A tense standoff has developed in waters off Somalia over an Iranian merchant ship laden with a mysterious cargo that was hijacked by pirates.
Somali pirates suffered skin burns, lost hair and fell gravely ill “within days” of boarding the MV Iran Deyanat. Some of them died.
Andrew Mwangura, the director of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, told the Sunday Times: “We don’t know exactly how many, but the information that I am getting is that some of them had died. There is something very wrong about that ship.”
Asuflyer05 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2371 posts, RR: 3
Reply 4, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 2187 times:
I cannot find the story I read on this the other day but they interviewed a nuclear expert at a major university here in the states. The gentleman explained that the story does not seem true because of the time span from exposure to death amongst the pirates. Unless they were exposed to very high levels of radioactive material the symptoms would have taken a much longer time to manifest. He did mention however, that if the story was true and the pirates did infact die within days of being exposed to the cargo on that ship, then we should all be very afraid.
StuckInCA From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 1955 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 2178 times:
Quoting Asuflyer05 (Reply 4): I cannot find the story I read on this the other day but they interviewed a nuclear expert at a major university here in the states. The gentleman explained that the story does not seem true because of the time span from exposure to death amongst the pirates. Unless they were exposed to very high levels of radioactive material the symptoms would have taken a much longer time to manifest. He did mention however, that if the story was true and the pirates did infact die within days of being exposed to the cargo on that ship, then we should all be very afraid.
I think any number of chemical agents could cause similar health issues. Not that I'm an expert in chemistry or anything.
Falstaff From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 6084 posts, RR: 29
Reply 8, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 2139 times:
Quoting GDB (Reply 5): Not another one scared of Iran!
My comment doesn't make sense now that another post was deleted. Some people were speculating that nuclear material was on the ship. I was thinking along the lines of possibity of nuclear material in the hands of pirates.
Quoting GDB (Reply 5): Any chemists on here can give an idea of the sorts of chemicals that could cause these sorts of symptoms? IF these reports are accurate.
Whatever was in the ship didn't cause any (known) harm to the crew. So obviously the pirates got into something they shouldn't have. I don't know any pirates, but I would bet that most of them are not experts in hazardous material handling. I would think that the average pirate isn't too concerned with safety, danger is an occupational hazzard in the pirate business.
BlackProjects From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2007, 756 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 2039 times:
If the Pirates Encounterd HI Enough Dosses of radiation to Cause the hair to fall out in large Clumps and Rapid Death that Ship would be setting of Radiation Detectors on any passing Warship as the Dose would be at Minimum 200 REMS or greater.
MD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13985 posts, RR: 62
Reply 13, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 1882 times:
Quoting BlackProjects (Reply 11): If the Pirates Encounterd HI Enough Dosses of radiation to Cause the hair to fall out in large Clumps and Rapid Death that Ship would be setting of Radiation Detectors on any passing Warship as the Dose would be at Minimum 200 REMS or greater.
alert ghost alert People on that Ship would be Glowing in the Dark!
Unless the pirates opened a sealed protective lead container containing a highly radioactive isotope. I could think of e.g. a medical or industrial Co60 source, like the ones used for radiation therapy, industrial NDT or sterilisation by irradiation. These sources are normally shielded in lead containers with ample warning symbols. I could well imagine that some illiterate pirate could have opened this interesting container to see w#hat is inside.
Accidents like this have happened before, e.g. when such radiation sources accidentally ended up in some third world scrapyard.
The essential materials used for building nuclear bombs, weapons grade uranium 235 and plutonium 239, have a very low level of radioactivity and radiate alpha particles, which can be shieled with a piece of paper. The plutonium though can be dangerous on long terms (over years) if ingested, but then the effects (cancer) would only show up after several months to years.
Chemical poisons, which has similar effects would be thallium, which is e.g. used for making rat poison, mercury and it's compounds or some compounds of lead or cadmium.
GDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13184 posts, RR: 77
Reply 15, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 1735 times:
Interesting post, MD-11.
Falstaff, understood on the deleted bit, however, while not wanting to be complacent, again IF it's true (and no major news network here has reported it - but the activities of these pirates is), there is not a lot they could do with it.
Even if they knew what it was.
L-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 29792 posts, RR: 58
Reply 16, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 1699 times:
Quoting Falstaff (Reply 2): Quoting Oldeuropean (Reply 5):
but a google news search shows, that only a few agencies and newspapers (and noticeable many of them are from the right!) report on this story
That would be because the leftist media is spending all their time fawning over Obama and ignoring news that could actually show a threat to the free world.
God ain't that the truth, but I did see this story on Fox and CNN about a week-and a half ago. It came out the same time that the kenyan weapon shipment got pirated.
Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 13): I could well imagine that some illiterate pirate could have opened this interesting container to see w#hat is inside.
Yup, I see that as a very likely scenario.
