Seized uranium in ‘special room’

Wednesday December 17 2008

By FRED MUKINDA

Experts have kept uranium seized by the police in a special room after initial tests showed it was highly radioactive.

It has been placed in a one-metre-thick concrete wall room at the National Radiation Protective Board Deputy head of the board Arthur Koteng said final results would be ready on Friday.

“At the moment, nobody is allowed to touch it except experts with protective clothing,” he told the Nation on Wednesday.

The uranium, smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was seized by Flying Squad officers. Uranium is used in the production of atomic bombs.

Besides being used as nuclear fuel, its compound - uranium hexfluoride - is used to strengthen armour. Uganda Bwambale Nason Ndyambo and Congolese David Juma Osoma have been charged with being in possession of uranium.

Other tests were carried out at the Geology and Mining department before the mineral was transferred to the board, which has more advanced equipment and storage.
Head of the Flying Squad Musa Yego told the Nation: “The substance was found to have high degree of radiation and therefore very dangerous. No person is allowed two metres around it for more than an hour.”

The substance is packed in a 20-centimetre-high metal cylinder that weighs about nine kilogrammes.

Shield container

The suspects reportedly carried the cylinder in a small backpack. Mr Koteng said the shielding around the container is absorbing most of the radiation but warned it was still dangerous.

Most of the markings on the cylinder, which shows it was packed in 1993, have been rubbed off over time.

Police have since found out that the uranium was bought from DRC in October for Sh3.9 million, which was paid in two instalments.

The suspects had hoped to sell it in Nairobi for $1.2 million (Sh100 million).

Police have also established the uranium was being carried around for a month as middlemen, yet to be arrested, arranged to sell the substance and smuggle it out of Kenya.