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Positive Fallout for Homemade Radiation Detector

Positive Fallout for Homemade Radiation Detector

Posted - May 5, 2003 at 5:57 p.m.



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A Salt Lake house painter who admits he's been obsessed about radiation for years, finally seems to be getting some attention in Washington D.C. His crusade to put a radiation detector in every home has drawn support from three senate offices -- and a lengthy article in the Washington Post.

It may look like half a coke-can packed with itty-bits of junk... like dental floss and aluminum foil. But to Steve Jones, this is America's ticket to nuclear security.

Steve Jones/House Painter: "IT'S AS ACCURATE AS MOST ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENTS."

In a few minutes, he assembles all those odds and ends.

He charges it up with static electricity, which makes the foil leaves spread apart.

Bring in a mildly radioactive source and the leaves slowly come together.

You'd better hope they don't snap together.

Steve Jones/House Painter: "YOU'LL HAVE A FATAL DOSE OF RADIOACTIVITY." Q: "IF THEY COME TOGETHER QUICKLY?" A: "IF THEY COME TOGETHER QUICKLY."

Jones and his family have built thousands of these things over the years. Now he's recruited paid help at the Life Skills Vocational Center.

He thinks every family should have one for peace of mind if, say, terrorists detonate a dirty bomb.

Steve Jones/House Painter: "THIS WOULD TELL THEM WHERE THE SAFEST PLACE IN THEIR HOME WAS, IT WOULD TELL THEM WHEN IT WAS SAFE TO GO OUT. "

For years, Jones has promoted the idea in schools and government offices. He packages kits for sale on the internet at 55 bucks apiece.

Steve Jones/House Painter: "THEY'RE EXPENSIVE. AND I TELL PEOPLE, THAT'S THE PRICE OF LAZINESS."

Jones says, anyone can get free instructions and make the do-it-yourself version.

Steve Jones/House Painter: "ANYONE OVER 12. THE ONLY PEOPLE THAT HAVE A HARD TIME MAKING THESE, THE MORE EDUCATED YOU ARE, YOU GOT A PHD, YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO MAKE ONE. HAH, HAH"

John Hollenhorst/Eyewitness News: "JONES SAYS HE TRIED TO DROP THE WHOLE THING A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. BUT THEN 9-11 HAPPENED AND HE WAS BACK IN BUSINESS."

Steve Jones/House Painter: "IT'S A BOOST TO THE CAUSE, SO TO SPEAK. THIS IS PART OF A MOVEMENT. AND WE'VE RECRUITED ENTREPRENEURS NOW."

The device was actually invented by government scientists three decades ago and then basically forgotten. All Jones wants is for the government to promote the do-it-yourself version on its website.

Steve Jones/House Painter: "IT'S SO SIMPLE. IT'S THERE, RIGHT AT OUR FINGERTIPS. WHY DON'T WE DO IT?"

After years of spinning his wheels, Jones may finally be getting some traction. The offices of Senators Hatch and Bennett as well as Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania have contacted the Department of Homeland Security encouraging them to meet with Jones. That may happen next week.

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