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Moldovan authorities seize smuggled uranium

Redress

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Moldovan authorities seize smuggled uranium - CNN.com

CNN 4:38 edt-Officials in Moldova seized 1.8 kilograms (about 4 pounds) of smuggled uranium and arrested three of seven suspects, an interior ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Tipped off in early July, authorities discovered the Uranium 238, known as yellowcake, in a garage in the former Soviet republic's capital of Chisinau on July 20, said Kirill Motspan, director of the ministry's press office.

The smugglers were trying to traffic the uranium with an intent to sell it for more than $11 million. Authorities are still trying to determine the uranium's origin -- Moldova does not produce uranium -- and its intended destination.
Well now this is worrying.
 

MaggieD

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I'll say. But I'm not sure if I should be more worried about how we haven't been hearing about more captures like this. Either there isn't much smuggling going on or they're getting away with it.:shock:
Okay, now wait. I'm really really curious. Lots of yellow cake uranium was found in Iraq and removed from the country. I saw the reliable links about this some time ago. I found it responding on another forum to Bush's failure to find any weapons, etc. I was told with some authority that yellow cake uranium could not be used to make nuclear bombs. I don't have time to see if this is true. But tomorrow I'm suuure gunna' check it out.
 

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Okay, now wait. I'm really really curious. Lots of yellow cake uranium was found in Iraq and removed from the country. I saw the reliable links about this some time ago. I found it responding on another forum to Bush's failure to find any weapons, etc. I was told with some authority that yellow cake uranium could not be used to make nuclear bombs. I don't have time to see if this is true. But tomorrow I'm suuure gunna' check it out.
It sounds more like it's one part of a nuclear weapon. The following comment wasn't sourced on the wikipedia page, so I'd have to spend more time authenticating it's accuracy.

Uranium-238 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Most modern nuclear weapons utilize U-238 as a "tamper" material (see nuclear weapon design). A tamper which surrounds a fissile core works to reflect neutrons and to add inertia to the compression of the Pu-239 charge. As such, it increases the efficiency of the weapon and reduces the amount of critical mass required. In the case of a thermonuclear weapon U-238 can be used to encase the fusion fuel, the high flux of very energetic neutrons from the resulting fusion reaction causes U-238 nuclei to split and adds more energy to the "yield" of the weapon. Such weapons are referred to as fission-fusion-fission weapons after the three consecutive stages of the explosion. An example of such a weapon is Castle Bravo although the fission of its unenriched uranium tamper was not intentional.[citation needed]

The larger portion of the total explosive yield in this design comes from the final fission stage fueled by U-238, producing enormous amounts of radioactive fission products. For example, an estimated 77% of the 10.4-megaton yield of the Ivy Mike thermonuclear test in 1952 came from fast fission of the depleted uranium tamper. Because depleted uranium has no critical mass, it can be added to thermonuclear bombs in almost unlimited quantity. The Soviet Unions test of the "Tsar Bomba" in 1961 produced "only" 60 megatons of explosive power, over 90% of which came from fusion, because the U-238 final stage had been replaced with lead. Had U-238 been used instead, the yield of the "Tsar Bomba" could have been well-above 100 megatons, and it would have produced nuclear fallout equivalent to one third of the global total that had been produced up to that time.
 

Le Marteau

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Something like this comes up every now and again -- while admittedly not with such clear and provocative evidence. Generally, I'd think the uranium black market is more benign than people assume. People hear uranium and they think, nuclear bombs, unstable nuclear reactors, Chernobyl, Three-Mile-Island, Iran, Oh My! But that's hardly the case. Uranium is used in everything from smoke detectors to some medicines to cyclotrons. Uranium is highly restricted due to its potential uses (big booms and lots of cancer), but not all of its uses consist of such deadly things.
 

Redress

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Something like this comes up every now and again -- while admittedly not with such clear and provocative evidence. Generally, I'd think the uranium black market is more benign than people assume. People hear uranium and they think, nuclear bombs, unstable nuclear reactors, Chernobyl, Three-Mile-Island, Iran, Oh My! But that's hardly the case. Uranium is used in everything from smoke detectors to some medicines to cyclotrons. Uranium is highly restricted due to its potential uses (big booms and lots of cancer), but not all of its uses consist of such deadly things.
This is correct, but the potential is there for "deadly things', so it is worrying.
 

Le Marteau

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From: Russia
To: Who knows?
Ah, I thought someone would say this.

Now, here it comes:

That is nothing by base, American anti-Russian sentiment. It's an absolute fantasy to say that the Soviet Union, and the Russian Federation, has been anything but immaculate in keeping tabs on all of its vast nuclear stockpile. You'll always hear a story of how "25 Russian briefcase-nukes went missing" and nobody has found them, but, then, if the allegation is serious enough, the UN will go on, do a check, and, lo and behold, every last nuclear weapon is where the Kremlin said it was. In fact, the largest missing-nuke scandal in history was inside America's borders, in 2007, when six nuclear weapons went missing from Minot Air Base in North Dakota, and turned up a couple days later in Barksdale Air Base in Lousiana.


