Police are holding seven people in Moldova on suspicion they smuggled uranium and mercury in a metal container from Russia to be a part of a dirty bomb, police said Tuesday.
Police conducted house searches last week in the capital and two other towns and police confiscated 200 grams (7 ounces) of uranium-238 mixed with uranium-235, a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of mercury and an unidentified radioactive solid material. The material, smuggled by train, has a black-market value of $2 million, police chief Ion Bodrug said in a published report.
Aided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, authorities began investigating in January and an undercover police officer infiltrated the group.
Those arrested range in age from 32 to 75 and belong to a criminal gang and have specialized knowledge in radioactive substances, authorities said. They have admitted their guilt, Bodrug said Tuesday.
Prosecutor Vladimir Mosneaga said they transported the uranium on the train in a metal container specially adapted to diminish the effect of radiation.
“They had experience in the past with radioactive material and had certain links with other people,” Mosneaga said, without providing more details. Authorities gave no indication of the material’s eventual destination.
Police are cooperating with Ukrainian and Russian police to identify other gang members.
Uranium-238 can end up enriched into the fissile material of nuclear warheads or converted into plutonium, also used to arm nuclear missiles.