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Dirty bombs

Radioactive Medical Devices Could be Used to Make Dirty Bombs

Thursday, January 15, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: dirty bombs, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) The radioactive devices used in medical centers across the country could pose an attractive target for terrorists seeking to make dirty bombs, according to a report by a panel of the U.S. National Research council.

In a report commissioned by Congress, the council suggests phasing out the 5,000 most radioactive medical devices in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the 1,300 radionuclide devices that use radioactive cesium chloride.

Cesium chloride contains the high-activity radionuclide cesium-137.

"We think it is possible to get rid of most of the 5,000 high-activity radiation devices over the next 10 to 20 years if there was a national policy to encourage it," panel chair Theodore L. Phillips said.

These 5,000 devices, using eight different radionuclides, account for 99 percent of the highest security risk radioactivity sources in the United States, the report concluded. Of these eight radionuclides, the one of most concern is cesium-137 in the form of cesium chloride.

The report recommends that the federal government stop licensing, importing or exporting new cesium chloride irradiators, and that it provide incentives for older devices to be phased out.

Cesium chloride is regularly used and stored in large quantities in major U.S. cities, the report noted. Because there is no permanent waste disposal infrastructure in place for the compound, it is likely that used cesium-137 will remain stored in unsafe locations. This problem is expected to worsen as many older devices reach the end of their useful lives in the next few years.

"The presence of these sizable sources in areas that are potentially attractive targets [for attack] is a major factor making radioactive cesium chloride such a concern to the committee," the report reads.

Because cesium chloride is both water soluble and highly dispersible, it would be particularly dangerous is strapped to regular explosives to make a "dirty bomb." If inhaled or ingested, the compound delivers a dose to the entire human body.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that while the radiation from dirty bombs poses a relatively minimal health risk compared to the explosive itself, such bombs might cause panic and severe economic consequences.

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