No, I think that any uranium passing through the Moldovan black market is from Ukraine, and passing on somewhere to the Middle-East or Turkey.
 

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Ah, I thought someone would say this.

Now, here it comes:

That is nothing by base, American anti-Russian sentiment. It's an absolute fantasy to say that the Soviet Union, and the Russian Federation, has been anything but immaculate in keeping tabs on all of its vast nuclear stockpile. You'll always hear a story of how "25 Russian briefcase-nukes went missing" and nobody has found them, but, then, if the allegation is serious enough, the UN will go on, do a check, and, lo and behold, every last nuclear weapon is where the Kremlin said it was. In fact, the largest missing-nuke scandal in history was inside America's borders, in 2007, when six nuclear weapons went missing from Minot Air Base in North Dakota, and turned up a couple days later in Barksdale Air Base in Lousiana.


No, I think that any uranium passing through the Moldovan black market is from Ukraine, and passing on somewhere to the Middle-East or Turkey.
Hey, you asked. And I should have been more specific... "Russians"... not the Russian government. So as in "a group of Russians involved in the black market".

And actually I'm suspicious because of... (from the article)

Motpan also said that along with the uranium, the Moldovan police also discovered a cache with a Makarov pistol, 620 cartridges for a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an F-1 hand grenade, car license plates, Soviet passports, and other documents in the same garage.
Obviously without more information I have no idea who's really behind it.

What makes you think Ukraine?
 

Le Marteau

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Hey, you asked. And I should have been more specific... "Russians"... not the Russian government. So as in "a group of Russians involved in the black market".

And actually I'm suspicious because of... (from the article)



Obviously without more information I have no idea who's really behind it.

What makes you think Ukraine?
Ah, well, Russians, yes, undoubtedly. Of that, I'm rather certain, especially with the further evidence you've laid out before me -- Russians have their hands in every black market arms deal across the globe. But, I think that they could not possibly have been operating out of Russia, as Russia's nuclear security is too high. That's why I argued Ukraine -- Ukraine used to have nuclear weapons left over from the Soviet Union, until a string of security incidents regarding the nuclear weapons were brought up, and Russia repossessed the nuclear weapons from Ukraine. This was around 1995, if memory serves.

So, I say Ukraine because they have a history of dealing with nuclear materials, but also a history of not being quite as secure as their neighbour is with them.
 

Tashah

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I'm quite surprised the Moldavian authorities actually noticed a smuggling operation.

They never seem to notice the Russian mafia trafficking women across their border.
 

Le Marteau

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I'm quite surprised the Moldavian authorities actually noticed a smuggling operation.

They never seem to notice the Russian mafia trafficking women across their border.
Eh, big governments care a bit more about uranium than underworld crime syndicates. You think the Americans don't know about all the slave rings in Chicago, Detroit, etc.? Of course they do, they just don't care. But if someone in Chicago had their hands on some yellow cake, and you'll bet SWAT will be all over it.
 

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Add some frosting and I become very concerned. :2razz:
Has to be radiaoctive frosting.

Still, it takes something like 3 tons of Yellowcake to make a critical mass under the best refining processes the US and Russia have. So 4 lbs in the hands of terrorists with crude refining technology really doesn't scare me.
 

Le Marteau

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Has to be radiaoctive frosting.

Still, it takes something like 3 tons of Yellowcake to make a critical mass under the best refining processes the US and Russia have. So 4 lbs in the hands of terrorists with crude refining technology really doesn't scare me.
Well, the "scary" idea is that this is the only shipment the Moldovan authorities have seized -- who knows how much more has passed under the radar? So, this shipment was four pounds. How do we know there weren't fifty shipments of one-hundred pounds each previously?

Now, I think that the spectre of Russian nuclear authorities so close means such a thing is hardly possible, but, that's where the "fear" comes in, if you like.
 

obvious Child

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Well, the "scary" idea is that this is the only shipment the Moldovan authorities have seized -- who knows how much more has passed under the radar? So, this shipment was four pounds. How do we know there weren't fifty shipments of one-hundred pounds each previously?
We don't. But in terms of scariness, the large stockpiles that other FSUs have are more of a threat. Waltz I believed described one stockpile of several tons of moderately enriched uranium guarded by one rusty padlock in a non-disclosed location. That is frightening.

Now, I think that the spectre of Russian nuclear authorities so close means such a thing is hardly possible, but, that's where the "fear" comes in, if you like.
Russian nuclear authorities are hardly comforting period.
 
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