Thursday, May 18, 2006

Someone in Jordan Wants to Buy Swedish Anthrax

Reader Zonka has kindly sent a translation of an article from today’s Jyllands-Posten:

Attempted theft of anthrax from Swedish University

Anthrax bacteriaPersons from the Middle-East have attempted to con the University of Gothenburg (Göteborg Universitet) out of anthrax bacteria, at least twice, says the Swedish Defense.

The method was to order the bacteria under the pretext of being scientists, and it almost succeeded, says a not yet released report from the Swedish “Crisis Readiness Authority”

“There was an order, from Amman I believe, the bacteria was to be sent to a post box,” says Björn Sandström, analysts at the “Total Defense Research Institute” (Totalförsvarets Forskningsinstitut) at Gothenburg University to the newspaper Daily Medicin’s Swedish Edition.

It is not the first time that an attempt has been made to get the Research Institute to hand over anthrax. Shortly after 9/11 a similar attempt was experienced.

The report also shows that there since 1990 have been several cases where material that can be used for weapons of mass destruction have disappeared or have been stolen within Sweden.

As an example a ton of beryllium was stolen in 1995 close to Stockholm’s International Airport, Arlanda. Beryllium is a radioactive material, that among other things can be used to increase the yield of nuclear weapons.

Anyone getting nervous yet?


chuck said...

Beryllium isn't radioactive but it does have health effects:

Beryllium causes lung and skin disease in two to 10 percent of exposed workers. Occupational exposure most often occurs in mining, extraction, and in the processing of alloy metals containing beryllium. The adverse health effects of beryllium exposure are caused by the body's immune system reacting with the metal, resulting in an allergic-type response...

It is commercially available and is used in optics, x-ray equipment, nozzles, springs, and so on. It's low atomic mass makes it useful for slowing down neutrons but that is hardly all it is used for. Remember, reporters hardly ever know squat about anything and can't be bothered to do research, so treat the information in news reports with skepticism.

Baron Bodissey said...


Don't forget, this is a translation, too. Maybe it's not even beryllium...?

Ah, well. I'm grateful that people translate things for us, so we can help spread the news from Scandinavia, even if it is bogus.

a4g said...


I defer to anyone who actually knows what forms of beryllium are commercially available (and referred to in the referenced story), but I do know that there are quite a few isotopes of Be that are radioactive, most being very short lived, but 10Be having a half-life of 1,520,000 years.

Who knows, that might actually be long enough for the 12th Imam to finally show up.

al fin said...

At the rate that indigenous Europe is losing its native population, European countries will be muslim controlled soon. Then all bets are off in terms of supplies of nuclear, biological, or chemical agents in possession of their governments. Expect an Islamic Europe to be even more radical than an Islamic Palestine or Iran.

If the Germans of WWI were willing to use poisoned gas against the French and the British, you can expect muslim terrorists to be willing to do at least that much against any non-muslim.

Always On Watch said...

Islamists will use any weapon they can get ahold of. And remember the anthrax attacks right after 9/11. Never solved!

Conservative Mutant said...

For these purposes, beryllium is distinctly not radioactive. Be-10 is formed by cosmic rays; there's no way anyone would accumulate a ton of it. (BTW, the original Swedish article also says "beryllium".) A major beryllium theft in 1993 (the beryllium turned out to be contaminated with a small quantity of HEU, although the thieves were apparently not aware of this) seems to have been connected with the Russian Mafia, probably for shipment to North Korea. (Beryllium is an excellent neutron reflector.)

Another source (William Potter, “Potter/Ewe11 Notes from Kurchatov/Semipalatinsk Conference and
Excursions.”) says that "In 1995, 450 tons of beryllium was diverted and exported from the Ulba Metallurgy Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. Fifty tons of that material was sent to the port of Goteborg in Sweden, where it remains to this day."

Ulba is the second-largest producer of beryllium in the world; presumably they're also the source of the beryllium in the incident described by Jylands Post, which occurred in December 1995, while the beryllium was in transit from Russia to the U.S. via Stockholm.

Instructor said...

Very odd... The beryllium, that is. My sources don't even list deposits of beryl - the ore - in Sweden at all. Of course, the ore could be imported for processing.

Seconding others: Beryllium isn't radioactive per se but it is a good moderator and/or reflector of neutrons with various uses connected to "The radiation industry" - like X-ray equipments.

Two uses nobody else has mentioned are [minor use] structural materials in applications where light weight is the paramount consideration and more commonly non-sparking tools like chisels for metal cutting around flammables.

Beryllium is very toxic and carcinogous. OSHA puts the ventilation threshold at 2 parts per billion air, which is about as low as it goes for metals.

johnnyrico said...


beryllium-9 is also used as a blasting cap for nuclear weapons (at least in some designs). A pellet of pollonium/beryllium is called the neutron generator and is actually what strats off the fission reaction.