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Re: [cdn-nucl-l] Mail Irradiation - AECL sale of IMPELA - connection?
Would there be some danger of radiation from some of the metallic films on
cards or tinfoil used in packages?
Would the process require some pre-filtering of the mail to separate out
potential X-ray hazards, or has this already been considered?
Brian Alan Mason
-- Original Message -----
From: Adam McLean <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2001 9:48 AM
Subject: [cdn-nucl-l] Mail Irradiation - AECL sale of IMPELA - connection?
I recall an announcement just recently that AECL sold it's IMPELA electron
accelerator line to a private company. Now a potentially HUGE new market
has just recently opened up - irradiation of mail. This could mean the use
of dozens (or more?) of accelerators at major mail hubs across the
continent! Is there a connection or did the deal happen just a few weeks
early for AECL to step in and see the $$$?
Anthrax postal mortem
October 24th, 2001
Message to Tom Ridge on safer mail delivery
Dear Gov. Ridge: I was thrilled by your appointment as director of
homeland security, anxious to have a man of action,
a hard-nosed former Marine, take over the reins of domestic security.
You were quiet the first few days, then held a press conference last
week to discuss the anthrax bio-terrorism crisis that has hit America in the
national solar plexus. More than 2,000 postal workers have been put on
antibiotics and four postal workers who handled the anthrax dosed letter to
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle letter have come down with inhalation
anthrax, two of whom have died.
This may be only the beginning. Not only anthrax, but even more fatal
pathogens can infect unsuspecting Americans in the future - all through the
simple expedient of a 34 cent stamp.
What did we hear at your press conference?
Your colleague from the postal service looked squarely at millions of
Americans and without missing a beat, told us, "The mail is safe."
In my decades of covering Washington, I have heard many ludicrous
statements from politicians, but none so outrageous as this.
The mail is safe?
For the first time since the war of 1812, the House closed down
prematurely because of danger. When the letter to Mr. Daschle was opened,
out came a powdery plume which immediately exposed 28 of his employees to
the disease bacteria. There was danger that the ventilation system that
handled the offices of 12 senators could spread the disease wholesale.
The mail is safe for whom? For terrorists, of course.
What is the government - particularly the Office of Homeland Security -
doing about it?
The postal service is sending out postcards to tell us how to handle
"suspicious" letters. That is not the answer. Several postal workers and
others have contracted cutaneous anthrax just by touching contaminated
unopened envelopes. (Disposable rubber gloves are more helpful than the
The FBI is searching for the culprits, but that is not enough. Even if
they are caught, other terrorists can initiate new bioterrorism attacks
through the mail.
The trouble is that we are fighting a high-tech war in Afghanistan but
a low-tech war at home. Almost since the first anthrax attack, we have known
there is a high-tech method of "zapping" the mail and killing all bacteria.
The technique has been developed by SureBeam, a subsidiary of the Titan
Co. run by a Ph.D. in physics. (I don't own any stock in the company.) They
are in the business of killing bacteria on a mass basis in both ground beef
and on medical supplies before they reach doctors and hospitals.
I interviewed the CEO, who says he could start sanitizing the mails
"tomorrow" in two of his five establishments. The technique is not
radioactive, but runs on harmless electricity. A linear accelerator speeds
up the emission of electrons into a beam that zaps the bacteria on a moving
conveyor belt without harming the mail. The company has tested the
anthrax-killing system for the Defense Department and has proved that it
works and is totally safe. (The workers would wear special clothing to
protect them from anthrax in the mail and would receive combat pay.).
"We could handle the mail in 9-inch high stacks and move it about 2
feet in a minute," he explained.
The cost? He estimates that it would add only a penny or two to the
price of a stamp.
Immediately, we should start to ship our Washington, then our New York,
mail to the electron beam centers before it is delivered to our post
offices. Meanwhile, we should start building linear accelerator units on a
regional basis all over the country to handle all the mail - making it truly
I know this is a radical solution requiring a total change in our mail
delivery system. but these ar days of radical, unanticipated challenges.
Besides, it is the only feasible long-range solution.
What is he negative aspect of this plan? Merely that you'll get your
bills a day or two later.
I know you haven't been given the authority to properly do your job as
director of homeland security. But I do know a frightened bureaucracy can
start to move if someone really kicks butt.
If this were World War II, the system would be started in days. But
today, in a world of slothful bureaucracies, you will have your hands full
trying to get domestic security moving. The Immigration and Naturalization
Service, for example, the visa program of the State Department and
especially the Federal Aviation Administration are almost dysfunctional when
it comes to homeland security.
They are tough nuts to crack, but in this bio-terrorism-by-mail crisis,
you have a clear shot at forcing the Postal Service to use modern science to
make the mail truly safe.
Please don't let me, and the American people, down.
Electrons may alter some mail
©New York Times
© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 26, 2001
The decision by the U.S. Postal Service to try using electron beams to kill
harmful organisms in the mail prompted a debate among experts about the
possible effect on everything from shipped eyeglasses to cookies.
Postal officials said Thursday that the service had started sanitizing mail
to the government at an Ohio plant.
But they said the service would not start routinely sterilizing mail until
tests ensured there was no significant damage to mailed goods or health
hazard to employees.
As companies scrambled to offer various systems to the postal service and to
private companies trying to cut the risk of anthrax assaults, experts said
the technology had potential, but they urged caution.
"Any time you generalize and say something is a cure all for everything that
ails you, you will overstep the technical limits and end up with egg on your
face," said Dr. Irwin A. Taub, an expert on food irradiation and a former
senior research scientist for the Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick,
The technology, known as ion beam sterilization, uses a particle accelerator
to produce beams of electrons, which are fired through mail. The electrons
disrupt the DNA of any living things they encounter, killing them.
Taub and others said they doubted that the process could be used on cartons
or bulky mail because the electrons would not penetrate deeply enough.
Experts generally agreed that food sent through the mail would not be
affected. No radiation or significant heat is generated in the process,
which is widely used to sterilize bandages, food containers, spices,
surgical supplies and food.
But the electrons that penetrate material to kill bacteria and spores also
could destroy electronic circuits and data on floppy disks, and they could
alter the inks in photographs, officials at some companies that build or
operate sterilizing equipment said.
The technique also could change some materials in unpredictable ways. For
example, electrons can bounce around inside minerals, including gemstones
and glass, in ways that change the color of the material.
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