[ RadSafe ] Moldovan authorities seize smuggled uranium

John R Johnson idias at interchange.ubc.ca
Tue Aug 24 16:58:18 CDT 2010


I'm sure you know that yellowcake is U-Nat, not U-238.

John R Johnson, PhD
4535 West 9th Ave
Vancouver, B. C.
V6R 2E2, Canada
idias at interchange.ubc.ca

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Perle, Sandy" <SPerle at mirion.com>
To: <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 2:10 PM
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Moldovan authorities seize smuggled uranium

> Moldovan authorities seize smuggled uranium
> By the CNN Wire Staff
> August 24, 2010 4:38 p.m. EDT
> Officials arrested five people in connection with a raid in the city of 
> Chisinau, Moldova.
> *   NEW: Three people were arrested in connection with the smuggling 
> operation
> *   Authorities discovered about 4 pounds of uranium 238
> *   Known as yellowcake, that type of uranium has to be enriched to make a 
> bomb
> Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Officials in Moldova seized 1.8 kilograms (about 4 
> pounds) of smuggled uranium and arrested three of seven suspects, an 
> interior ministry spokesman said Tuesday.
> Tipped off in early July, authorities discovered the Uranium 238, known as 
> yellowcake, in a garage in the former Soviet republic's capital of 
> Chisinau on July 20, said Kirill Motspan, director of the ministry's press 
> office.
> The smugglers were trying to traffic the uranium with an intent to sell it 
> for more than $11 million. Authorities are still trying to determine the 
> uranium's origin -- Moldova does not produce uranium -- and its intended 
> destination.
> However, yellowcake -- a coarse, poisonous powder that gets its name for 
> its often yellow color -- cannot be used to make a nuclear bomb. It is the 
> most commonly occurring found form of uranium and is not a fissile 
> substance, meaning that it must be enriched in an "elaborate set-up" 
> before it can be used for nuclear weapons, said Xiachun He, a professor of 
> nuclear physics at Georgia State University in the United States. The 
> uranium 238 alone is not even potent enough to make an effective dirty 
> bomb, the physicist said, since the level of radiation would be too low 
> once scattered as dust. Motpan said it was his understanding that 1 kilo 
> of uranium costs $6.3 million on the black market and that is what the 
> smugglers were expecting to get.
> "Apparently, you can't make anything serious out of this modest amount of 
> radioactive material," Motpan said. "But they were actively looking for a 
> customer."
> Acting as buyers, undercover policemen acquired less than one gram of the 
> substance and sent it to the United States for analysis, which confirmed 
> that it was uranium 238, he said.
> Motpan also said that along with the uranium, the Moldovan police also 
> discovered a cache with a Makarov pistol, 620 cartridges for a Kalashnikov 
> assault rifle, an F-1 hand grenade, car license plates, Soviet passports, 
> and other documents in the same garage.
> Yellowcake became a frequently heard term just before the 2003 invasion of 
> Iraq. The United States and the United Kingdom asserted that Iraqi 
> dictator Saddam Hussein had been trying to procure yellowcake from Niger 
> to make weapons of mass destruction.
> Then-President George W. Bush used that claim to bolster support for the 
> war though critics, including diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had published an 
> article about a CIA investigation, said Bush was exaggerating the Iraqi 
> threat.
> Motpan said a German atomic center will perform an expert analysis of the 
> seized uranium to establish the enrichment percentage and the country of 
> origin. The radioactive material has been placed in a special container 
> and is under guard.
> "We are expecting more information coming out of Russia, Romania and some 
> other countries that can shed light onto this case and those suspects," he 
> said.
> -----------------------------------
> Sander C. Perle
> President
> Mirion Technologies
> Dosimetry Services Division
> 2652 McGaw Avenue
> Irvine, CA 92614
> +1 (949) 296-2306 (Office)
> +1 (949) 296-1130 (Fax)
> Mirion Technologies: http://www.mirion.com/
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