Unlocked Labs: A Candy Store for Terrorists?February 17th, 2012
A hearty “thank you” goes out to Alex, a concerned reader from the East Coast who sent a link to this interesting video. It is an investigative report about unlocked chemistry labs and the ease with which a terrorist could steal hazardous materials:
The concerns of the report are valid and important, even if the presentation is a bit sensationalistic and uninformed at times. (NITROGEN, OMG!)
In grad school in Massachusetts, one thing that struck me as weird was how we were required to keep our hazardous waste cabinet locked at all times, while the labs and stockrooms could be left wide open. What magically happened when the 4L jug of mixed organic solvents moved from the hood in my (unlocked) bay to the cabinet in the hallway such that a lock was now required?
We always thought the rule was designed to stymie terrorists searching for materials to make a “dirty bomb”, but the fact of the matter is that most of the nastiest reagents have already been quenched once they make their way into a waste container. The stockrooms and hoods are what I’d be concerned about. I can recall a number of lab cleanups where people reported finding particularly nasty things that nobody knew were there, and hence, nobody would have reported as missing. These included radioactive salts and a small quantity of ricin in an unlocked freezer.
Keeping all doors locked shut will be a major inconvenience for some labs, but it is probably just a matter of time until everyone is required to do so. The current situation is a time bomb.
Link to original site.