Russia considers investigating uranium theft
MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) Russia is considering an inquiry into possible theft of highly enriched uranium from its nuclear sites, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General said today, as another uranium smuggling report surfaced from Georgia.
Georgia announced last week that in February 2006 a Russian citizen was arrested and jailed for trying to sell 100 grams of highly enriched uranium-235 to Islamist extremists. Russia called the announcement a provocative act.
Documents from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) seen by Reuters suggested the uranium may have come from the Russian city of Novosibirsk in Siberia.
''The Russian Prosecutor-General has asked for copies of documents (from Georgia) to start checks, and to consider launching a criminal case on the illegal purchase and holding of radioactive substances,'' the spokesman said.
Highly enriched uranium in big enough quantities can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
A senior Georgian government official told Reuters today a similar nuclear smuggling case occurred in 2003.
Shota Utiashvili, head of the Interior ministry's information and analytical section, said border guards then caught an Armenian man trying to smuggle 170 grams of highly enriched uranium-235 across the Armenia-Georgia border.
''According to our information the uranium was bought from Russia,'' he said.
Utiashvili said the man was handed over to the Armenian police but he was unaware what had happened to him after that.
Armenian officials were not available for comment.
The case has revived worries about the safety and security of hazardous material left over after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Experts had said tightened security had reduced the chances of uranium being traded on the black market to virtually nil.