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[cdn-nucl-l] How many people can RDDs kill?
The "concerns" about the rad health effects of 'dirty bombs' is growing.
The following is from "Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor" which is a
more credible source to some key people.
There are statements and "fact sheets" from government agencies, but what
analyses support these results?
(Interestingly, this is one of the few public reports that reflect the fact
that RDDs can include non-explosive dispersion.)
Regards, Jim Muckerheide
09 September 2004
The radiological threat widens
By Andy Oppenheimer
Experts have reassessed the threat posed by radiological dispersal devices,
or dirty bombs and they conclude that the threat is far greater than
previously imagined. Poor international regulation makes it relatively easy
for terrorists to acquire radioactive material.
Many experts now believe that the terrorist use of radiological dispersal
devices (RDDs or 'dirty bombs') would not merely constitute a weapon of
disruption capable of inflicting economic damage, but that some forms of
radiological attack could also kill tens or hundreds of people and sicken
hundreds or thousands. This is in marked contrast to earlier assessments
that concluded that an RDD would be unlikely to cause death or injury beyond
the area immediately destroyed by the high explosives.
RDDs are devices using conventional explosives to spread radioactive
material over a large area, exposing people to both internal and external
radiation doses. Costly clean-up is required and access to buildings and
contaminated areas would be denied. The radioactive materials are readily
available for medical or commercial use. They include, primarily, cobalt-60,
strontium-90, cesium-137, iridium-192, radium-226, plutonium-238,
americium-241, and californium-252. Uranium would not be much use in a RDD
as, unlike cesium and cobalt isotopes, it has extremely low radioactivity
and can only cause injury if ingested or inhaled. Nevertheless, people would
probably still be unwilling to enter an area that had been contaminated with
uranium or anything else connected with radioactivity.
Much depends on the amount and type of radioactive material used.
Radioactive isotopes can also be spread widely with or without high
explosives. Disruption will always be the result, but casualty levels and an
increase in cancer risk are variable. The shorter the half-life - the amount
of time it takes for half of the atoms in a given sample to decay - the more
intense the radiation. Cesium-137, for example, has a half-life of 30 years.
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