I don't want to become known as the "tiny rocks bomber"
December 3, 2010 7:03 PM   Subscribe

I want to give some trinitite as a Christmas gift. This involves transporting it across state lines. Am I going to run into problems?

I'm putting in an order to a minerals site, which also happens to sell trinitite (a quick search through various hobbyist newsgroups says that this is a reliable supplier, so I'm not too concerned about getting a counterfeit.)

I think it'd make a fun Christmas present for my boyfriend. Trouble is, if I bundle it in with my current order (saves on shipping), I'd have to find some way to transport it across states (in the U.S.) That means either packing it when I fly down later this month, or mailing it. Are either of these going to cause problems? Trinitite is only mildly radioactive (and I'd only be getting a small sample), but I'm still concerned about running into problems with TSA/USPS. I suppose an alternative would be to put in a separate order and have it shipped directly to him, but I'd prefer the cheaper/more convenient route of packing it with me. Can I do this, or should I just suck up the separate shipping cost? Is it better to carry on or throw it into a checked bag?
posted by kagredon to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
not sure if this helps. but you can buy Uranium off Amazon.
posted by spacefire at 7:31 PM on December 3, 2010

You probably won't have an issue with the TSA, but are you sure it's only "Mildly" radioactive? You should really think about being around this stuff...it has a long half-life. Dad used to bring it home for us kids to play with, he tested atomic bombs in the US desert. He died at 57 after a 4 yr fight with prostate cancer, and I have a very rare blood cancer at 57...coincidence?? (Drop ship it so you don't hurt yourself, especially if you want to get pregnant and not have a two headed baby.)
posted by ~Sushma~ at 7:34 PM on December 3, 2010

Nah, the most dangerous isotopes have a short-life and they have since degraded into less-harmful decay products in the trinitite. It's perfectly safe as long as you're not grinding it into powder and snorting it or something.
posted by signalnine at 7:49 PM on December 3, 2010

I am not a scientist, but it seems to me that "mildly radioactive, but safe to handle" is miles away from "totally cool to keep on your beside table for the next 15 years!" I honestly wouldn't buy something for anyone that I was worried was dangerous enough to get me in trouble by shipping it across state lines. That's just common sense to me.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:56 PM on December 3, 2010

are you sure it's only "Mildly" radioactive?

I have some, and "mildly" is putting it mildly - you need pretty sensitive equipment to notice that there is anything other than normal background radiation coming off it, and even then, it's mostly alpha, which won't go further than a couple of inches of air, and literally can't find its way out of a wet paper bag.

As an unintentioned artifact of how radioactive materials are classified, Trinitite is technically not allowed to be sent by USPS even though it is far far less radioactive than materials that can be freely shipped. That said - and for the same reason - I wouldn't expect any trouble if you did mail it without mention that the contents are contaminated.

TSA is looking for weapons, AFAIK it's the FAA that restricts HAZMAT. Not sure what their position is (probably falls through the cracks of classification, same as USPS - not getting an exception because it's contaminated). So I think you'd be safe taking it with you. Seal it properly. I don't think it's active enough to show up on x-ray, and you're entitled to carry small amounts of naturally radioactive ores which are much more active.

TL;DR I think you are safe sending it by mail or in person, but I think in both cases it's technically though harmlessly not in compliance with regulations, so if someone was trying to make your life miserable, and knew of it, they could use it against you maliciously.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:58 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you all.

Sushma, two lights above the sea: as harlequin and signalnine touched on, trinitite is old enough that the gamma emitters (gamma rays are the most penetrative form of radiation; the other two common forms of radiation, alpha and beta emission, can be shielded by paper and metal or glass, respectively) are pretty well gone. Still very helpful, because I thought to myself "Well, so long as it's in a proper glass container, that would shield it," and that's probably how I'm going to deal with it sending it.
posted by kagredon at 10:12 PM on December 3, 2010

Have you asked the people you are buying the Trinitite from if you will have any problems mailing it? I assume they are shipping it to you via one of the common carriers.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:36 AM on December 4, 2010

Please do not give it to anyone who works with radioactive material already. This chart shows that the rock probably would not set off my personnel monitoring instruments if someone had it in their pocket, but it's close. More likely, they'd cross-contaminate a paint sample or something like that I was counting with dust from the rock, and then I'd have to freak out about Co-60/Cs-137 showing up in my paint sample unexpectedly.

Earlier this month, we had a guy buy a bracelet with some sort of stone on it from eBay, and set our personnel monitors in the building off. Crisis was averted when I was able to iso. ID it (after some excitement involving possible spill response, upper management notification, etc) to not be anything that could have come from our program. This rock would not be so easy.

So, we know the rock had non-program Co-60 to begin with, but how do we know it didn't get more Co-60 on it in the building without an initial baseline count? We cant. --> control the item as radioactive.
posted by ctmf at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older what marine/engineering issues building an...   |   The disappointed will shuffle 'round in circles. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.