[ RadSafe ] Clueless smugglers find 'gold' is uranium Similar incidents in India

parthasarathy k s ksparth at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Sep 9 05:24:55 CDT 2008


In India we had  a few instances of  ignorant persons trying their best to get rich by selling what they thought to be very precious. In these instances, the blocks of material were depleted uranium (DU) from medical accelerators or telecobalt machines. At times the police go overboard and basked in the glory before the the television channels. 

In one instance, a premier hospital in Mumbai imported two old medical accelerators. They did not know that they contained depleted uranium as shielding material (Some medical accelerators contain up to 125 kg of DU). They decided to sell the equipment as scraps. Those who bought found the pieces of DU. The pieces had clear inscriptions indicating that they are made of DU. They were greedy. They tried to sell it surreptiously. Police informers got wind of it. They were arrested. According to the then prevalent regulation it was illegal to keep even small amounts of uranium or DU without a licence from the Government of India. Interestingly, just by coincidence, the pieces were recovered near Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC); Initially police believed that the "precious" metal was stolen from BARC.

TV channels had a wonderful time. There was so much disinformation. As Director of Information, I  explained the properties of DU and the nature of radiation emitted by DU. There was some disappointment that the matter as not as serious after all!
Police detained those who handled the material surreptiously


----- Original Message ----
From: "Dawson, Fred Mr" <Fred.Dawson199 at mod.uk>
To: radsafe at radlab.nl; srp-uk at yahoogroups.com
Sent: Tuesday, 9 September, 2008 12:40:37
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Clueless smugglers find 'gold' is uranium

Times reports that  clueless smugglers find 'gold' is uranium


Three Chinese men have learnt the hard way that all that glitters is not
gold. Indeed, in some cases it is depleted uranium. 

A court in the far west spared the trio from lengthy jail terms,
determining that the men had been greedy when they smuggled the ball of
shiny metal into China from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan but had acted out of
ignorance and not deliberately. 

It was the first reported case of smuggling of such a banned material
into China, state media said. 

The scrap merchants, two brothers and a friend, found the lump of
low-radiation uranium metal in a yard in Bishkek last year. Attracted by
its shiny surface and its "gold sparkle", they haggled the dealer down
to a price of $US2,000 for what both sides regarded as a treasure - but
neither could identify. 

They smuggled their prize across the border, evading customs checks and
hid the metal in the home of the father-in-law of one of the men in the
westernmost Xinjiang region. 

A report on the local government website
(http://www.chinanews.com.cn/sh/news/2008/09-08/1375022.shtml) said:
"They were surprised that at night when the lights went out the treasure
sparkled and glittered, and Mr Wang chipped a piece from it and kept it
beside his bed - sometimes playing with it." 

Twice as dense as lead, depleted uranium is the substance left after the
most highly radioactive parts are extracted. It is used in
armour-piercing ammunition. 

Eager to profit from their investment but ignorant of how to price their
find, the men decided to take a chip thousands of miles to Beijing to
ask scientists at prestigious Tsinghua University to identify their
treasure. Cutting off a chunk of the 274 kilogram (602-pound) metal was
no easy task and the men broke several dozen saws before they succeeded
in slicing off a piece. "To prevent the sample being lost or stolen on
the way, Mr Wang used tape to stick the unidentified treasure to his
body, and it never left him night or day." 

Contact with the skin is usually not harmful, but the material can
damage kidneys, lungs and other organs if it enters the body. 

But the trio's hopes of instant riches evaporated once the experts had
taken a look at the lump and swiftly determined that it was a
radioactive material. They reported the matter to the police, who
detained the men on suspicion of smuggling. 

The case presented a conundrum to China's judicial authorities: the law
states that only those who deliberately smuggle nuclear materials may be
subject to punishment. It was clear that the three men were entirely
clueless about the true nature of the "treasure" they had brought into
China. Prosecutors decided they had no case and set them free. 

So far the men have shown no signs of physical abnormalities, state
media said. 

Fred Dawson  CRadP MSRP

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