back to article Securo-prof claims to invent new, much deadlier dirty bomb

Researchers from King's College London have raised the spectre of a new terrorist technique which would "kill an order of magnitude more people than a dirty bomb" and is "likely to incite considerably more fear". Writing in securo-thinktank journal Survival (short digest here - full article requires payment), James Acton, M …


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  1. Nano nano

    Weapons of mass distraction

    A war on terror - the abstract noun - might begin with keeping these scare stories in check.

  2. ReallyEvilCanine

    Why not just block the fire exits and do a bit of arson?

    Because killing one person and contaminating a couple hundred with radioactivity is considerably scarier than a plain old fire. The object isn't the number of deaths, it's the reaction to it. A fire in a theatre is sad; a little cæsium or polonium out in the Bad Guys' hands is scary as hell, never mind the fact that death due to the former scenario is much more likely and common than that due to the latter.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know what...

    Just shut up about the rational ways of maximising killage by using easily available items. Incompetent terrorists might just be watching. If they realise that they are wasting their time acquiring explosives, red mercury etc., they will be considerably more dangerous.

  4. RichardB

    Sounds a bit like

    the prof has spent too long theorising about T.W.A.T. and not enough time on the practical...

  5. Tawakalna

    irresponsible scaremongering nonsense..

    ..but in the times of the Politics of Fear, our erstwhile masters have to do something to maintain their authority and control, and the scaremongering becomes more extreme, more bizarre; but when the most attention and authority is given to those with the darkest visions, to the point where we end up in the crazy situation that because one can imagine a thing it becomes a reality.

    don't forget that all these security experts, politicos, coppers etc have to justify their positions and huge salaries. No doubt some Pakistani youth club will now be raided by a TAU operation because they have a flourescent clock that contains radium that "could" be used in a terrorist plot! bit like my kid's Crayola crayons got confiscated by security at Stanstead because it "could" have been a terrorist plot to blow up the Easyjet flight to Malaga. The poor little mite couldn't even finish his "Where's Osama?" colouring book...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Because the name of the game is "Terror", not "Killing people"

    The reason soaking people in radiation unawares is more useful to terrorists is that it has the desired effects:

    * It scares people more, even if only a couple of them die

    * People are more afraid of dangers they can't see than those they can

    * "1000 people sprayed with deadly liquid" makes a better headline than "2 people killed by bad chicken", even if the same 2 people die in the end

    * Since those who don't die will often become ill, it becomes an ongoing news story giving lots of free publicity

    * As the Register has seen before, scaring people with nonsense (like liquid A/B explosives in an airplane toilet) is just as effective as actually blowing them up. It's disruptive and gets press.

    The term "mediapathic", popularized by Neal Stephenson in "Zodiac", is the perfect one to explain all this. Dirty bombs are just more mediapathic than a poisoned chicken.

  7. Rob Crawford



    to me this is sounding like somebody who wants some grant money, and mention of the Terrorism (hence forth known as the "T word") & Radiation should ensure a couple of years wandering around the capitol checking his free lunches for radioactive isotopes

  8. Nick Smith


    "Researchers from King's College London have raised the spectre of a new terrorist technique which would "kill an order of magnitude more people than a dirty bomb" and is "likely to incite considerably more fear"."

    An order of magnitude more than zero. What's that, I wonder?

    Just by telling me this has made me much more scared to walk down the street. Could we therefore now consider these 'scientists' as terrorists and pack them off to Guantanamo?

    I'll get my hat (tinfoil - to keep the alpha radiation away)

  9. Dan Paul

    "Terror" only exists in the mind of the beholder, stay out of my mind!

    It is high time that ALL journalists examine their motivations for their reporting of the "War on Terror", Dirty Bombs, Anthrax Scare, etc etc.

    Really folks, you and your corporations are only helping the cause of terrorism by reporting stories such as this one. The majority of the populace is either too stupid or ignorant, to tell the difference between what is a real threat or an imagined one.

    It is bad enough that politicians regularly use Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt for their personal gain; but Journalists are supposed to be on OUR side. There are enough neurotics and phobics in this world as it is. Did you see the paniced peple in New York City when the steam line ruptured? Someone even died of a heart attack from their own fears of "terrorist attack".

    I forsee that someone, somewhere; will sue a building owner for mental anguish because the sprinkler system went off and the bloody hypochondriac "victim" thinks it's a terrorist attack instead of an impromptu bath. Some equally stupid judge will award the "victim" millions.

