Canada has discovered a problem in its management of radioactive devices — the darn things keep coming up missing. Either through theft or carelessness, or both, Canada has dozens of radioactive devices missing, and counterterrorism agents there are very worried (h/t: CQ reader Stoo):
Radioactive devices — some of which have the potential to be used in terrorist attacks — have gone missing in alarming numbers in Canada over the past five years.
A new database compiled by The Canadian Press shows that the devices, which are used in everything from medical research to measuring oil wells, are becoming a favoured target of thieves.
At least 76 have gone missing in Canada over the past five years — disappearing from construction sites, specialized tool boxes, and generally growing legs and walking away.
Some of the devices could be used in a “dirty bomb,” where conventional explosives are used to detonate nuclear material, spreading the contamination over a wide area, said Alan Bell, a security and international terrorism expert from Globe Risk Security Holdings.
This information isn’t new, but it is the first time it has been compiled into a database and reported. Of the 76 missing devices, 35 have been confirmed as stolen, and the rest have just disappeared from the system. In Canada, the various agencies that handle these devices do not coordinate control of them, which has caused some confusion as to how many of the unaccounted devices may have gone from official control.
How much damage could these devices do? The CP report suggests that one of these, strategically placed in a city like Toronto, could contaminate a 4-kilometer area, creating havoc and economic devastation. Officials in Canada heavily criticized the report, which named the site in question, asking why the CP wanted to give target analyses to potential terrorists, but it’s clear that anyone who stole one of these devices for the purposes of a terror attack would probably have some idea what to do with it.
However, if they didn’t, the CTV report at the link provides helpful graphics, just in case.
Obviously, the Canadian authorities need to improve their systems of security and accountability regarding these devices, and this provides a belated opportunity for all nations to do the same, including the US. In the meantime, we have to hope that the devices got stolen by either idiots who have no clue what they have, or honorable thieves that will only extort money from Ottawa to return them.
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