Turkish Police Seize 33lbs of Weapons-Grade Uranium.
September 28, 2002 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Turkish Police Seize 33lbs of Weapons-Grade Uranium. The destination of the Uranium is still under investigation but it was seized 155 miles from the Iraqi border.
posted by Mick (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
... and now Bush has his Gulf of Tonkin.
posted by malphigian at 8:39 AM on September 28, 2002


I'm sure if we just stick our heads back in the sand (or ass, choice is yours) everything will turn out A-OK!
posted by Mick at 8:43 AM on September 28, 2002


... and we have a new conspiracy theory (didnt take long).
posted by stbalbach at 8:46 AM on September 28, 2002


Yikes, that is fast. I wasn't trying to say with my comparison that this is made up like the Gulf of Tonkin (who the hell could know at this point?), just that its exactly the incident the Bush administration needs to gain support for the war, even if these guys were headed to Syria (the closer border). I guess I should have picked a less loaded comparison, sorry about that.
posted by malphigian at 8:49 AM on September 28, 2002


I would also like to point out how impressed I am at the Turkish Police training program, whose rigorous officer training includes the abilty to spot-on identify uranium as weapons-grade by simply exampining the gigantic lead cannister in which the uranium is clearly blocked from view. I would hardly believe that this was a rush to judgement on behalf of some news organization that would want to sensationalize a story. That would never happen.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:54 AM on September 28, 2002


I agree it's a coincidence, but that kind of conspiracy-mongering seems a tad 'I will never, ever, EVER believe the US is right about anything, ever.' *shrugs* No way to know. Now what would interest me would be the Russians releasing satellite photos showing the taxi arrived from one of those big US military Turkey bases . . . but that's wishful thinking.
posted by Ryvar at 8:56 AM on September 28, 2002


Actually, if it was uranium, it was probably weapons-grade. Why else would it be traveling in a taxi?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2002


Officers ... discovered the uranium in a lead container hidden beneath the vehicle's seat, the agency said.

Wow. That smuggler had better hope that lead was sealed tightly or else I see some 3-headed babies in his future.
posted by ChrisTN at 9:11 AM on September 28, 2002


If you look at the blowup of the picture, it seems to say: "MADE IN W. GERMANY". But the caption says that it probably 'came from an eastern European country'. Also, why is the writing in English?
posted by michaelonfs at 9:12 AM on September 28, 2002


Police in Istanbul seized more than 2.2 pounds of weapons-grade uranium last November that had been smuggled into Turkey from an east European nation. The smugglers were detained after attempting to sell the material to undercover police officers.

i'm sure the authorities in turkey are trying to establish if these men were trying to make a delivery, or looking for a buyer.
posted by lescour at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2002


It's written in English because English is the world's language. The same reason all international commercial pilots talk in English.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2002


Also, whatever it's in is not the Uranium; it's industrial camouflage.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:22 AM on September 28, 2002


Let's get our war on. You're unamerican if you disagree.
posted by owillis at 9:22 AM on September 28, 2002


Oops, they did it again! After years of speculation by the public, N'Sync's Justin Timberlake finally admits that he and former girlfriend Britney Spears smuggled weapons-grade uranium into Turkey.
posted by Danelope at 9:28 AM on September 28, 2002


Well, that would explain the shiny teeth.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:39 AM on September 28, 2002


God forbid you discuss the topic at hand danelope, you've been here long enough not to pull stupid stunts like this.
posted by Mick at 9:58 AM on September 28, 2002


If you read the small print on that thing, you can clearly see the words " Planted by GB."

I don't know what that means, but it sounds fishy to me.
posted by bradth27 at 10:02 AM on September 28, 2002


It was probably just the CIA and Mossad. They did September 11th, after all.

[did anyone ever come up with an XML spec for the sarcasm tag?]
posted by swerdloff at 10:05 AM on September 28, 2002


Smells like news.
posted by hama7 at 10:16 AM on September 28, 2002


Mick: God forbid you discuss the topic at hand danelope, you've been here long enough not to pull stupid stunts like this.

