Almost 250 thefts of nuclear or radioactive material were reported last year. The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency explained this week: “The possibility of terrorists obtaining nuclear or other radioactive material remains a grave threat. Equally troubling is the fact that much of this material is not subsequently recovered.”
Experts say health consequences of a dirty bomb are minimal compared to the panic that it would cause. But, there's no need to panic quite yet —all the material stolen last year combined would not be enough to build a device.
Last week, a new commission created by Australia and Japan to bring together officials from nuclear powers and other interested parties, met to discuss the spread of nuclear weapons since the Cold War. In 2009, the commission will meet again in Washington, DC to push for the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a treaty that still awaits US ratification.
Hopefully, other crises like the financial or climate crises don't cause world leaders to take their eyes off this dangerous issue.