Skip to comments.Russian Scientist Surrenders Arms-Grade Plutonium (AP account)
Posted on 11/02/2004 12:32:29 PM PST by Nachum
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian atomic scientist surrendered eight containers filled with arms-grade nuclear material to police Tuesday after keeping it in his garage for eight years, Russian media reported.
Leonid Grigorov found the 14 ounces of plutonium-238 in a heap of rubbish at his laboratory near Russia's border with Kazakhstan, Itar-Tass news agency said.
Interfax news agency said the lab, looted after the Soviet collapse in 1991, was eventually closed and deserted.
Grigorov decided to hide the material, which could theoretically be used to make a "dirty bomb," in a box and only handed it in to local police after a newspaper offered a reward to anyone who surrendered weapons.
"As an expert, I knew that I had to (hide it) to avoid tragic consequences," Grigorov was quoted as saying.
Russia, with its huge nuclear arsenal, is under pressure to prevent dangerous atomic material from falling into the hands of extremists after the Soviet collapse left many nuclear facilities under-protected.
There is also speculation that individual nuclear scientists, underpaid since the Soviet collapse, may be secretly transferring sensitive technology to what Washington calls "rogue" states for cash. Russia denies such activity.
In a separate incident, 97 pounds of radioactive scrap metal was discovered in Chelaybinsk, Tass reported Tuesday.
The region is heavily polluted with radioactive material from its nuclear reactor and plants producing plutonium for atomic bombs. The local Mayak nuclear complex dumped 2.68 billion cubic feet of highly radioactive waste into a river between 1949 and 1956 and suffered an explosion in 1957, showering radiation over the southern Urals mountain region.
Tass said the discovery was the second such find in a week, although it did not say how big the earlier find was.
Experts said Grigorov's plutonium-238 is normally used to generate heat but, if mixed with other materials, could be used in a nuclear explosive device. It is much more radioactive than plutonium-239, a radio-isotope normally used in atomic bombs.
Security at hundreds of Russian nuclear sites became a big issue for the West after this year's discovery of a global nuclear black market run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that supplied technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Kerry will say we should have invaded Russia...
Has he accounted for his DeLorean yet?
"Eight point twenty one jigawats?! Tom, what was I thinking?!!!"
The former Soviet Union is a scary place. Especially with anything and everything being sold or just *lost*.
Got nuke material?
What else does he know, I wonder?
There is no "plutonium-238." U-238 (Uranium) is the naturally-occurring form and is not weapons-grade. Plutonium's atomic number is 244.
There is no "plutonium-238."
I'm so sure...
It is a manufactured material-like the previous post indicates
Pu-238, alpha emitter with half-life 86 yrs. Besides radiation, as a short-lifer would produce significant amount of heat, and one is talking of some 200g of it there. One would not need a overly massive lead shielding, but some sort of permanent cooling provision might be necessary.
ARGH. I hate it when I do that...
A little physics here, gentlemen.
Pu-238 is an isotope of plutonium. Like all plutonium isotopes, it is created in a nuclear reactor.
Pu-238 is radioactive BUT NOT fissile. That is, you cannot make a nuclear bomb out of it. No how, no way.
It is an alpha-emitter, which means it decays by emitting an alpha particle (Helium nucleus). Alpha decay is particularly dangerous from a biological standpoint, particularly if ingested or inhaled.
However, it is easy to shield against. A piece of paper would be sufficient.
200 grams is a moderate amount. Enough to make a small "dirty bomb". A very small one.
They used to use this stuff in pacemakers. It also powers the Cassini (sp?) spacecraft.
In short. Wrong.
The atomic number of Pu is 94. The atomic mass of Pu varies from 239 to 242. The type of Pu used in bombs (called weapons grade) is mostly Pu-239.
Pu-238 is used as a heat source. Typically for satellite power systems.
Ooops. A little to fast with the keys.
The atomic mass of Pu varies from 238 to 242.
He kept WMD in his garage for years? Surely WMD materials are huge, conspicuous things, easily visible to inspectors and the like....