According to New Scientist the risk of somebody somewhere triggering a radioactive “dirty bomb” is growing.
The IAEA’s records, which it has released to New Scientist, show a dramatic rise in the level of smuggling of radiological materials, defined as radioactive sources that could be used in dirty bombs but not nuclear bombs.
In 1996 there were just eight of these incidents but last year there were 51. Most cases are believed to have occurred in Russia and elsewhere in Europe. Smugglers target the radioactive materials used in factories, hospitals and research laboratories, which are not guarded as securely as those used by the nuclear industry.
Since 1993, there have been 300 confirmed cases of illicit trafficking in radiological materials, 215 of them in the past five years. And the IAEA warns that the real level of smuggling may well be significantly larger, citing reports of a further 344 instances over the past 11 years which have not been confirmed by any of the 75 states that monitor illicit trafficking.