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article imageSmugglers offer 1.8 kg radioactive material to undercover police

By R. C. Camphausen     Aug 26, 2010 in Crime
Chisinau - Undercover detectives in the Republic of Moldova have arrested three smugglers possessing and trying to sell 1.8 kg of highly radioactive uranium-238, possibly enough to construct a so-called dirty bomb.
Four pounds, or 1.8 kg, of uranium-238 were found in a garage after smugglers tried to sell the dangerous and radioactive material on the black market. Fortunately, they offered their wares to undercover agents of Moldova's police force. Two of the three people arrested were former police officers.
Reports indicate the uranium has a value of about $10 million (9 million Euro) on the black market, although there is disagreement about whether or not 1.8 kg is enough to fashion a dirty bomb. While the Guardian says it is, the New York Times quotes unnamed officials saying the amount is too small.
Police were tipped off about the uranium-238 several weeks ago and the three arrested have been convicted of uranium smuggling in Moldova, Romania and Russia in the past. The arrested are also allegedly part of a larger gang whose members have not yet been apprehended.
Ivan Blokov, director of Greenpeace Russia and an expert on nuclear materials, told the Guardian the uranium would most likely have come from Ukraine, Russia or Kazakhstan. He said uranium and plutonium smuggling took place regularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but had tailed off over the last 10 years.
Samples of the radioactive material have been sent to Germany, reports France 24, where tests can be done to identify the uranium's country of origin.
According to the CIA World Factbook:
Moldova remains one of the poorest countries in Europe despite recent progress from its small economic base. It enjoys a favorable climate and good farmland but has no major mineral deposits. As a result, the economy depends heavily on agriculture, featuring fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco. Moldova must import almost all of its energy supplies.
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