Three Arrested in Radioactive Sale Bid

The Slovakian police today arrested three people for trying to sell more than 2 pounds of radioactive material, a police spokesman told ABC News.

The radioactive material was seized near the border of Ukraine, between Slovakia and Hungary, Slovakian police spokesman Martin Korch said. He did not know the type of radioactive material seized, and the police did not reveal any information about the alleged intended buyer.

Two of the suspects were arrested in eastern Slovakia, the other in Hungary, in a coordinated Slovak-Hungarian police operation, Korch told ABC News. He said the suspects, whose nationalities he did not identify, had been under surveillance for several months by both Slovak and Hungarian authorities.

Specialists were examining the radioactive material, which the three were trying to sell for $1 million, said Korch.

But one expert says that dollar figure may be misleading.

"The $1 million figure might be suggestive that it was serious material," nuclear security expert Matthew Bunn of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University told ABCNews.com, "but it is also often the case that these smugglers have greatly exaggerated notions of the value of what they have."

Bunn pointed out that until further examination of the material occurs, it is impossible to know whether or not the seized material is dangerous or dubious.

"It could be low-enriched uranium (of which 1 kilogram is basically valueless and not important), could be some kind of radioactive source (in which case the 1 kilogram figure likely refers to the source plus its container), could be highly enriched uranium (in which case 1 kilogram would be the biggest incident in years), could be plutonium (in which case 1 kilogram would be the biggest case ever), could be various forms of unimportant radioactive trash," said Bunn.

Tomorrow a news conference is scheduled with the head of Slovakia's police, Gen. Jan Packa.

ABC News' Dragana Jovanovic and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...