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[cdn-nucl-l] Plutonium stays in urine for up to 20 years!
Posted on ABC news on March 5, 2002 and at:
Amazing new test...
Body Fluid Could Reveal al Qaeda's Nuclear Secrets
L I V E R M O R E, Calif., March 5 - War detainees at the Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, facility may reveal whether Osama bin Laden was working on a
nuclear weapon - without even opening their mouths.
In a major security breakthrough, a Bay Area research facility has
developed a test on bodily fluids that can detect plutonium exposure as
far back as 20 years.
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Lab say the assumption is that
terrorists living in caves are not likely to have clean labs, or even
the knowledge, to prevent at least some contamination while handling
"If you inhale it, it will eventually get in your bone, get into your
liver, and those become long-term sources for the leaching of this out
of your system, probably over your lifetime," explained environmental
chemist John Knezovich.
Plutonium is one of the key elements used to make nuclear weapons. The
test turns a urine sample into a powder, which scientists then insert
into a cylinder and run on through a spectrometer.
Analysts would then look for samples with above-average plutonium
"Due to above-ground atomic testing, we all have a little tiny bit of
plutonium in us whether we like it or not," said Knezovich. "And the
issue becomes a statistical one, as to when we can tell that level of
plutonium apart from someone who has actually handled the material."
100 Times More Sensitive Than Current Tests
The new test is 100 times more sensitive than any other existing method
for the detection of plutonium, and hundreds of samples can be processed
at a time, at a cost of about $2,000 per specimen.
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Lab says they're also very close to
developing a second test, which would detect uranium, a radioactive
material also used in the creation of nuclear weapons.
The idea, they say, is to run the two tests in conjunction to give
officials a better sense of whether or not al Qaeda terrorists were
working with such materials.
U.S. officials say al Qaeda operatives have tried repeatedly to obtain
nuclear weapons and nuclear material. To date, there is no hard evidence
However, it was learned this week that U.S. officials were concerned in
October that terrorists had stolen a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb from
Russia, and were ready to detonate it in New York City.
That threat turned out to be unfounded.
ABCNEWS affiliate KGO in San Francisco contributed to this report.