Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BBC documentary "Horizon: The Dirty Bomb" seems relevant again


The BBC made a film “Horizon: The Dirty Bomb”, written and produced by Kim Shillinghar, edited by Matthew Barrett, narrated by Bernard Hill. The film seems to have been made in 2004, but has been uploaded a couple of times to YouTube recently, as here.  The film runs 49 minutes. I have to admit that I felt provoked to watch the film because of recent media attention to ISIS. 

The documentary starts with an incident where Russian police found components of a possible dirty bomb in a Moscow city park in 1995.   It also covers the accident in Goiania, Brazil, in 1987, when scrap collectors released some cesium.  It gives an account of missing cesium chloride (in therapeutic needles) as discovered at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC in March 1998 (at a time when I was recovering from my own hip fracture and surgery in Minneapolis!)  It also covers the strontium 90 found in Georgia (former Soviet Republic) which poisoned some soldiers.

The film covers the arrest of Jose Padilla in 2002, apparently for plotting a dirty bomb attack, and his designation as an "enemy combatant". 
  
The major part of the film simulates a dirty bomb attack on Trafalgar Square, London.   No one would be seriously injured at first.  But downwind, people would face an increase in cancer risk ranging from maybe 1 in 1000 to 1 in 7, depending on distance and amount of material.  Again, the most likely material as a powder would be cesium chloride.

The film also does a briefer fictitious simulation on the Washington DC Metro, showing the Red Line.  It predicts that it would be 24 hours before authorities know anything is wrong.  Passengers would face only very slightly increased risk of cancer sometime in their lives, but police and Metro employees could face significantly larger risk. Recall, in 1999 ABC Nightline had broadcast a simulated anthrax attack on the San Francisco BART.  Many of the scenarios had been imagined before 9/11.   
  
This film seems to resemble a 2004 film “Dirty War” directed by Daniel Percival, produced jointly by HBO and the BBC.  But that film (reviewed on my “doaskdotell” site) runs 90 minutes and is an acted docudrama.  The contaminant in that film is Strontium 90.  Paul Anthony-Barber and Louise Delamere star.  Authorities don’t have much intelligence to stop an attack outside Liverpool Station.  Many lives are ruined financially, as pensions and savings are wiped out.   

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