The government just released some of the henious plot by Jose Padilla, US Citizen arrested and held extra-constitutionally for months, accused of being in al-Qaida. He was denied many constitutional rights and has yet to be charged. But, recall, we was accused of trying to build a dirty bomb. Today the feds said that he was giong to explode a dirty bomb made out of uranium. To which several nuclear scientists said, "oh no! not uranium! It might, um, not hurt anything at all." One reported that he uses a brick of uranium as a door stop.
Yes, it's radioactive. If you get a whole mess of uranium, you can start a chain reaction where it will all explode and create a huge of a mess and cause highly dangerous radioactive waste to go everywhere. That kind of device is called a nuclear bomb. If you just take some uranium and attach it to some dynamite to make a dirty bomb, well, it's not so bad. The radioactive waves emitted from uranium won't even penetrate your skin. You can stand around in the same room with it an not be harmed. Simply, it's not dangerous unless you eat it or inhale it. that's why using oodles of depleted uranium in warfare is dastardly, because it gets blown up into a fine dust which people breathe. And it's why exploding a small amount of it in an urban area is kind of lame. It could be cleaned up by folks with protection from eating it or breathing it.
Also, spent fuel rods are dangerous to handle, dangerous to transport and would kill anyone who handled them in a dirty bomb plot. But once exploded with dynamite? Not so dangerous at all. Dirty bombs are interesting to al-Qaida only because they are scary to people. And why are they scary? Because the Bush administration, instead of preventing the populace from coming to harm by arming it with information, has decided to increase risks, play up fear and cause panic. But hey, any city big enough to merit a dirty bomb probably votes democrat anyone, so who cares, right?
It would be nice to see the Bush administration follow the law and respect the rights of Padilla. I mean, he's a citizen, even. What's up with the FBI and federal law enforcement anyway? Do they have no ability to back off when they have no case. Remember Wen Ho Lee, Los Almos lab guy who had his reputation smeared for months while they claimed he was spying for China. They finally had to give up when it turned out the only thing he was guilty of was being of the same race as the government of China. There's defeinitely a spy-like connection there. Or not. And the latest? The FBI just arrested an installation artist who had some lab equipment in his house for an installation he was working of for Mass MoCA. It should be obvious by now that Steve Kurtz isn't guilty of anyhting more than being an artist, but he and two others have been served subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against them. There's a defense fund set up to help the artists involved in this: http://www.caedefensefund.org/ and you can read some media accounts of it at: http://www.appliedautonomy.com/cae/, An AP story, Editorial in the Buffalo News, and The Washington Post.