Friday, August 24, 2007

From the WTF File: Missing Uranium?!?

From comes this item. Should I be surprised?

BEIJING — Authorities said that 17 pounds of weapons-grade uranium disappeared and that a verdict in the trial of four men accused of trying to sell the radioactive material will be delayed until it is found, state media reported Friday.

The report was the first public word that uranium was missing.

The defendants said they did not know where the uranium was because it had been moved around so much between potential buyers, the China Daily newspaper reported.

The uranium was typesU-235 and U-238, both of which can be used to make nuclear weapons. Prolonged exposure to the radioactive material can cause cancer.

Defendant Zhang Sangang said he met a uranium mine owner in April 2005 and offered to be a middleman. The owner said he wanted $26,400 per kilogram, and that Zhang could keep the difference if he found someone willing to pay a higher price, the report said.

The three other defendants joined Zhang in his plan, and one of them met a businessman in the city of Guangzhou who said he knew someone willing to pay $210,000 for a kilogram of the uranium, the newspaper said, citing testimony in Guangzhou's Tianhe District Court.

Uranium is about 1.7 times the density of lead. We are talking about an amount of fissile material small enough to fit in a suitcase. Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, contained roughly eight times the amount lost in China. However, Little Boy used the "gun method" of intitiating the chain reaction, a very inefficient conversion of mass to energy.

Seventeen pounds, or about eight Kg, is enough to kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions.