Radioactive Materials Seized in Central Russia
MOSCOW Russian security services seized two containers filled with highly radioactive material at a scrap yard in central Russia, Interfax news agency said on Tuesday.
Radiation levels at the scene in the Volga town of Saratov, where the containers with uranium-238 were discovered, were 358 times higher than normal, Interfax said, citing regional emergency officials.
Nuclear officials in Moscow could not immediately confirm the report.
Depleted uranium, where uranium-238 is usually found, can be theoretically used to make nuclear "dirty bombs."
Russia, which has the world's second biggest nuclear arsenal after the United States, is under international pressure to do more to protect its atomic sites from theft and prevent sensitive materials from reaching the nuclear black market.
Both U.S. President George W. Bush and challenger Sen. John Kerry have said they consider nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists the biggest threat to the United States.
Interfax said homeless people brought the containers to the scrap yard. It quoted regional nuclear experts as saying officials at the scene had also found an empty container normally used to transport uranium.
Uranium-238 is a highly dense and toxic material mainly used in gun ammunition and armor.
"That type of uranium looks very much like lead, so I would not be surprised if someone had simply mistaken it for it and dumped at the scrap yard," said a spokesman for the Russian Atomic Energy Agency.
Highly enriched uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors can be used to make an atomic bomb.
Spent fuel, as well as other by-products of uranium enrichment such as uranium-238, can produce a dirty bomb that needs little atomic content but spreads radiation when it explodes.
Also on Tuesday, a truck carrying radioactive materials was seized at the far eastern port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Ria-Novosti news agency reported. No further details were available.