Tuesday, March 21

Can a “dirty bomb” be created with remains of Chernobyl? | Digital Trends Spanish

Several media have pointed out that there are radioactive materials that have disappeared from the Chernobyl disaster site, which, according to experts, could be used to make a “dirty bomb”.

This would be a dreaded do-it-yourself weapon that would mix nuclear material with conventional explosives, and in this way, would give rise to a very perverse weapon to contaminate areas.

A scientist working for Ukraine’s Institute of Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP), who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, confirmed to New Scientist that the radioactive material was likely stolen from a radiation monitoring laboratory in the mostly abandoned city of Chernobyl.

The site was looted in the wake of the Russian invasion on February 24, which forced ISPNPP personnel away from its laboratories and power plant. The thieves are said to have taken samples of radioactive isotopes normally used to calibrate instruments and of radioactive waste from the wreckage of the 1986 disaster.

The loss of radioactive material was first reported by the journal Scienceand the anonymous source he spoke with New Scientist confirmed that article, stating that it is “accurate based on available information.”

In addition, the director of the ISPNPP, Anatolii Nosovskyi, told Science that it had lost contact with another nearby laboratory that had been harboring “powerful sources of gamma and neutron radiation,” meaning that “the fate of these sources is unknown.”

Satellite image of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine on March 10. Maxar Technologies/DigitalGlobe/Getty Images

This becomes worse considering the danger and uncertainty involved in an armed conflict between two nuclear powers.

Adding to the remote but terrifying possibility of a nuclear attack stemming from the conflict, Ukraine’s nuclear power plants have become a flashpoint, with experts saying Russia cut power at the site of the Chernobyl disaster and even impeded efforts to fight fires near it.

And in a broader sense, the drama for scientists shows the danger of a world with more and more nuclear material, much of which is unknown.

Thousands of other sites in Ukraine have radiological materials. Most are under the watchful eye of Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. “There is a lot of ongoing effort to secure the material,” said Peter Martin, a nuclear physicist at the University of Bristol who is collaborating with scientists at Chernobyl. That means, where possible, they plan to move sources into vaults and repositories.

But on the other hand, nuclear security expert Vitaly Fedchenko of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute pointed out that Ukraine, like other parts of the former Soviet Union, has not kept track of the entire nuclear legacy. Soviet. “There are many radioactive sources that are not on anyone’s radar. Even Ukraine’s radar,” he said.

An arched steel structure that protects the smoking remains of the Unit Four reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Now, contrary to scientific warnings, Bruno Merck from the University of Liverpool, UK, told New Scientist that there is no cause for concern about the stolen material, as it was not the correct type to create a nuclear weapon.

Plutonium or uranium is usually needed for such a weapon, but this material contains none, according to Merk. He says that the likely small amounts of material would have very limited use in building a dirty bomb.

Any items that might be found in the labs and offices around Chernobyl would be no more dangerous than materials used in medical equipment or on construction sites, Merk said.

“There are so many radioactive sources around the world. If someone wants to get their hands on this, there is an easier way,” she stated. “These radioactive sources can be stolen from all hospitals. It would always have been possible for someone to sneak in and steal something. I don’t see the risk being higher than it was before the Russians invaded,” she added.

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