December 16th, 2011
10:26 AM ET

Radioactive material bound for Iran seized in Moscow

Russian authorities seized radioactive material from the luggage of a passenger on a flight from Moscow to Tehran on Friday.

The luggage, belonging to an Iranian citizen, contained 18 metal objects packed in individual steel cases, Russia's Federal Customs Service said in a statement. The agency said the material, the radioactive isotope sodium-22, can be obtained in a nuclear reactor.

Initial tests showed that radiation levels of the objects were 20 times above normal, the customs service said.

The Russian atomic agency Rosatom, however, said sodium-22 is exclusively used for medical and scientific research and does not have a high radiation level. Rosatom contradicted the custom agency's claim that the material can only come from a nuclear reactor.

Radiation expert Paddy Regan, a professor at England's University of Surrey, said the material was unlikely to present a major radiation hazard. He said sodium-22 can be made in medical accelerators and is usually not produced in reactors. It is also not used in reactors as a component of fuel.

The Federal Customs Service said the objects were sent to a Moscow prosecutor's office that deals with air and water transport.

A criminal investigation is under way. The whereabouts of the Iranian passenger was not immediately clear.

Filed under: Iran • Nuclear • Russia
soundoff (2 Responses)

    Russia may have helped Iran down spy drone

    It's possible that Russia directly aided Iran in downing the sophisticated U.S. drone that crashed in Iranian territory last week, America's former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said today in a radio interview.

    "You would have to think that that is a possibility," said Bolton, commenting on the likelihood of Russian assistance in the drone's capture

    Bolton noted speculation that Iran in recent months purchased from Russian sources the advanced jamming and electronic warfare system known as Avtobaza, which he said could have been used to hack into the downed drone's system.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • AlexShch

      John Bolton is a well known Cold-War paranoid. Having no proof one way ot the other, he simply raises speculation that "it is possible", and then pretends that he knows something, but cannot say because it is a top secret. This is how public opinion is formed nowadays. We already had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, did not we? And meanwhile, at the same time, back in 2003 we had allegation that then Ukrainian Pres. Kuchma sold advanced passive detection systems called "Kolchuga" to Iraq just few month before the war started in March 2003, did not we? Then US twisted his hands and threatened sanctions unless some Ukraine sends some troops to joint "coalition of willing", did not we? In the end the whole thing turned out to be a blatant LIE together with weapons of mass destruction.

      Now, on Dec. 15, 2011, 9 years and 4500 dead American soldiers later we hear the same allegations from basically the same people. Did we learn anything?

      December 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Reply

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