Reporting from Washington — A shipment of radioactive rods that went missing Thanksgiving Day was found Friday in Tennessee by the shipping company FedEx.
Though the materials, used for medical equipment, posed little threat to the public, the misplaced shipment underscores the need to track low-hazard materials that could be used in small-scale terrorist attacks, experts say.
The rods, used to calibrate quality control in CT scans, contain little energy and a low concentration of radiation, according to Sandra Munoz, a FedEx spokeswoman. The shipment was sent from Fargo, N.D., and was reported missing at its destination in Knoxville, Tenn. FedEx alerted all of its U.S. stations about the missing shipment.
The shipment was found at a FedEx station in Knoxville, with its shipping label missing from the outer box, Munoz said. All of the rods were intact and no FedEx employees were exposed to radiation.
Three shipments of radioactive rods were mailed earlier this week. The recipient notified FedEx when only two containers arrived in Knoxville, Munoz said.
The rods were packed in a metal cylinder, known as a pig, which weighs about 20 pounds and is about 10 inches long. Because the pig remained sealed, the rods did not pose a threat, Munoz said.
Though it was unlikely anyone could have used the rods to create a serious weapon, low-hazard materials are becoming more attractive to terrorists who are less interested in Sept. 11-scale attacks and more interested in creating fear and economic damage, according to Edwin Lyman, senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Mass.
Lyman said such materials can be used to create "dirty bombs," which cause fewer casualties but can still release hazardous materials when they explode.