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Moldova seizes £7 million worth of enriched uranium
Moldova seizes £7 million worth of enriched uranium

Four pounds of radioactive enriched uranium worth more than £7 million, has been seized by Moldovan authorities from a suspected group of traffickers that included former officials from the interior ministry.

Published: 6:16PM BST 24 Aug 2010

Published: 6:16PM BST 24 Aug 2010

[Image: uranium_1702369c.jpg] A uranium button Photo: CORBIS

Police found 1.8 kilograms (four pounds) of the substance Uranium-238 in a garage in the capital Chisinau where it was under guard and in a special container, according to the interior ministry.

Enriched uranium is a vital ingredient for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.

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Chiril Motpan, a spokesman for Moldova’s interior ministry, said the radioactive substance had been brought to Chisinau via contraband and the people linked to the operation wanted to sell it for nine million euros (£7.1 million).
Mr Motpan said the suspects had been arrested, adding that they had previous convictions for possessing radioactive materials in Moldova, Russia and Romania.
He said the group of seven people included two former interior ministry officials who were now retired.
“Seven members of the criminal group came under suspicion of police in the middle of June when they started to look for ways of selling the radioactive material,” Mr Motpan said.
The identity of the substance was confirmed when one single gram was sent for analysis in the United States where it was confirmed to be Uranium-238, he added.
The source and intended destination of the uranium was not immediately clear. Experts have repeatedly expressed fears over traffickers obtaining nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union with the aim of selling them on to rogue groups in the hope of making a so-called dirty bomb.
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Brief Panic: Trivial Amount of Unenriched Uranium Seized in Moldova

Gang Hoped to Sell Chunk of Ore for Millions of Dollars

by Jason Ditz, August 24, 2010

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There was a brief media stir this morning following reports that police in the city of Chisinau, the capital city of the Republic of Moldova, seized approximately four pounds of yellowcake uranium that a criminal gang had obtained and was trying to sell.
[Image: u.gif]According to the initial reports the gang had been asking for 9 million Euros, or around $11 million, for the chunk of unenriched uranium, but it did not have any takers so far.
Which is perhaps unsurprising, because the current spot price for yellowcake uranium on the open market is only about $46 a pound, meaning the small rock was worth less than $200 at best.
But it did spark a bit of speculation about terrorists buying the thing and using it for the creation of a “dirty bomb,” speculation that is readily refuted however and doesn’t appear to have been based on anything but how scary the word “uranium” sounds.
The whole block of ore contains only about 1.08 millicuries of radioisotope, meaning it is roughly the same amount of radioisotope as you’d get from a few of those glow in the dark radium watchdials.
The are scores of other sources of radioisotope that would be cheaper, far more powerful, and far easier to obtain. Even if this did somehow fall into the “wrong hands” the most they could do is scare a bunch of people, which come to think of it they did anyhow.
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