What, exactly, is left to discuss?

1. Article posted about weapons-grade uranium seized in Turkey.
2. Obligatory anti-Bush thread derailment.
3. Further discussion of conspiracy/conspiracy mongering.
4. Picking apart the text in the photo.
5. Smartass end-of-thread posts, including mine.

In summation: it's yet another "post whatever breaking news you find, regardless of the posting guidelines" thread, and doesn't warrant much discussion.
posted by Danelope at 10:22 AM on September 28, 2002


That does it. I'm going to the other Turkish Uranium thread.
posted by goethean at 10:26 AM on September 28, 2002


Why else would it be traveling in a taxi?

There's no subway in Sanliurfa
posted by matteo at 10:28 AM on September 28, 2002


I know what you mean, At five mil, you'd think it could get a limo.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:32 AM on September 28, 2002


Well, under ideal conditions 15 kilograms of weapons grade uranium is enough to create a nuclear weapon. 15 kilograms is 33 pounds which is the amount that was seized. I don't know anything about building nuclear weapons but the prices involved worry me a bit.

5 million dollars for 33 pounds. Even if you required 10X the ideal mass of uranium that's only 50 million dollars. The conventional explosives involved in cramming the fissionable chunks together are cheap.

This is actually within range of many individuals, never mind terrorist groups and governments. It seems to me that if this amount of weapons grade uranium is only that expensive it means one of two things: The market is actually flooded with the stuff relatively speaking, or weapons grade uranium requires additional processing before its truly weapons grade.
posted by substrate at 10:42 AM on September 28, 2002


That does it. I'm going to the other Turkish Uranium thread.

My first smile of the day.
posted by jragon at 10:48 AM on September 28, 2002


Nothing like a mushroom cloud to shake all the snarc out of a discussion thread...
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2002


That's not a raw hunk of uranium that was made in W. Germany, it's a standard Type B radioactive materials transport package, of which the IAEA reports there are over 150 varieties -- not counting ones which date back prior to German unification.

Nuke smuggling has been on the rise, with over 400 incidents in the last decade -- although only a handful involve significant amounts or highly enriched materials. And here's a chronology of specific incidents up to 1996 from Congressional testimony. Now, this weapons-grade business is tricky. All it really means is uranium with a sufficient mix of the more active isotopes. It may have been processed for commercial use, but it wouldn't be ready for a bomb without significant further processing -- for instance, pelletizing. You need to put your uranium into the right configuration, density, and so forth to allow your conventional detonation to spark a nuclear chain reaction, and that isn't as easy as it sounds. There's a real unlikelihood of seeing weapons-ready materials in transport, because any of the extant powers are going to have stringent controls in that part of the chain. It's the nuclear waste and other commercial operations that are a far more likely source of black market materials.

I don't think this is the local keystone kops saying it's weapons-grade, though; the article states it was seized by "paramilitary" forces, probably a counterterrorism unit of some kind, who would have access to specialists. The US and the IAEA have been training anti-smuggling units to ring the XSSR for years; NPR recently broadcast a story about a group of Czech border officers getting similar training. Since Turkey is part of NATO (and a commercial nuclear country), I'm sure they had that training a long time ago. The Turks have every reason to fluff up the importance of the seizure, though.

Evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program? Well, where else would it be going? -- but no, it's just evidence of the clear and present danger.

The one concrete result I expect from this? THREATCON Delta at Incirlik.
posted by dhartung at 11:22 AM on September 28, 2002


I don't know anything about building nuclear weapons

Says who?
Matt, please forward this man's data to mr Ashcroft at the Justice Department
Otherwise, we'd be aiding the enemy
posted by matteo at 11:36 AM on September 28, 2002


ABC News recently demonstrated how easy it is to smuggle radioactive material through Turkey, where it can be put in a shipping container destined for the U.S.
The suitcase traveled all the way to Istanbul, Turkey, which is considered a hub of the world's nuclear black market. Steinhausler, an expert in weapons trafficking who has compiled a database of nuclear-smuggling incidents, described it as "a crossroad between a leaking Central Asian region and possibly a receptive Middle East."

