November 30, 2007

Dirty bomb scare stuff, once again

I know I'm wasting my time saying this once again, but for the record, highly enriched uranium in any quantity is not useful for a radiological weapon... HEU is not a significant gamma emitter, and would likely not kill anyone by being dispersed through an explosion. (Plutonium's a different story.) HEU is dangerous because if uncontrolled it's a substance that could be used (if in quantities at least 30 times what was seized this week) by a trained nuclear bomb maker to make a much more dangerous kind of weapon. Also, radiation is scary to the uninformed, and panic can kill. But what was seized in the current situation, by itself, was still almost wholely benign.

Interesting note: if the current going price for criminally possessed HEU is really $3,500/g, that makes the entry cost for the smallest conceivable U-235-driven nuclear weapon somewhere above $50 million (some assembly required). In case you were ever curious what it would cost Dr. Evil to construct one.

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 AM