The following was sent in by Larry Grimm, one of our readers and a former Corpsman with 1st Recon Bn in Vietnam. -Peter Nealen
Recent reports of ISIS capturing uranium from a university have raised some alarms in the civilian community about the risk of a dirty bomb. The subject seems to come up every few years. I’d like to share some tips with you.
If you are concerned about a radioactive dirty bomb, please read my article here.
Written for a newspaper in a city near Camp Lejeune, in simple terms the article tells you what to do to keep you safe in the event of a dirty bomb. The article was directed at both Marines and the public. The common sense advice laid down will work just as well on the battlefield as here at home.
Emergency preparedness is a critical part of keeping us on the winning side and protecting our citizenry. Few people know it, but fortunately we do have fairly robust radiation defenses that were initially built during the Cold War and have vastly improved over the years. However no defense is perfect and so we need to remain vigilant. You all know we are in an asymmetric war. 9/11 proved this. Every citizen in the US should be thinking that they are a soldier in this war just like Israeli citizens do. We all need to step up and do our part just like Rosie the Riveter did in WWII. For my part in this war, I request that you share my article with your friends and family. It helps give them a skill set that reduces the fear factor that our enemies love to induce.
Possibly as much as 90 lb. of uranium was captured by ISIS. That is not very much. With the better part of my career having been in universities, I can be pretty sure that the 90 lbs is likely to be in all sorts of chemical forms that would make a poor dirty bomb. There are a lot more radionuclides that are far more dangerous and plentiful at a typical university (or hospitals and research facilities) which would make for better dirty bombs. However even the worst case scenario radionuclides are a poor WMD weapon and anyone who studies weapons of war knows this. I think I wrote the above article in 2004, and please note that we have yet to see a dirty bomb. Not to say it couldn’t happen…
I’m open to questions and comments and can give you the straight scoop about radioactive materials in layman’s language or as deeply scientific as you wish to go.
Larry Grimm served as a doc with 1st Recon in Vietnam at the tail end of its time there in ‘70-‘71. He went on to become a health physicist and worked at a number of major US universities and research/manufacturing facilities providing radiation safety services and safety training to thousands who used radioactive materials and other forms of radiation. “Dodging bullets was “interesting”, however dodging gamma rays was more fun – but then I’m a nerd”