Dirty bombs are conventional explosive devices combined with radioactive material, the aim being not only to kill. Maim and destroy property, but also to contaminate the area around the blast with radioactivity.
So far, dirty bombs are only a frightening theory – no one has ever detonated one – but security services worldwide are on constant watch for signs that someone may be trying to make and use one.
At today’s opening session of the Fourth Regional Review Meeting on Radiological Security Partnerships, presided over by Vice-Governor Somkiet Sangkhaosutthirak, five experts from Thailand and 35 from Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the United States met to discuss the latest developments.
Also represented were the Office of Atoms for Peace and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Over the four days of the conference, which runs until Friday, delegates will discuss aspects of the three main processes for ensuring nuclear security:
- Prevention of theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving radioactive material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities,
- Detection, with measures taken to control and protect nuclear and other radioactive material from falling into the wrong hands, and
- Response with training, education and radioactive technical assistance.
Bryan Reed of the US Global Threat Reduction Initiative told The Phuket News what he feels should be the priorities for Phuket and other holiday destinations in order to counter the threat of dirty bombs.
“We are trying to guard radioactive equipment such as body scanner and other medical equipment which contain radioactive material that might be stolen and use in making a dirty bomb.
“Not only can they use this radioactive material to make a dirty bomb, but also they can sell it to another country [that wishes] to cause serious damage to us.”
He said that in Mexico, medical equipment containing radioactive material was stolen but the thief was caught.
He noted that despite the arrest and the recovery of the material, the authorities still could not pinpoint who the intended ultimate recipient of the material was.
Asked whether the meeting had been prompted in part by the unrest in Bangkok, he said it had not. “It has nothing to do with what is happening in Bangkok. I don’t have an opinion on that matter.”
Brian Waud of the Office of Nuclear Security at the IAEA said, “We have 180 members all over the world who cooperate in our radioactive source security.
“We realized that if a dirty bomb were to be detonated, it would have a costly impact on the environment from contamination, depending on the type of material used.
“Our objective is to continue to develop our cooperative network in detection and prevention [to safeguard] radioactive sources from theft and sabotage attempts.
“We need to train participants to secure their radioactive sources [in the most efficient ways possible].”