Turkish authorities report they have detected more than 100 cases of such attempted smuggling in the last few years.

ABCNEWS was doing what some law enforcement officials say al Qaeda terrorists have known how to do for years.
posted by homunculus at 12:41 PM on September 28, 2002


If uranium nuclear bombs work by generating critical mass, how is it that this much "weapons-grade" material of sufficient quantity for a bomb was allowed (or able) to be placed in a single container?
posted by paleocon at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2002


Never mind Al Qaeda. Remember SADDAM is our #1 baddie now!
Osama who? Never heard of the guy.
posted by owillis at 1:59 PM on September 28, 2002


If you have a bare critical mass, it is my understanding that it has to be in a sphere to go off. If it is in a long cylinder, most of the neutrons leak out.
posted by cameldrv at 2:39 PM on September 28, 2002


cameldrv, I don't know why, but that just sounded naughty.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:28 PM on September 28, 2002


BTW, anyone else smell Mossad here?
posted by cameldrv at 5:19 PM on September 28, 2002


You need to put your uranium into the right configuration, density, and so forth to allow your conventional detonation to spark a nuclear chain reaction, and that isn't as easy as it sounds.

Sounded like a cinch to me, but what do I know?
posted by raysmj at 5:33 PM on September 28, 2002


Let's get our war on. You're unamerican if you disagree.

Never mind Al Qaeda. Remember SADDAM is our #1 baddie now!


That's why 'news' links don't work as well as quality links such as those described in the metafilter guidelines.

You get idiotic statements like these that have nothing to do with the flow of thought or the link itself by people with agendas who are not happy enough with their own blog's pulpit.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 5:50 PM on September 28, 2002


Two nagging problems I have with this article:

1. In a time directly after he agreed to allow weapons inspectors into his country (after what, 6 years of absence?) and right as Bush is looking for a reason--any reason--to declare war, why would Saddam suddenly decide to smuggle in weapons grade uranium?

2. Turkey is not a large country. 155 miles could put the taxi cab as close to Syria, Iran and Armenia as it would to Iraq. I am not an expert on middle eastern geography, so if anyone is (or claims to be) please help me clear this up.
posted by Hildago at 7:46 PM on September 28, 2002


Please read this story that was printed in the New York Times on September 11, 2001.

"Few smuggling incidents involve material that could be used to make bombs, and intelligence officials say they know of no successful attempt at smuggling weapons-grade material. But they concede that the scope of smuggling remains uncertain."

In other words, yes, smuggling is going on all the time. As far as anyone knows, no smuggling has been successful. Containment seems to work really well.

(Yes, I know it is datelined 9.10, but it was in the 9.11 paper.)
posted by raaka at 8:14 PM on September 28, 2002


5 ounces. Buahahahaha.
posted by techgnollogic at 10:31 AM on September 29, 2002


Turns out the 'kilos' thing was a bit overstated, the men arrested have been released, and it's not the first incident of its kind. It's just as likely to have been destined for within Turkey. So, file under SNAFU.
posted by riviera at 10:31 AM on September 29, 2002


I've often mistaken five ounces of something for thirty-three pounds. Anybody could make that mistake.

Sheesh.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:31 PM on September 29, 2002


ABCNEWS was doing what some law enforcement officials say al Qaeda terrorists have known how to do for years.

what?...bringing a camera to the smuggling "operation?"
posted by clavdivs at 8:04 PM on September 29, 2002


A further update today says that it wasn't even uranium in the first place -- it was just a mixture containing zinc, iron, zirconium and manganese.

Five ounces of metal in a big lead container (which is where the 33 lbs. came from) from a couple of guys hoping to scam a quick $5M. That's all folks!
posted by briank at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2002


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