Check out our new channel!

Home News Articles News Releases Classified Ads Techpapers Links Contact US Media Kit

"Candy Store" for Terrorists

Written by
Steve Fowler, May 15, 2003

The Rad Journal first reported that the storage of Cesium was a security problem across the USA. See: Decommissioning and Disposal Options for Cesium-137 Blood Irradiators at;

This week Lisa Myers of MSNBC News reported that there also exist many unguarded beryllium and radioactive americium sources for terrorists to get their hands on materials to make dirty bombs.

Lisa, in the May 12th report stated that enough beryllium and radioactive americium for terrorists to build a significant dirty bomb was being ineffectively stored inside rusty containers in Austin, Texas. They were seized by Texas authorities last month from a private firm, fearing they'd fall into the wrong hands.
Americium is widely used in smoke detectors and is produced in large quantities. Beryllium has many uses; when combined with other metals to form alloys, it's used in integrated circuits, golf clubs and other goods. The metal is also be used in missile-guidance systems, rockets and satellites.

Lisa reported that several U.S. businesses and universities, concerned over security, told NBC News they have repeatedly asked the U.S. Department of Energy to take leftover radioactive material, only to be rebuffed.

NBC News obtained a new report by congressional investigators at the General Accounting Office indicating it wouldn't be difficult for a would-be terrorist to obtain radioactive waste, which can be packed into an explosive device and dispersed in an explosion.

Lisa reported that David Kay, a former UN Inspector, said, "The Department of Energy, at least, has not gotten the lessons of 9-11. The lesson of 9-11 is that terrorists may come to our shores and collect the instrument of their terror here."

The GAO report finds the department has not yet recovered 4,380 sources of radioactive material it knows of including enough plutonium 239 to make two crude nuclear bombs and does not even know how many more potentially dangerous materials are out there.

Ms. Myers reported that Sen. Daniel Akaka, the Hawaii Democrat who ordered the report, said the situation is appalling. Anyone, including terrorists, may be able to obtain the materials, he said. Fairly easily, yes.


The nonpartisan GAO concluded that securing the radioactive materials is not a priority for the department and the program to recover the materials did not receive full funding.

Energy Department officials declined an interview with Lisa at NBC News, but were reported to have stated they have recovered more than 6,000 sources of radioactive material in the last two years, and that they have enough money to do the job. Still, many universities complain they are stuck with dangerous materials because the U.S. government claims that a facility at Los Alamos can't take any more of the material.

Lisa reported that Andy Karam, a radiation safety official with the University of Rochester said. "We shouldn't be asked to hang onto a source at a university that could potentially pose a security risk."

The report also charges that the Energy Department has made no progress in building a permanent disposal site for radioactive materials something it was ordered to do 17 years ago.

Related articles:

Decommissioning and Disposal Options for Cesium-137 Blood Irradiators at