Positive Environment News

Kyrgyzstan Probing Radioactive Cargo Bound for Iran

Date: 01-Feb-08

Kyrgyzstan's presidential press service said the unspecified cargo was intercepted in neighbouring Uzbekistan about a month ago and the train was sent back.

In a statement, the official press service said the train had been inspected by Kyrgyz specialists before it left the ex-Soviet republic and the case was now under investigation.

It did not identify the radioactive element or say how much was found, but it said that Bishkek would ask the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog to send it special equipment to deal with such cases in the future.

The statement did not say whether Kyrgyzstan planned to invite in IAEA experts to assist in the inquiry.

In Vienna, an IAEA spokesman said a Kyrgyz contact had told the agency that the radioactivity of the train's cargo was not high enough to pose a serious risk to health.

"The material was put into a bucket and that was placed inside a metal drum, which was then filled with concrete and taken to a facility for long-term radioactive storage," the spokesman said.

Western powers suspect Iran's declared civilian nuclear energy programme is a front for building bombs. Tehran says the programme will generate electricity only and it will continue regardless of UN sanctions that may be increased soon.

Security experts have long called on former Soviet republics to do more to prevent nuclear materials being stolen and sold on black markets to states or militant groups in unstable regions that might try to build atomic weapons.

Kyrgyzstan has been volatile since 2005 when a wave of violent protests toppled its long-serving leader. Many of its Soviet-era industrial sites have been abandoned, and unemployment and poverty are widespread.
(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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