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Russia seizes Iran-bound radioactive material

Russia's customs service said on Friday it had seized radioactive sodium-22, an isotope that is used in medical equipment but has no weapons use, from the luggage of a passenger planning to fly from Moscow to Tehran.

world Updated: Dec 17, 2011 21:05 IST
Reuters

Russia's customs service said on Friday it had seized radioactive sodium-22, an isotope that is used in medical equipment but has no weapons use, from the luggage of a passenger planning to fly from Moscow to Tehran.

The service said in a statement that the material could be obtained only "as a result of a nuclear reactor's operations" but did not say when it had been discovered at Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport.

The material triggered an alarm in the airport's radiation control system and a luggage search led to the discovery of 18 pieces of the radioactive metal packed in individual steel casings, it said.

Sodium-22 can be used in medical equipment and nuclear detectors, nuclear experts said.

"There is no weapons aspect to this (material)," research director Lars-Erik De Geer of the Swedish Defence Research Institute.

Tension is rising between Western powers and Iran after a United Nations nuclear watchdog report last month that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon, and that secret research to that end may be continuing.

Russia, which built Iran's first nuclear power station, has said it might help Tehran construct more atomic plants.

First Published: Dec 16, 2011 20:00 IST