    People already have a fit when someone spills a little talcum powder in a public place. Don't bother trying to take your foot powder, shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste or other cosmetic or healthcare products on a plane.

    Please don't help create more ways for people to be afraid. And don't try to hide behind the excuse that you are "reporting the news" or that you have a "public duty" to "inform the people". There is no real threat that this isotope poisoning will happen, it isn't wise to give bad people good ideas and it all boils down to irresponsible reporting.

    In the case of this story, the phrase "Ignorance is Bliss" couldn't be more appropriate.

  10. Steve

    Burn baby burn

    "Because killing one person and contaminating a couple hundred with radioactivity is considerably scarier than a plain old fire"

    And thus we learn that you have never been in a burning building.

    Besides which, fire is one of man's oldest fears, it would only take a few such incidents to be instigated and claimed by some Al-Q variant psychos before public meeting places were deserted.

    Sounds pretty effective to me, and as the article states, much less effort.

    But then, I *have* been in a burning building, something which is a damn site more frightening than some theoretical blue sky wankage like posioning the water supply with caesium.

  11. Dillon Pyron

    You don't even have to kill anybody

    How many people in the US died from eating contaminated Peter Pan peanut butter? I had almost finished my jar when the warnings came out. And I had been giving Toby (my Corgi) his meds with it for several months.

    But people panicked.

    This latest report is sure to spark fear in the hearts of the great unwashed masses. "Oh, oh, something with a .00001 probability of happening just might have a .0001 probability of killing me. I'll run and hide right after I finish eating this fat and cholesterol laden Big Mac and extra large fries."

  12. M. Burns Silver badge

    more than one 911 per month

    In 2004, the last year for which I have figures, 42,636 people were killed in automobile accidents in the US. That is 3553 deaths in the US per month, or more than one 911 per month. This happens month in and month out, year after year.

    While no one would use the above statistic to argue that we should accept unsafe roads just because we accept that death toll as part fo the cost of modern transportation, no one is using it as an argument to outlaw cars. As the author points out, it is really all about risk perception, not risk itself.

  13. heystoopid


    Suggestion , please read an Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry about the British A and H bomb tests in Australia , in one section it revealed that the British Scientists involved are fully aware that the damage claims are well and truly over hyped since they detonated well in excess of 321 of these so called dirty bombs including one involving 22 kilograms of chemically pure Plutonium !

    Further , a number of papers which had been previously released to the public on the illicit criminally insane activities of Government officials and so called scientists in deliberately contaminating innocent civilian residents in place called Hanford , Washington State , in the period from 1943 until 1989 with many various Radio Active Isotopes! The majority of the contamination was very deliberate and a small percentage was due to under funded poorly maintained rotten storage facilities failing , thus venting some of the hot contents to the atmosphere! The amount released by these venal and corrupt government officials would be far in excess of that which could available for your alleged insane random terrorist!

    Some 75,000 documents had been previously released for public consumption , when the old 30 year time limit expired , but since 2006 many have now been reclassified and made secret again , due to the paranoia of the BUSH/CHENEY Regime and are now unavailable from government archives whilst other self incriminating documents have been physically destroyed where possible !

    Perhaps this hype of the so called Terrorist Dirty Bomb , is a smokescreen to hide the fact that in the past 50 years so called democratically elected governments have detonated one on a regular basis back in the days of atmospheric bomb tests in the period from1945 until 1980(the last officially recorded one was by the Chinese) Although some of the more stupider tests were detonated above the 62 mile space limit , and that with the benefit of hindsight should have never been conducted in the first place!

    Further ,it is both illogical and highly improbable that any terrorist (or an insane lunatic for that matter)would be able to physically transport the central core of a Russian RBK nuclear reactor Chernobyl size to any country without it being detected or melting through any container due to overheating!

    Who indeed polices government officials when they are rotten to the core , ignore the oath when sworn in to the office and abuse the secrecy act to hide their war crimes , all in the name of freedom and democracy at their price?

  14. Roger Lee

    Just another movie plot terror scenario

    Anyone interested should take a look at Bruce Schneier's site ( He runs an annual competition for movie plot terror scenarios - This year the theme was terrorist plots whose prevention would stop air travel by requiring the forces of law and order to ban something without which air travel would not be possible. The lucky winner came up with a way to ban all water-based liquids from aircraft by the use of spectacles made of pure sodium, if memory serves, which seems at least as likely as the cæsium shower gel outlined by these unashamed grant hunters.

