Have you seen my enriched uranium anywhere?

According to the BBC [thanks, Sena X], the following ad is running in several major Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan:

urdu pakistan missing nuclear material.jpg

BBC translates as follows:

The adverts urged members of the public to inform officials if they found any “lost or stolen” radioactive material. They were published in major Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan.

A spokesman for the nuclear authority said that there was a “very remote chance” that nuclear materials imported 40-50 years ago were unaccounted for. (link)

That’s right — they don’t even know whether the material described in the advertisements is actually even missing. Which should make us even more confident that they know what they’re doing, right?

But officials say they need to heighten public awareness of nuclear issues to ensure that decades-old nuclear material is fully accounted for.

“This could have been before the creation of Pakistan, and may relate to nuclear material that could not be taken under our charge,” Zaheer Ayub Baig, information services director of Pakistan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, said in a letter to the BBC.

Mr Baig said that the adverts were merely a public awareness campaign to make people aware of the dangers of radiation from material that might have been used in hospitals and industrial plants.

He said the advertising campaign was being expanded.

“There is nothing to worry about,” Mr Baig said. (link)

Thank you, Mr. Baig. I feel very reassured that you don’t know about an unspecified quantity of radioactive material that might have potentially gone missing at an unknown date, and which might now be in unknown hands — or even, for that matter, mixed into the cup of chai some guy is drinking at this moment in Lahore.

Thank you very much, indeed.

33 thoughts on “Have you seen my enriched uranium anywhere?

  1. “There is nothing to worry about,” Mr Baig said

    as he watches his purple 3-eyed kids playing in the glow-in-the-dark sandbox..


    very very nice.

  2. Professor, meet Rummy. Rummy, meet the Professor:

    “Now what is the message there? The message is that there are known “knowns.” There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.”

    Each year we discover a few more unknown unknowns. Baig’s right, there is nothing to worry about.

  3. Is it a plane, is it a bird.. no its just that missing nuke stupid, nothing to worry!

  4. I found some! Here! Over here! Is this it? What? No? It’s a what?


    Oh. Well, it looks sharp. And it was definitely…lurking. Under the desk. It looks dangerous!

    Better safe than sorry, right?

    Ooh! Ooh! Hey, what’s this? Yup! Oh wow. Look at that! It’s glowing! Yup. This must be some potentially missing radioactive stuff.


    …”gas cooking range?”

    Dammit. Well, how the hell am I ever going to find this stuff?

    Ok, I’m putting up my own signs now:


  5. No von mises, yes — except in this case Mr. Baig doesn’t even seem to realize that there are unknown uknowns; he sees this, paradoxically, as a matter of informing the public. In effect, that makes this a case of unknown unknown unknowns! Or: ?^3.

    As an aside, I have no doubt that Rumsfeld will one day be cited as a kind of anti-Sun Tzu. Someone should collect all the Rumsfeld-isms and publish them as a little book: Donald Rumsfeld: The Art of (Losing) War.

  6. How naive are the people who put out that announcement? If there are some idiots intentionally keeping those dangerous materials, they probably won’t come forward and admit it.

  7. They will find the missing material eventually , covering a few city blocks in downtown Manhattan or DC.

  8. Thanks for covering this, Amardeep! I saw this on the Beeb website last night, but strangely, the audio Urdu news didn’t cover it. Can someone who reads Urdu please post the translation of the ad in the picture above? There seems to be one story for external consumption in English – not to worry, etc. And a different one – or why would they have an ad campaign at all – in Urdu. This often happens in Pakistan – where certain messages are delivered only in Urdu, to prevent the larger world from knowing what’s going on. And the idea that it could have been from before the creation of Pakistan – is even more ridiculous. I also visited the PNRA website, and couldn’t find anything prominent there in English.

  9. Leading urdu dailies ? Somehow it is impossible for me to imagine such a thing happening in India – in say the Hindu, Deccan Herald , even for that matter Times of India. Is there a significant difference in media quality between the two countries ?

    Anyone here care to elaborate on the state of the Pakistani press vs the Indian press? I have only experienced the Indian press, and frankly I think they are very , very mature – Unless the above was meant as some sort of ‘shock advertising’ gone bad, this news reflects very poorly about Journalism in Pakistan.

  10. And the idea that it could have been from before the creation of Pakistan – is even more ridiculous.

    I bet the British were thinking, “We’ve scraped these bits of uranium here, right? And while it is true that we barely have enough for ourselves, I suppose the damn Americans will come through and enrich more of the good stuff for us. So we don’t really need all that much for ourselves, and it will be a nice gesture to the Colonies if we shared some. Noblesse oblige, what? Yes, yes, yes, yes…let’s ship some of it off to Lahore. Jolly nice show of faith and all that rot. I wonder how the poor chaps there are getting by without any of this. It just doesn’t seem like cricket otherwise, what?”