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
# 1982 – radioactive steel scavenged from a nuclear reactor was melted into rebar and used in the construction of apartment buildings in northern Taiwan, mostly in Taipei, from 1982 through 1984. Over 2,000 apartment units and shops were suspected as having been built with the materials.  At least 10,000 people are known to have been exposed to long-term low-level irradiation as a result, with at least 40 deaths due to cancer. In 1985, the Taiwanese Atomic Energy Commission covered up the discovery of high levels of radiation in an apartment building by blaming a dentist operating an imaging machine. However, in the summer of 1992, a utility worker for the Taiwanese state-run electric utilily Taipower brought a Geiger counter to his apartment to learn more about the device, and discovered that his apartment was contaminated. Despite awareness of the problem, owners of some of the buildings known to be contaminated have continued to rent apartments out to tenants (in part because selling the units is illegal), and as of at least 2003 and likely to the present, no coordinated effort has been made to track down the remaining affected structures, and the Taiwan AEC has harassed medical researchers looking into the consequences. It is interesting that some researchers from Taiwan claimed that the gamma rays from the cobalt-60 had a beneficial effect upon the health of the humans.
# December 6, 1983 – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, A local resident salvaged materials from a discarded radiation therapy machine carrying 6,000 pellets of 60Co. The dismantling and transport of the material led to severe contamination of his truck; when the truck was scrapped, it in turn contaminated another 5,000 metric tonnes of steel with an estimated 300 Ci (11 TBq) of activity. This material was sold for kitchen or restaurant table legs and building materials some of which was sent to the U.S. and Canada; the incident was discovered when a truck delivering contaminated building materials months later to the Los Alamos National Laboratory accidentally drove through a radiation monitoring station. Contamination was later measured on the roads that were used to transport the original damaged radiation source. In some cases pellets were actually found embedded in the roadway. In the state of Sinaloa, 109 houses were condemned due to contaminated building material. This incident prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Customs Service to install radiation detection equipment at all major border crossings. 
# September 13, 1987 – In the Goiânia accident, scavengers broke open a radiation-therapy machine in an abandoned clinic of Goiânia, Brazil. They sold the kilocurie (40 TBq) 137Cs source as a glowing curiosity. Four hundred were contaminated, four died.
# October 21, 1994 a large 137Cs source is stolen by scrap metal scavengers in Tammiku, Estonia.
May 1998 – Recycler Acerinox in Cádiz, Spain, unwittingly melts scrap metal containing radioactive sources; the radioactive cloud drifts all the way to Switzerland before being detected. (See Acerinox accident.)
# February 1, 2000 – The radiation source of a teletherapy unit was stolen from a parking lot in Samut Prakarn, Thailand and dismantled in a junkyard for scrap metal. Workers completely removed the 60Co source from the lead shielding, and became ill shortly thereafter. The radioactive nature of the metal and the resulting contamination was not discovered until 18 days later. Seven injuries and three deaths were a result of this incident. 
December 2000 – Three woodcutters in the nation of Georgia spent the night beside several "warm" canisters they found deep in the woods and were subsequently hospitalized with severe radiation burns. The canisters were found to contain concentrated 90Sr. The disposal team consisted of 25 men who were restricted to 40 seconds' worth of exposure each while transferring the canisters to lead-lined drums. The canisters are believed to have been components of radioisotope thermoelectric generators intended for use as generators for remote lighthouses and navigational beacons, part of a Soviet plan dating back to 1983.
I remember another, fortunately non-fatal, incident in Berlin shortly after the wall came down. Both East and West Berlin get their drinking water supply through deep wells from the groundwater. Now Berlin's water has a high content of dissolved iron and manganese salts. The problem is that certain bactria living in the wells reduce these soluble salts to insoluble iron and manganese oxides, which clog up the filters inside the wells after a few years. Since sinking a new 100m deep well is quite expensive, both the East and West Berlin water companies have been thinking about ways to solve this problem. While the West Berlin company has developed a method using explosive charges submerged inside
the well to create shock waves to loosen the deposits from the filters, so that the well can be flushed out afterwards, the East Germans have been hanging rods of highly radioactive Co60 inside the wells to kill the bacteria.
Now, after the reunification of East and West Germany, the previously seperate Berlin water companies were merged as well, with West Berlin well maintenance teams sent over to East Berlin to work on their wells. These teams did not know about the radioactive rods and were not trained in the proper safety precautions, so there were a few incidents in the beginning, where they pulled the rods from the wells, and not knowing what they were, dumped them unshielded on the ground at the construction site, thereby irradiating themselves.
AFAIK, after the problem got known, the water company removed all radioactive rods and disposed of them via the regular hazmat procedures.
MD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13985 posts, RR: 62
Reply 19, posted (5 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 1547 times:
Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 18): This could be radiation sickness. But, if that is the case, then the only solution is to sink the ship in deep water, it cannot be allowed into any port if it is contaminated.
Depends. If the radiation source just got activated accidentally and not opened (so that the nuclid has left it's container), the ship might still be serviceable, but if the sealed container has been broken, then the ship must either be decontaminated or, as you said, sunk, to prevent further irradiation of people.