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Spain Radioactive Mystery Unfolds as Dirty Bomb Fears Grow

CC0 / / Radioactive materials
Radioactive materials - Sputnik International
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Spain's Nuclear Security Council announced on Tuesday that a device with radioactive properties had been stolen in the southern city of Seville.

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The equipment, which has the appearance of an orange suitcase, is used to gauge the humidity and density of soil and it was stolen from a van belonging to an engineering and construction firm.

It is said to contain two "sources of radioactivity" — namely atoms of caesium 137 and americium 241. The intensity of their emissions is relatively low, as long as they are embedded within the case.

Both caesium and americium, in effect, belong to the fourth category of risk on a 1-5 radioactive hazard scale, where 5 has the least dangerousness.

But that could change if the substances were taken out of their container: the Nuclear Security Council (NSC), in a statement, warned that tampering with the equipment and exposing the radioactive elements could be harmful to people.

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While there is no indication that the theft was carried out with the aim of exploiting the suitcase's radioactive properties, Spanish police and authorities are both on the lookout for the missing object.

When it comes to radioactive materials, tensions are running high across Europe, which is still shell-shocked from the Daesh attacks in Brussels and Paris.

Newly-emerged reports, in fact, revealed that Daesh, also known as ISIL, has toyed with the idea of going nuclear several times over the last few months.

In February, it was reported that some suspects linked to the Paris attacks had been monitoring the movements of a Belgian nuclear scientist for at least ten hours. It was hypothesized that Daesh could have planned to kidnap him to force him provide them with nuclear materials.

© REUTERS / Vincent KesslerSteam escapes from the cooling tower of the Tihange nuclear power station, one of the two large-scale nuclear power plants in Belgium, March 26, 2016.
Steam escapes from the cooling tower of the Tihange nuclear power station, one of the two large-scale nuclear power plants in Belgium, March 26, 2016. - Sputnik International
Steam escapes from the cooling tower of the Tihange nuclear power station, one of the two large-scale nuclear power plants in Belgium, March 26, 2016.

Such materials could be used, it is feared, to manufacture a so-called "dirty bomb" combining conventional explosive with radioactive substances.

More recently, it was found that a Belgian nuclear plant had been the intended target of an later-aborted Daesh incursion.

The growing menace from an unholy mix of Daesh and radioactivity is not lost on the top echelons of global power.

Thursday and Friday, over fifty heads of state will gather in Washington DC for a top-level summit on nuclear security. How to stop Daesh from getting hold of a dirty bomb will be one of the key items on the agenda.

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