Saturday, March 20, 2004

DRC: uranium siezed

Earlier this month, DRC authorities siezed two cases containing uranium.
The two cases, weighing over 100 kilograms (220 lb), contained a mixture of stable uranium-238 and radioactive uranium-235, said Professor Fortunat Lumu, Congo's General Atomic Energy Officer and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He told Reuters both cases had a relatively low level of radioactivity but it was "still enough" to cause radioactive contamination if detonated in a home-made bomb.

Some 50 cases of radioactive uranium and highly radioactive caesium have been seized by Congolese authorities in the central African country over the last four years, said Lumu.

Officials say cases carrying radioactive material are smuggled into the country, from where they are traded across sparsely guarded borders to several of Congo's nine neighbors.

They suspect the cases are brought in to Congo for industrial use in the region's oil and mining sectors, bypassing international conventions on shipping radioactive material.

"It is possible that some of the cases brought in for such use are then stolen or traded into the wrong hands, but we cannot say for sure how many times this has happened," Lumu said.
Here is a March 12 Reuters story saying that Zambian officials have detained two men suspected of possessing bomb-grade uranium. One official is quoted as saying the two men may have gotten the material from the DRC .... (Zambia has unexploited uranium deposists).