The Rad Police are out there.

Edohiguma called a tentative “bs” on this story.

Edo, in this case your gut was almost certainly wrong.  Folks given rad materials are vastly more radioactive than their surroundings.  Assuming they’re “fresh out of the oven”, they are 1000x or more “hotter” than the surroundings.

When I was working at Brookhaven National Labs, we had a shipment of medical isotopes delayed because the driver was “caught” by NY state police.  (This was after 9-11).  The cop’s gamma detector alarmed when the delivery man drove by.

In fact, this really isn’t uncommon.  If someone’s had a medical radioisotope treatment, they will set off our local alarms.  The only reason cops are seeing it now is because they didn’t have rad instruments until after 9-11.

About wormme

I've accepted that all of you are socially superior to me. But no pretending that any of you are rational.
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7 Responses to The Rad Police are out there.

  1. Edohiguma says:

    Well, it shows why hunches and gut feelings aren’t valid evidence. This is why we have science. Proper science.

  2. SeanB says:

    Bet a lot of trucks with bananas have been pulled over as well.

    • wormme says:

      Probably not…the rad content in bananas is high for food, but the specific activity is very low. A shipment of Coleman lantern mantles might do it, or Fiesta Ware, of course.

  3. waytoomanydaves says:

    Hey WORM, will these new detectors spot a “nuclear device” (read: weapon) or related materials, say, through the side of a container ship? And do you think they are actually being used to look for nuclear terrorists, as opposed to just being used to harass cancer patients?

    • wormme says:

      Yes, I’m pretty sure they mean to find dirty bombs, not medical procedures. But simple dose meters can’t distinguish between the two. When I was working at Brookhaven National Labs (this was a year or two after 9-11) a courier got stopped on his way out to our site. He was delivering isotopes to a research facility because BNL’s production cyclotron was shut down for some reason. So he had a lot of activity in the trunk of his car. A passing cop was paying attention to his newly-issued radiation detector, and it was obvious that that courier was transporting nuclear material. The cop stopped him, he explained, and either the cop was satisfied or he confirmed the story.

      And no; hand-held gamma instruments are lousy at finding actual nuclear bombs. They’d have to be right on top of one to see its relatively slight emissions. Big neutron meters are better, due to neutrons having essentially no background rate on the Earth’s surface. But those aren’t something you’d issue to patrol cops, for several reasons.

  4. Edohiguma says:

    If you’re wondering, my train of thought was this:

    Sure, they’re hot after medical application, but hot enough to actually “bleed radiation”, through their car doors, across distance of… maybe 1-1.5 yards, into the police car, and to pop up on their device? Not to mention the short time during passing. That made me question the story.

    And I do question the logic on putting such devices into the hands of cops. Not because cops are stupid, but how is this going to stop a terror team. It’s not. Some cop on the road won’t stop a highly determined group or individual. The entire anti-terror system in the US and Europe is pulled up wrong. We should do it like the Israelis do it. Cause that is working.

    • wormme says:

      You are a perfect outside observer. The answer to “hot enough” is…absolutely. The instruments the cops are given probably measure in “counts per minute”, where each count is one single photon or particle. When people get medical uptakes we don’t measure in those terms. They are so hot we don’t use “counting” instruments, we use dose rate meters. The two are orders of magnitude apart.

      I once blew the mind of a roommate of mine who’d gotten a medical radioisotope treatment. I got on the other side of the house from him, turned on my “frisker” (Geiger counter), and slowly walked toward him. I won’t forget the expression on his face as that instrument screamed to my approach.

      Your questioning the value of outfitting cops with rad meters is perfectly valid. It depends on the “highly determined” group’s weapon of choice. A gamma-emitting dirty bomb could be found by a chimp. An actual nuke? Nope.

      So…it’s possible that this setup could pay off, though I’ve never heard of it doing so and “dirty bombs” are better at scaring people than killing them. As for your final point, I couldn’t agree more.

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