Uranium ‘too hot to handle’

Tuesday January 6 2009

By FRED MUKINDA

Uranium seized by police in Nairobi is to be flown out of the country after tests showed that its radioactivity exceeded limits which could be handled locally.

Tests conducted locally failed to determine the quality of the uranium after the radioactivity of the illegal cargo measured beyond the capacity of the equipment at the country’s regulatory and control centre.

“We can safely detect radioactivity of up to 1,000 Becquerel per kilogramme, but tests showed it is above that and probably more than 2,000,” said Mr Arthur Koteng, the deputy head of the National Radiation Protection Board.

A Becquerel is the unit used to measure for radioactivity of a substance.

Mr Koteng said the substance could be enriched uranium, which is used to produce nuclear bombs.

According to him, the US Government was “very interested in the matter”. He said Kenya had sought help from the US as well as from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The official also called for intensified monitoring systems to check illicit trafficking of radioactive materials into Kenya.

Charged in court

Flying Squad officers seized the illegal cargo at a house in Uthiru on Jamhuri Day and took it to the Geology and Mining Department before it was transferred to the National Radiation Protection Board, which has the most advanced storage equipment in Kenya.

A Congolese and a Ugandan have been charged in court with smuggling the consignment into Kenya from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The metal was packed in a metal cylinder that weighed about nine kilogrammes.

Police records show the uranium was bought in October for Sh3.9 million and the suspects had hoped to sell it in Nairobi for Sh100 million.