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Georgia: Nuclear Smuggling Cases Raise Concern

Three Armenians and three Georgians were detained on April 17 and accused of trying to sell uranium 238 for $200 million in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The container holding uranium 238 and another container holding cesium 137, which was seized in mid January in an attempt to sell for $100,000 by three other people, had Russian-language markings. (Photo: Georgian Intelligence Service)

Amid heightened concern about Islamic militant activity in Turkey, questions are being raised about the border security of its eastern neighbor, Georgia.
 
Three incidents within the past six months involving the attempted smuggling of radioactive materials – uranium 235 and 238, and cesium 137 – are driving concerns about Georgia. Turkey was the materials’ presumed destination, some experts say.
 
Court proceedings in the first of the cases began on July 8. Those accused in the alleged smuggling schemes face prison terms of up to 10 years, if convicted.
 
The items transported were small in quantity, but huge in potential consequences, if ever used with malevolent intent. Uranium 235 is a fissile isotope used in nuclear reactors and atomic bombs. Uranium 238, though not fissile, can be used to produce a divisible isotope of plutonium, a major ingredient in nuclear weapons. Cesium 137 is a reactor-produced isotope suitable for a dirty bomb.
 
Georgia has had to contend with nuclear smuggling ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. 
 

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Georgia: Nuclear Smuggling Cases Raise Concern

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