Arrest 3 for Nuclear Trafficking
Reuters, 22 July 2001
PARIS (Reuters) - French police have arrested three
men on suspicion of trafficking nuclear material after seizing five
grams of enriched uranium used to make nuclear weapons, the newspaper
Journal du Dimanche said on Sunday.
Police and judicial sources declined to confirm the
report, but a spokesman for the country's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
said the matter was in the hands of the interior ministry.
A CEA physicist said separately this seemed to be the
first time usable radioactive materials had been seized in France.
"As far as the CEA knows, this is the first time that
radioactive materials have been discovered in France. Until now, one
had only found radioactive waste,'' Philippe Bergeonneau told Reuters.
Journal du Dimanche said police arrested a French man
and two Cameroonians earlier this week in Paris and seized five grams
of enriched uranium 235, which was inside a glass bottle contained within
a lead outer-casing.
"The amount may seem small, but it was presumably a
sample aimed at luring a buyer interested in several kilograms,'' the
Not Enough for a Bomb
The newspaper said police had seized aeroplane tickets
to eastern European countries and nuclear analysis notes written in
Cyrillic script, presumably Russian, from an apartment belonging to
one of the men.
Bergeonneau said 10 kilograms of uranium 235 would
be needed to make a nuclear bomb but apart from its military uses, this
kind of uranium was also used in research nuclear reactors.
He said closer analysis of the material found in Paris
would enable scientists to establish its exact composition, but he said
it was premature to say whether it would be possible to determine its
Bergeonneau said several cases of nuclear trafficking
had been discovered in other countries since the break up of the Soviet
In January 2001, Greece found hundreds of highly radioactive
metal plates, containing plutonium and americium, buried in a forest
near the northern port of Thessaloniki.
Officials at the time said they thought the plates
had been brought in from former Soviet republics or Bulgaria and buried
there while the traffickers waited for a buyer.