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Crimes involving radioactive substances

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Title: Crimes involving radioactive substances  
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Subject: Nuclear terrorism, Vulnerability of nuclear plants to attack
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Crimes involving radioactive substances

This is a list of criminal (or arguably, allegedly, or potentially criminal) acts intentionally involving radioactive substances. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily imply that anyone involved was guilty of a crime. For accidents or crimes that involved radioactive substances unbeknownst to those involved, see the list of radiation accidents.

Murder/attempted murder

The Karlsruhe plutonium affair

An unnamed man was convicted of attempting to poison his ex-wife in 2001 with plutonium stolen from WAK (Wiederaufbereitungsanlage Karlsruhe), a small scale reprocessing plant where he worked. He did not steal a large amount of plutonium, only rags used for wiping surfaces and a small amount of liquid waste.[1][2] At least two people (besides the criminal) were contaminated by the plutonium.[3] Two flats in Landau in the Rhineland-Palatinate were contaminated, and had to be cleaned at a cost of two million euro.[4] Photographs of the case and details of other nuclear crimes have been presented by a worker at the Institute for Transuranium Elements.[5]

The Litvinenko assassination

Alexander Litvinenko died from polonium-210 poisoning in 2006. British officials said investigators had concluded the murder of Litvinenko was "a 'state-sponsored' assassination orchestrated by Russian security services."[6] On 20 January 2007 British police announced that they had "identified the man they believe poisoned Alexander Litvinenko," Andrei Lugovoi.[7]

On the 21st of September 2012 a story was posted in various UK newspapers suggesting the existence of an ongoing cover-up by the British Government over the material facts of the case. The report suggests that many aspects of the case may "never see the light of day" due to the significant risk to UK/Russian relations and the implications of the declaration that an act of nuclear terrorism took place on British soil.

Roman Tsepov homicide

Roman Tsepov, a politically influential Russian who provided security to Vladimir Putin and others, fell sick on September 11, 2004 after a trip to Moscow, and died on September 24. A postmortem investigation found a poisoning by an unspecified radioactive material. He had symptoms similar to Aleksandr Litvinenko.[8][9][10]

Zheleznodorozhny criminal radiological act

An unnamed truck driver was killed by 5 months of radiation exposure to a 1.3 curies (48 GBq) cesium-137 source that had been put into the door of his truck around February 1995. He died of radiation-induced leukemia on 27 April 1997.[11]

Vladimir Kaplun radiation homicide

In 1993, director of the Kartontara packing company Vladimir Kaplun was killed by radioactive material (probably cesium-137) placed in his chair. He died of radiation sickness after a month of hospitalization. The source of the radiation was found after his death.[12]

Karen Silkwood poisoning allegations

In November 5, 1974, [13]

Intentional theft/attempted theft of radioactive material

For accidental theft or attempted theft of radioactive materials, see the list of radiation accidents.

Grozny cobalt theft/attempted theft

On 13 September 1999, six people attempted to steal radioactive cobalt-60 rods from a chemical plant in the city of Grozny in the Chechen Republic.[14] During the theft, the suspects opened the radioactive material container and handled it, resulting in the deaths of three of the suspects and injury of the remaining three. The suspect who held the material directly in his hands died of radiation exposure 30 minutes later. This incident is described as an attempted theft, but some of the rods are reportedly still missing.[15]

Criminal use of X-ray equipment and other radiation technology by secret police

Some former East German dissidents claim that the Stasi used X-ray equipment to induce cancer in political prisoners.[16]

Similarly, some anti-Castro activists claim that the Cuban secret police sometimes used radioactive isotopes to induce cancer in "adversaries they wished to destroy with as little notice as possible".[17] In 1997, the Cuban expatriate columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner called this method "the Bulgarian Treatment", after its alleged use by the Bulgarian secret police.[18]

Illicit/Fraudulent/Patent medicine

In the early 20th century a series of products claiming medicinal properties, which contained radioactive elements were marketed to the general public. This does not include certain medications that contain radioactive isotopes (e.g. iodine-131 for its oncological uses) but pertains to elixirs and other medications that made preposterous claims (see below) that were neither scientific nor verifiable.

Radithor, a well known patent medicine/snake oil, is possibly the best known example of radioactive quackery. It consisted of triple distilled water containing at a minimum 1 microcurie (37 kBq) each of the radium-226 and radium-228 isotopes.[19]

Radithor was manufactured from 1918 - 1928 by the Bailey Radium Laboratories, Inc., of East Orange, New Jersey. The head of the laboratories was listed as Dr. William J. A. Bailey, not a medical doctor.[20] It was advertised as "A Cure for the Living Dead"[21] as well as "Perpetual Sunshine".

These radium elixirs were marketed similar to the way opiates were peddled to the masses with laudanum an age earlier, and electrical cure-alls during the same time period such as the Prostate Warmer.[22]

The eventual death of the socialite Eben Byers from Radithor consumption and the associated radiation poisoning led to the strengthening of the Food and Drug Administration's powers and the demise of most radiation based patent medication.

Associated links

  • Scientific American; August 1993; The Great Radium Scandal; by Roger Macklis
  • Theodore Gray's Periodic Table of Elements

See also

External links

  • Johnston's Archive: Criminal acts causing radiation casualties


  1. ^ "Welcome". World Information Service on Energy. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  2. ^ "Germany: Plutonium soup as a murder weapon?". World Information Service on Energy. October 5, 2001. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  3. ^ "Radiation Victim Demands Compensatory Damages". German News (English ed.). 24 February 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  4. ^ "Clean-up of a GIGA-BQ-PU contamination of two apartments" (pdf). Hagen Hoefer. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  5. ^ Ray, Ian. "Nuclear Forensic Science and Illicit Trafficking".  
  6. ^ "Murder in a Teapot". "The Blotter" on 26 January 2007. Retrieved 26 January 2006. 
  7. ^ McGrory, Daniel; Halpin, Tony (20 January 2007). "Police match image of Litvinenko's real assassin with his death-bed description". London: Times Online. Retrieved 22 January 2006. 
  8. ^ The Putin bodyguard riddle, The Sunday Times, December 3, 2006
  9. ^ Полоний и три Владимира
  10. ^ Расследование отравления радиоактивным изотопом Романа Цепова, бывшего телохранителя Анатолия Собчака и Владимира Путина
  11. ^ Wm. Robert Johnston (24 September 2007). "Zheleznodorozhny criminal radiological act, 1995". Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Wm. Robert Johnston (22 September 2007). "Moscow radiological homicide, 1993". Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Tricia Romano. "The Life and Mysterious Death of Karen Silkwood". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Wm. Robert Johnston (8 April 2005). "Gronzy orphaned source, 1999". Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  15. ^ "Criminal Dies Stealing Radioactive Material". James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. 14 September 1999. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  16. ^ "Dissidents say Stasi gave them cancer".  
  17. ^ Stride, Jonathan T. (30 December 1997). "Castro said to be using cancer instigating weapons for warfare".  
  18. ^ Montaner, Carlos Alberto (28 December 1997). "The Bulgarian Treatment". Firmas Press. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  19. ^ "Radithor (ca. 1918).".  
  20. ^ "U/A".  
  21. ^ "Radium Cures". Museum of Questionable Medical Devices ( 
  22. ^ "Prostate Cures". Museum of Questionable Medical Devices ( 
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