    More to the point, he has written some interesting essays on human perception of risk, and why we fear, for instance, child abduction more than motor vehicles, although child abduction is extremely rare whereas motor vehicles exact a daily death toll which would be described as unacceptable, were it not for the amount of votes that would be lost to any politician who dared to upset the motor lobby.

    My real concern about this is that terrorism (the threat of, rather than the fact) seems to be the latest cash cow for the security services. We already have the ludicrous "war on drugs" where far and away the largest beneficiaries are the afore mentioned forces of law and order, followed by organised crime. Much has been written about the drugs land grab perpetrated by what the newspapers call MI5 and MI6 at the end of the cold war in order to maintain their budgets - the war on terror seems to be much the same idea, but with the added benefit that some of those pesky civil liberties can be consigned to the wastebasket of history at the same time.

    I had little time for Margaret Thatcher, but her approach to terrorists (proper ones who knew how to build and detonate real bombs made of real explosives and live to tell the tale, rather than idiots who think you can buy explosives at a DIY store and only manage to kill themselves) seemed far more sane and socially acceptable than that of the current lot. Hasn't anyone noticed that more people are hurt and killed by lightning strikes than terrorists in the UK?

  15. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Good Luck...Scaremongers'r'us

    "to me this is sounding like somebody who wants some grant money,".... a lot easier if you're pushing terrorism for the System rather than pulling it out of the System. For that service you have to joint venture outside of the System and also abroad with foreign sympathetic partners, away from the Western terrorism generation centres ...Axes of Evil.

    The only real problem they have ...are a few well chosen Zero day Words, every day...... which simply ask pertinent questions which the System dare not answer for the damage that the Truth would do to them. It is a Shame that is made worse the longer ITs Solution, the Simple Truth, is kept hidden...... the Questions meticulously avoided and left unanswered.

    With hundreds and even thousands of billions being lost and written off by the big players and the only ones really suffering the hardship the ones who never had any money in the first place at the bottom of the pile, surely it tells you that it is a rigged game .... a crooked wheel, which the instant sharing of pertinent information and/or Intelligence exposes to Pragmatic Peer Review rather than Selective Vetting for BroadBandCast.

    To put that Gene Genie/Pandora back in the Box, you gotta Beta Deal with Pandora and her Mates in Order that you Exercise Financial Control again?

    Hmmm? Yes, probably a very good Idea in these Changing to Virtualisation Times.

  16. Rich

    Virtual terrorism

    If somebody organised a fake plot to steal isotopes from hospitals, they could probably get a sufficiently stupid government to ban radiotherapy. Which would kill thousands - many more than almost any weapon they could make.

    (BTW, I reckon El Reg could remove a lot of the purple ink sprayers from comments by deleting any comment which has excess capitalisation of nouns. No?)

  17. K7AAY

    Heinlein wrote about this in the Fourties.

    Go read SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY for a description of 'dust,' i.e., artificially-created lethal radioisotopes optimized for dispersal, by means so simple as dropping paper bags of the stuff out of airplanes.

    Robert A. Heinlein described this in 1940. Yeah, 1940, right after that narsty Mister Hilter had Hermann visit Coventry.

  18. Ian Davidson

    Two per cent?

    Not sure that reported 'Brazil incident' death rate of less than 2% (4 fatalities from 237 folks affected) sounds that horrendous given the numbers I hear associated with conventional IEDs in Iraq?

    Presumably there is more to this radiological terror stuff than meets the eye...

  19. Tom Cully


    Be afraid. Be very afraid. And while you're being afraid, remember that Nanny says to be in bed by 9pm, don't talk to arabs (they're all bad people), and don't worry about daddy, he'll be back from Questioning real soon. Nanny knows best. Now go hide under your bed covers.

    The objective of a terrorist is to terrorize:

    to terrorize - Transitive verb,Third person singular

    -to fill (someone) with terror; to terrify

    -to coerce (someone) by using threats or violence

    These days, it's hard to tell Nanny from the Big Bad Wolf.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point

    Dan Paul, you're missing the point of the article. This research will be publicised by the mainstream media anyway. Lewis's article gives the likes of you and me valuable information to explain to the chattering numpty scaredycats precisely why the good Professor's findings are just so much waste paper.

  21. Bruce H Woodfield

    Question -

    Is an insane lunatic different from a sane one?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I warned the FBI about this several years ago...

    Spice a few <insert favorite narcotic here> shipments with <insert bio-agent here> and watch the consumers keel over.....

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