Reuters reports that Ukrainian security personnel detained a man at Kiev’s airport carrying 1.28 pounds of uranium-238 in his car:
Ukraine’s SBU security service arrested a man at Kiev’s airport who had a case containing radioactive uranium-238 in his car, the Emergencies Ministry said Tuesday.
It said the man was detained at Boryspil airport, Ukraine’s main international gateway, with 582 grams of uranium. It did not say when the arrest took place or whether he had been attempting to leave the country. …
Depleted uranium, where uranium-238 is normally found, can theoretically be used to make nuclear “dirty bombs,” but it is often used in gun ammunition and armor because of its high density.
Ukraine still has a heavy reliance on nuclear power, even after the Chernobyl disaster, and depleted uranium doesn’t necessarily make good material even for dirty bombs. Still, one has to wonder what the man intended to do with that amount of uranium and why he thought he could just bring it to the airport. On the other hand, the Ukrainian security services appear to be on the ball, which gives some confidence that they can control the material they use in their commercial power production. Since they rely so heavily on Russian oil — one of the reasons that Putin could pressure the Kuchma government in the past — pushing them off of nuclear energy won’t be possible in the near term. That security will have to stay focused to prevent any other attempts to smuggle even the smallest amounts of radioactive material outside Ukraine.