If this article from Listverse is correct, the numbers are way too high for my comfort. Heck, any number is too high for me! I don't like the fact that so much of this stuff is unaccounted for. I get the same feeling when I hear about a shipment of deadly viruses disappearing during shipment.
Where Is All The Missing Nuclear Material?
From 1993 to 2013, there were 2,477 confirmed reports of either criminal or unauthorized incidents involving nuclear material. Of those, 424 were unauthorized possession and related criminal activities, 664 involved theft or loss, and 16 involved unauthorized possession of highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Some of those 16 incidents were attempts to sell or traffic uranium or plutonium across international borders.
But these were just the confirmed events reported by states participating in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Incident and Trafficking Database system. The frightening question is: Where is all the missing nuclear material for which we can’t account?
While the worst case scenario is a terrorist organization creating a portable nuclear device, many are also worried about “dirty bombs,” which are designed to deliberately spread a massive amount of radiation. Although experts believe that the radiation from such a device would cause only a small increase in the risk of cancer, the fear and economic repercussions would be far greater. Even if someone could obtain radioactive material, some experts believe that the risk of a dirty bomb is low because the resources required to create and transport such a bomb would be enormous.
Aside from lost material being used to create a bomb, there’s concern that people might inadvertently find radioactive material and mishandle it. In Thailand in 2000, someone discovered a locked box in a scrap pile, cut it open to see if the contents were valuable, and found a piece of radioactive material inside. In just a short time, the people who handled that cobalt received fatal doses of radiation.
Mexico has had four thefts of radioactive material since 2013. In at least one incident, the thieves inadvertently took a capsule of iridium-192 while stealing a van they thought was full of other goods. In addition to lost or stolen nuclear material, countries with high levels of poverty that have atomic programs run the secondary risk of accidental exposure, whether from bumbling thieves or innocent civilians.
It sounds to me as though someone needs better training on howe to protect and account for every bit of nuclear material we have. If more care isn't taken, sooner or later someone will pay a very high price, I'm thinking!
Coffee in the kitchen this morning.