Nuclear Material Detection–NCIS Los Angeles

I posted on Facebook yesterday how funny I thought it was that during NCIS-LA, they made a comment about hiding nuclear materials in shipments of bananas as potassium is radioactive.

Personally, I thought it was incredibly hilarious.

Well, being the geek that I am, and having lots of geeky friends, it turned into an educational discussion that really was entertaining. It turns out that there are many different natural products that have fairly high levels of detectable radiation. However, the levels are far from life threatening, they are just higher than the standard background radiation you get during ordinary life.

I found that the following are considered problematic and cause false positive reading for many detection devices:

  • Bananas
  • Brazil nuts
  • Carrots
  • White potatoes
  • Lima beans
  • Kitty litter
  • and the list goes on…

Of course, this led to more research and it was found that it is pretty easy to shield nuclear materials from detection. It isn’t like you have to put it in a foot thick lead or anything like that. It is pretty easy to shield nuclear materials. We also found that you really need to be about five feet away to be able to detect nuclear materials that are shielded.

Yes, this is the kind of geeky stuff that I talk about when I am bored.

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