I was a little confused after reading the thread. So I did some research.
In particular, I wanted to know more about tritium used as "self-powered lighting" for watches and other consumer goods.
Self-powered lighting is primarily used in things like watches and gun sights. Self-powered lighting involving Tritium (also called a Gaseous Tritium
Light Source or GTLS) is pretty simple. This is basically how it works.. A glass tube is lined with a "Phosphor". The phosphor is a fine powder
made up of a "host material" and an "activator". Tritium in gaseous form is introduced into the tube. The electrons emitted by the tritium then
cause the phosphor to "fluoresce". The tube is then cut/fused with a laser to create tubes of a desired length and seal the tritium gas inside.
By using different kinds of hosts and activators in the phosphor powder, manufacturers can produce light tubes with varying colors and brightnesses.
The tritium gas within the tube is the only thing that doesn't change.
the commercial demand for tritium is 400 grams per year.
From what I've read, the health risk of tritium is extremely low. Even if the capsule/tube is fractured, the health risk is extremely small even if
the gas becomes inhaled or otherwise ingested (It cannot even penetrate intact human skin). And usually, when you think about it, the gas is going to
immediately disperse anyway unless you are deliberately trying to retrieve the gas inside for whatever reason in a controlled environment.
Hypothetically, the only way to do anything in the form of a covert attack using commercially produced tritium lighting (like what is in exit signs
from wal-mart) would be to first accumulate tritium gas from these small tubes into a larger secondary vessel of some kind (At least in somewhat of a
controlled room without drafts and/or wind from the outside) and then either use it to produce a "dirty bomb" using explosives to disperse the
tritium gas within the vessel or simply a "chemical weapon" in the form of the vessel breaking and being blown downrange by winds. But to even try
to make a "dirty bomb" using tritium gas does not make any sense.
The tritium gas from all these different tubes is always going to have the same properties. Even if it becomes inhaled or otherwise ingested it is
not going to do anything especially harmful. The only really bad thing that could potentially happen is someone could get low-dose radiation sickness
if they inhale alot of it (which is not lethal). It doesn't make sense to spend all that time and effort trying to elude authorities and construct
such a weapon (if you could call it a weapon) if it isn't even going to have any detrimental effects.
Any tritium that could be used in a dirty bomb is immediately going to disperse and become even less harmful unless the bomb is detonated in an
underground area or indoors where there is bad ventilation. So, if there is a plot to detonate such a weapon, that would be the obvious target. The
gas could sit in one area that way, so that would make more sense from a hypothetical standpoint.
IMO, The only way for anyone to justify going through all this trouble to create a dirty bomb out of exit signs from wal-mart would be to extract the
gas, accumulate it in a secondary vessel, and then somehow increase the potency of the gas by refining it. That would make a low health-risk tritum
gas a pretty serious chemical/dirty bomb that could actually do some damage to people within a small, confined area.
Look, I worked in Air Force munitions for over 6 years. We were all well-trained in biological/chemical/nuclear warfare, how they work, and how you
can protect yourself from such attacks..
The point of a dirty bomb is to use the explosives to disperse the agent and at least try to maximize the overall area of effect. If a terrorist is
already using a low-health risk agent in the bomb, like tritium gas from exit signs, that means dispersing a low-potency agent would make the agent
even less likely to cause physical harm.. It defeats the purpose of creating a dirty bomb in the first place.. IMO, It would seem more likely that if
this really is an effort of some extremist or terrorist group to create a dirty bomb then it is probably extremely likely that they've found a way to
refine or otherwise increase the potency of the tritium gas.
If I were the FBI I would start doing some digging. If there really is some
way for extremist whackjobs to make the tritium gas more potent in this fashion, then what the FBI would likely see is more and more stolen and/or
purchased products containing tritium light tubes. I just hope they're already on it for our sake. After doing this research it seems that exit
signs would be the easiest way for such extremist groups to obtain the tritium gas since exit signs have some of the most tritium gas per unit product
of any product out there.
Watches.. Probably not..
Gun Sights.. NO and too hard to steel anyway.
But Exit signs? Yes. They're Probably the easiest Tritium lighting product to get away with steeling and it also probably has the most tritium gas
per unit product.. It makes sense. I just hope we're all running in circles and there isn't anything to worry about in the first place.
[edit on 22-2-2009 by BlasteR]