Thursday, November 29, 2007

Breaking: Slovak Authorities Seize Nuclear Materials Capable of Making Dirty Bomb

This is breaking and quite disturbing via MSNBC - Slovak officials say seized uranium enriched enough to be used in 'dirty bomb'

Where did they obtain the materials, what is the identity of the individuals, who did they work for, and what was their ultimate destination? Right now - no answers to any of those questions.

The Slovaks have done the world a great favor. Let's see where this leads.

Bloomberg reports that the seized material - 1.1kg worth - included Uranium 235 and Uranium 238 in powder form.
The material's origin is not certain, although police believe it may have come from the former Soviet Union, Kopcik said, speaking at a press conference alongside Hungarian police officials.

The seized substance was uranium 238 and 235 in powder form, Kopcik said. The material was supposed to be transferred from Hungary, he said. The suspects were arrested on both sides of the Hungarian-Slovak border in a joint operation between the two European Union countries.

``The material was even more dangerous because of its powder form,'' Kopcik said today in Bratislava, Slovakia. ``It could be used for production of a dirty bomb.''

Illegal atomic smuggling incidents have risen almost four- fold since 2006, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Nov. 20. The Vienna-based IAEA has recorded 1,266 incidents of nuclear smuggling since 1993. Some 18 cases have involved highly enriched uranium or plutonium, the essential ingredients for a bomb.
Nice to see the IAEA on the case - especially considering that the Slovak authorities think the materials came from the former Soviet Union. The IAEA has something to do with non proliferation, but their mission seems to be a bit hazy these days.

This report provides more details, including a reduction in the amount of Uranium confiscated:
He said police had intelligence suggesting that the suspects - whose names were not released, but were aged 40, 49 and 51 - originally had planned to sell the material early this week. One of the Hungarians had been living in Ukraine. Police moved in when the sale did not occur as expected, he said.
Kopcik said investigators were still working to determine who ultimately was trying to buy the uranium, which the trio allegedly was selling for $1m (£485,000).

Three other suspects - including a Slovak national identified only as Eugen K - were detained in the neighbouring Czech Republic in mid-October for allegedly trying to sell fake radioactive materials. It was unclear to what degree, if any, they played a role in the thwarted uranium sale.

Police said a total of 481.4g of uranium had been stored in unspecified containers. Investigators concluded that the material consisted of 98.6% uranium-235. Uranium is considered weapons-grade if it contains at least 85% uranium-235.

"According to initial findings, the material originated in the former Soviet republics," Kopcik said.

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