    Lord Emsworth notices that the Empress agrees with his stance of nuclear policy concerning the colonies.

  11. OK. The ad clearly has some lies (before Pakistan’s birth, my ***) but otherwise, it seems strange that Baig’s “nothing to worry” is designed to prevent panic. Can’t fault him for that….

    But I don’t understand the point of this ad. How’s the public to recognize Uranium and what are the chances they’ll find it just lying around? Whoever took it, hid it well.

  12. Those jokers just don’t know how to bungle small. In all likelihood stuff’s US origin. (Early 50’s General Ayub Khan joined the SEATO initiating Pakistan’s entente cordiale with the US).
    Of course the Indian stuff’s homegrown and that makes it all kosher. Problem is peeps in both those nations, including the US, don’t play enough sports. Cricket and baseball, largely spectator sports, don’t count. (Neither does the Janjaweed militia riding horseback, even if it is bareback). People on endorphins don’t care to procure, enrich or deploy anything radioactive, let alone slightly enriched or weapons grade U-235.

  13. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns

    I don’t know about y’all…but I really liked Rumsfeld.

    That’s all I have to say about THAT.

  14. Quite interesting. Though I havent seen one of these, but I will keep an eye out for unaccounted for radioactive waste from now on.

  15. What a dumb idea – if someone was unintentionally holding radioactive Uranium, they would’ve already gotten sick and probably died.

  16. And let’s not forget as Amardeep pointed out, that it’s not even certain that any nuclear materials are actually even lost/stolen for. The unknown quantity might just be sitting unaccounted for in some underground bunker somewhere in Pakistan (first one to find it gets mutated offspring!).

    So what are the possibilities? Either an unknown quantity of imported nuclear material from an unknown number of years ago is either lost or stolen? Or the unknown quantity of imported nuclear material from an undisclosed time period is simply misplaced? Contrary to Mr. Baig’s “don’t worry” entreaty, I’m rather alarmed by either/both of these unknown possibilities.

  17. Sometime’s political correctness get’s in the way of important things like nuclear saftey.

    I propose a rule. If you are a country with nuclear weapon’s you must appear to be more technologically superior to the town of prehistoric “Bedrock”. Some where in Lahore, someone is mixing cement in the mouth of a giant pelican.

  18. In spite of the majorly imbalanced scrutiny of Western goverments to cry foul over the acquirement of nuclear weapons by the so-called ‘rogue’ states of this world, I still can’t help but feel alarmed.

    Lovely quote by Ghandi : ‘An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind’. I really hope India and Pakistan can sort out their differences.

  19. randomizer, many english-language pakistani newspapers are readily available on the internet: dawn, the daily times, the nation, the news, and the friday times, for starters. you can easily check them out and make your own assessment– though your message here suggests your mind is already made up.

  20. Where’s MoorNam when you need him? Dude you’re missing a huge shot to enlighten us all.

  21. I agree that this print ad campaign is odd because the average person is unlikely to have a Geiger counter. But who knows, the next step in this public awareness program may include a D.I.Y. component to nuclear material detection.

    As far as government actions being mostly lame to control the criminal element, this is analogous to gun control. Here, the goverment’s action was running newspaper ads. It’s a catch-22. Its efficacy in finding what might not even be lost could be a secondary consideration.

    The calculation here may be that it’s better to do something public than nothing public, while working a clandestine investigation at the same time. You can bet that CIA agents are tapped into the black market arms trade, seeking out this sort of material as a priority.

  22. I can’t read the entire advert. Only the line above and below the radioactive sign. The other lines are too small. It reads:

    kya aap yeh nishan pechantay ho? Do you recognize this sign?

    Yeh tabkari ka nishan heh. This is a tabkari sign.

  23. Thanks from me too, Chill! I’ve been trying to follow this through the BBC Urdu audio news. They haven’t mentioned anything about it at all in the last several days. This is puzzling. Also, the picture of the advert is no longer on the BBC English Southasia site next to the story text.

    Based on Chill’s reading of the headline, my initial reaction would be that this is just a ‘radioactive material awareness’ poster. On the other hand, the mention of the ‘possibility’ of missing material ‘from before the creation of Pakistan’ helps me maintain some doubts.

    One sidebar to this – it is in fact true that regulation of nuclear materials before the 1946-47 period – whether in Britain or ‘British India’ – was almost non-existent. Radioactive materials, however, were in use back then – in luminosity applications – clocks and watches, aircraft instrumentation, etc; medical applications – X-rays; and exotic industrial applications such as uranium-doped glasses and ceramics. With the possible exception of X-ray equipment, I can’t see how there could have been any significant radioactive material in the area that is now Pakistan before 1947. I did look at the list of registered radioactive material importers on the PNRA website. Some of them are just P.O. Boxes; hopefully someone actually knows who they are.