Russia Curbs Attempt to Smuggle Radioactive Material Into Iran, Report Says

Interfax news agency says radioactive sodium that can only be produced in a nuclear reactor apprehended at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in luggage bound for Iran.

Russian authorities aborted an attempt to smuggle radioactive materials to Iran, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday.

According to preliminary reports, the radioactive sodium were apprehended by Russia's Federal Customs Service at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport from luggage bound for Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a military parade in front of St.Basil's Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow, 2005
AP Photo/ Misha Japaridze

The reporty indicated that the luggage pieces contained Sodium-22, a radioactive isotope of sodium that could only be produced at a nuclear reactor.

Sodium-22 is a positron-emitting isotope with a remarkably long half-life.

Last month, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that North Korea has supplied Syria and Iran with a special kind of steel used to upgrading missiles and building centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

The material, called maraging steel, appears on the monitoring list of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, and its export is prohibited to countries under sanctions such as Iran.

It has been known for years that Iran is trying to obtain the steel through its clandestine purchasing networks around the world. The steel would enable Tehran to construct modified centrifuges, which would in turn allow it to enrich higher quality Uranium at a faster speed.

According to the report, the delivery of the steel is part of a wider North Korean expertise package to Syria, which is building a new missile factory near Homs. According to other reports, the factory is partly funded by Iran, and is expected to become operational within 18 months.

Maraging steel would significantly upgrade Syria’s Scud missile capabilities and the amount of damage their warheads could inflict.