Accused Car Thief Carrying Rattlesnake, Uranium and Whiskey

On June 26 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, police found a rattlesnake, a canister of radioactive powdered uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey during a traffic stop of a stolen vehicle. He also had a gun, but this is not uncommon in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is a state where it is legal for an adult to openly carry a firearm for certain “legitimate purposes” without a permit, and for certain other purposes with a permit, under the Oklahoma Firearms Act and Oklahoma Self-Defense Act.

[See this for “legitimate purposes” explained.]

The rattlesnake, uranium and whiskey made me laugh for some reason. It seems like he was on a treasure hunt for potent items. A woman with him was also arrested.

Stephen Jennings and Rachel Rivera were pulled over in a stolen vehicle by officers who found radioactive uranium, a rattlesnake, whiskey, and a gun in the car.


Gibbs said police then ran the name of the passenger in the vehicle, later identified as Rachel Rivera, and found she was a convicted felon. She was also arrested and charged with possession of a firearm after a felony conviction because the gun was within arms reach, Gibbs said.

Natural uranium (as long as it is not enriched) in “unimportant quantities” is not illegal to own if unrefined and unprocessed and uranium ore can be purchased on Amazon. It has legitimate purposes, for example, to test a Geiger counter.

The article said he had a powdered uranium, however, so I wonder if he was processing it. Did he have yellowcake, milled uranium oxide?

Yellowcake (also called urania) is a type of uranium concentrate powder obtained from leach solutions, in an intermediate step in the processing of uranium ores 

Via Wikipedia

According to Slate, it is not a rare commodity and yellowcake is still a long way from being enriched uranium. In California at least, one source said a layperson without a license may legally own up to 15 lbs of yellowcake uranium according to 17 CCR 30191.

The uranium in yellowcake is almost exclusively (>99%) U-238, with very low radioactivity. U-238 has an extremely long half-life, over 4 billion years, meaning that it emits radiation at a slow rate. 

Is yellowcake radioactive? Desert news had a story with an expert who said it is not. Wait, what!?

Yellowcake, also known as uranium oxide, is far from being a weapons-grade material, said Talat Rahman, chairman of the physics department at the University of Central Florida.

She said it does not pose a serious threat in small quantities.

“Yellowcake by itself is not dangerous,” Rahman said, adding that it’s not radioactive.

“It has to be processed to be converted into something dangerous.”(Source)

This quote was also in the LA Times. Where is the science literacy?

That’s just wrong. The original reporter probably heard her wrong.

Here’s a video showing yellowcake is radioactive:

It would be an awesome cool radiation shielding discovery if yellowcake itself were not radioactive.

To make it into anything dangerous requires huge amounts, however, small amounts over time can still be dangerous.

Best to stay away from uranium, rattlesnakes and whisky.

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