- From correspondents in Moscow
- From: AFP
- December 16, 2011 10:32PM
RUSSIA seized today a consignment of the radioactive isotope Sodium-22 at a Moscow airport from a passenger who was to travel on a flight to Tehran, the customs service said.
“Tests showed that the Sodium-22 could only have been obtained as the result of the work of a nuclear reactor,” it said in a statement. “A criminal inquiry has been opened and the materials transferred to prosecutors.”
Customs was alerted by a warning system at Sheremetyevo Airport ahead of the Moscow to Tehran flight that background radiation in the departures hall was 20 times the norm. A passenger’s bag was then searched.
“Eighteen metallic objects of industrial origin were found, packed into individual steel boxes,” it said. “Tests then found that the objects were in fact the radioactive isotope Sodium-22 that had been machine-produced.”
No further details were immediately available on the consignment or the identity of the passenger who was carrying the materials.
Russia has relatively close ties with Iran and built its first nuclear power station in the southern city of Bushehr. Moscow also delivered the nuclear fuel for the reactor.
Moscow has echoed Western concerns about the nature of the Iranian nuclear program but stopped short of publicly accusing Tehran of seeking atomic weapons and always said that the standoff should be solved by diplomacy.
Experts have long called for tight controls against nuclear smuggling so that Iran cannot get ahold of materials it is barred from obtaining under UN Security Council sanctions.