Nuclear agency downplays risks over lost items
The Toronto Star Tue 02 Jul 2002
Five of 11 containers of dangerous radioactive material that have disappeared over the past 12 months in Canada are still missing.
The sealed containers - ranging in size from a thimble to a golf ball - were all inside industrial devices which used the radioactive rays to measure everything from the density of concrete roadwork to the soundness of pipeline welds.
Multiple locks and lead shielding guard the radioactive material from tampering and protect users from exposure, said asenior official at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
"In several cases these emit gamma rays. They're pretty dangerous if someone doesn't know what they're doing,"said Tom Viglasky, the official in change of regulating nuclear substances at the commission.
But the agency says there is no evidence that either organized crime or terrorists are behind the disappearance of any of the 31 devices containing radioactive material reported lost since 1996. All but seven of those have been recovered, a total that includes the five from the past year.
"The devices are generally stolen from construction sites or trucks by someone who has no idea what's in that suitcase-sized box. When they see the yellow-and-black radioactive trefoil symbol, they usually dump the devices by the side of the road," said Viglasky.
The nuclear safety officials were responding to recent warnings from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog that the radioactive materials needed to make a "dirty bomb" can be found in almost every country around the world because of the widespread use of radiation- emitting devices in industry and the health field.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is pushing for mandatory cradle-to-grave controls over the most powerful radioactive materials to thwart so-called dirty bombs, which would use conventional explosives to spread small amounts of radioactive material over a wide area.
Currently, there is no binding international agreement for regulating such radioactive materials, as there is for the much more powerful substances inside nuclear reactors.
U.S. authorities recently claimed to have foiled a plot to explode a dirty bomb there.
The materials of most concern to the IAEA are cobalt-60, strontium-90, caesium-137 and iridium-192.Two of the missing Canadian radiation devices held small amounts of caesium-137 and three others contain krypton-85, a gas considered less dangerous.
Canada's track record stacks up well internationally. Since 1996, American companies have lost track of almost 1,500 sealed radiation sources, compared to 31 over the same period in Canada.
Yesterday's CTV News Current Affairs program with Lloyd Robertson, "Closer watch being kept on world's nuclear material," quoted CNSC's Tom Viglasky as saying that "We've lost, in Canada, approximately thirty sources. All except six have been recovered," and added that "Canadian regulators insist Canada is not one of the 100 [inadequate security] countries, but say low-level radiation devices are missing."
Presumably, by "low-level" they don't mean smoke detectors or thorium lamp mantles or welding rods....
Anyone know where one could find more details on the ~30 lost sources and the 6 still missing ? ....and why they haven't been recovered ? ( could some of them be Am/Be well logging souces which were lost at the bottom of an oil drilling hole, and simply can not be recovered ?).