Russian police have arrested seven men who were trying to sell more than 2 pounds of weapons-grade uranium. Russian nuclear experts are examining the capsule containing the uranium to determine its place of origin and determine if it?s the high-level enriched variety of uranium-235. They think it came from a nuclear research center or production plant.
Most of the suspects belong to the Balashikha criminal gang. They tried to sell the uranium for $30,000 to another gang, but officials don?t know how they got hold of the uranium in the first place.
Intelligence officials around the world have long suspected that Russian uranium is being stolen and sold to third-world terrorists. The UN?s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently warned that the security and regulation of nuclear material in the former Soviet Union is poor and called for greater international efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear smuggling. David Kyd of the IAEA says there have been 175 known attempts to smuggle nuclear material out of former Soviet Republics.
The largest confirmed disappearance of weapons-grade uranium from the former Soviet Union was in Georgia, where police arrested three men attempting to sell over 3 pounds of uranium-235 to buyers in Turkey this summer.
Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Yelnikov says the amount of uranium in this theft is too small to make a nuclear device. ?It looks like they accidentally got their hands on the uranium and were trying to sell it,? he says. ?It?s not like they were trying to sell the material to some Afghan terrorists.?
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