Another Sunday, another "Climate of Fear" treatment of a story in the Sunday Times:
"Radiation rockets on sale to 'terrorists'
Brian Johnson Thomas and Mark Franchetti, Moldovan frontier
THREE radioactive rockets capable of contaminating a city centre were offered for sale last week to a Sunday Times reporter posing as a middleman for Islamic terrorists."
The "undercover" journalists may well have been facing real dangers, bribing alleged "secret police chiefs" of ex-Soviet republics and being put in contact with arms dealers.
However the hype ("blame the sub-editors" the journalists will cry) about the alleged terrorist threat, of one or maybe three Alazan rockets seems to be exaggerated. These rockets were designed originally for Soviet era weather control experiments i.e. the seeding of cumulo-nimbus clouds to induce hail storms away from agricultural crops that would otherwise be ruined, something which has been going on in various forms around the world, with silver iodide crystal particle sprays or pyrotechnic flares etc. for decades.
The allegation is that some of these rockets were left behind in the Transdnieper region of Moldova, and could be smuggled into the Ukraine for transport to alleged terrorists in Algeria.
All very well and good, especially as 10 seconds with a web search engine shows that this sort of report has been circulating since 2003
Instead of hyping up the alleged capabilities of the rockets, where is there any evidence that the arms dealer had access to any actual radioactive isotopes, even enough to fill the very limited payload of these small rockets i.e. up to 720 grammes maximum ?
Parameters Parameter and dimension value of “Alazan-5” Calibre, mm 82,5 Maximum diameter (along the protruding construction components), mm 96,5 Length, mm 1402max Mass, kg 8,8±0,2 Ice-forming composition mass, kg 0,66±0,06
Even this assumes that the radioactive payload has been made into similar pellet sizes of the original, probably solver iodide, water/ice nucleating compound, otherwise there would be nowhere near as much dispersion of any radioactive material as claimed in the article.
In a practal weapon, the theoretical payload would also be reduced, so as to include shielding to prevent injury to those handling the rockets (not everyone involved is likely to be ignorant of the danger to themselves), and which might reduce the chance of detection by the authorities.
So where is the actual radioactive material ? Why didn't the Sunday Times pay the $2000 and inspect an alleged rocket warhead with Geiger counters or other radiation detection devices ? Vague talk of "strontium" or "caesium" is not enough to constitute an actual weapon of any use to terrorist or anybody else, except arms dealers who see a get rich quick scheme.
If terrorists really had access to potentially just over 2 kilogrammes of highly radioactive material, then they hardly need a rocket to cause a "dirty bomb" panic.
This is not the first time that "dirty bomb" hype has appeared in the UK press - remember the Americium in Smoke Detectors hype ?
As this GlobalSecurity.org report from 2003, quoting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty states,
"the only thing the Alazan rocket spread successfully was fear."
Given the close relationship between the NuLabour government and the Sunday Times when it comes to "Climate of Fear" spin and disinformation, one has to wonder if there will be a new "dirty bomb" leak campaign in the near future, just as the promised new anti-terrorism legislation appears.