Aviation News

December 16, 2011

Iran-Bound Radioactive Material Seized at Moscow Airport

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Russia’s Federal Customs Service on Friday said it has seized radioactive material from the luggage of a man who was preparing to take a commercial flight from Moscow to Tehran. His whereabouts are unknown.

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A statement issued by the customs service said it discovered 18 pieces of radioactive metal which were packaged in individual steel casings. The material was found in the luggage of an Iranian citizen who was planning to fly from Sheremetyevo International Airport in the Russian capital of Moscow to the Iranian capital of Tehran.

The agency said the radiation levels of the material, Sodium-22, were 20 times higher than normal background radiation. But nuclear experts and Russia’s atomic agency Rosatom said the radioactive isotope of sodium is primarily used for medical equipment and scientific research, and cannot be used as a weapon.

In addition, Sodium-22 can be produced in a particle accelerator and is available to medical and educational institutions across Russia. Rosatom said the material seized at the airport is not highly radioactive.

The man who attempted to transport the radioactive material from Moscow to Tehran had not been arrested. The customs service said a criminal case has been opened, but it did not say if it knows where the man is or if he had been questioned.

International concerns have been increasing for years regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. While Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is for the peaceful purpose of providing energy, many countries contend it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.