July 05, 2007

The alarmism spreads

The U.S. blogs pick up the irresponsible Canadian missing radioactive devices stories discussed below. Just great.

Here's a tip: if someone doesn't know the difference between a "radioactive device" and a "nuclear device," hey, they're probably too stupid for you to trust on public security issues.

So is anyone going to tell us how many similar devices (almost all small gauges, etc. with trivial amounts of radioactive material) have gone missing in the US? Would you believe 30,000? Wouldn't it have been nice if the reporters had mentioned that little statistic?

I'll try to say this one more time: if you want to make a serious dirty bomb, you need a gamma emitter in the 20 curie-plus range. Those can be found in basically three places: scientific research, medical radiological applications, oil well-drilling (with food irradiation as a potential fourth). Very few if any have gone missing in North America in the last decade. And if people in these industries are not observing comparable security precautions that they would customarily use for highly toxic compounds, biological threats, or their dynamite shed, respectively, they should be fired, or locked up. But panicking over a missing low-yield device like a moisture-density gauge is stupid, stupid, stupid.

You know what would be really cool? If either Defence R&D Canada or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission had put anything on their own websites to clarify public understanding on these issues, sparked by their handing over information to reporters that is being taken wildly out of context. But no, they'd apparently much prefer to just go about their business and let everyone else run around in a panic. Thanks, federal government agencies, for doing your job!

Posted by BruceR at 05:45 PM