Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 02:34 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 02:34 | SYDNEY

Getting down and dirty with the Nuclear Commission


Sam Roggeveen


21 October 2008 13:30

The Australian today notes the first meeting of Prime Minister Rudd's Nuclear Disarmament Commission. But an accompanying piece on Co-Chair (and former Australian foreign minister) Gareth Evans contains a rather basic error, though it's not clear whether it belongs to the journo or to Evans. The article claims that:

A particular risk was crude devices known as "dirty bombs" that could ravage cities and kill 100,000 people.

Dirty bombs are otherwise known as radioactive dispersal devices or RDDs, and are defined as a conventional explosives coupled with radioactive material. An RDD would spread radiation but would not cause a nuclear explosion since it is not a nuclear weapon. At most, an RDD might kill hundreds of people, and probably fewer.

However, an RDD would be extremely disruptive, necessitating large-scale evacuations, decontamination of large areas and populations, and perhaps demolition of buildings or even whole neighbourhoods. So 'ravage cities' could be about right, but the casualty figure is way inflated.