left over from extracting the useful U235. Until somebody realised that being almost twice as dense as lead makes it ideal as bullets, it was just annoying waste.

  9. Scarp dealers are absolutely paranoid about radioactivity entering the chain. For this very reason – also, you then have to throw the furnace away as well……

  10. Industrial gamma emitters (Ir 192) are housed in a depleted uranium casing to protect the technician.
    The clue is in “depleted”.

  11. “He told The Telegraph: “If you were to use depleted uranium in a ‘dirty bomb’, like any isotope it would cause a contamination issue”

    It’s actually nice to see this sort of advice being given out by dickheads, it makes me feel safer knowing that someone will waste their time planning a terrorist attack this way. U238 has a half life of something like 4 million years? Heavy metal poisoning in large concentrations, yes I’ll buy that one. Radioactive contamination? Not so much.

    ‘Like any isotope’ I need to start a business offering a C14 purge. Isotopes are dangerous, you know.

  12. Is this part of the airport staff going on strike, would certainly be an incentive to talk up the story from a non-event to nuclear catastrophe

  13. You wouldn’t use DU in a dirty bomb because it is, for all practical purposes, inert.

    Sufficiently inert that tankers – as it’s on the armor itself of the tank – aren’t radiation monitored.

    There’s more danger from heavy metal poisoning than from the radiation.

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