Indian police have arrested seven people and seized more than six kilogrammes of the highly radioactive substance, uranium, from their possession, the second case in less than a month that raises concerns about nuclear safety and security in the South Asian country.
6.4 kg uranium, which is used in nuclear explosives, medical techniques and other areas, was recovered from unauthorised persons in the eastern state of Jharkhand in Bokaro district, said Indian media.
According to the Indian Express, police had not yet arrested the prime suspect, who had sold the substance to the arrested persons.
“Seven people were arrested for possessing and planning to sell a mineral, which is suspected to be uranium after we received a tip. We are further investigating the case and the mineral [has been] sent to the lab to check its veracity,” the report quoted SP Chandan Jha as saying.
However, the report added that it is mention in the official statement of Bokaro police and the FIR that the recovered mineral was uranium.
“SP Jha refused to comment on whether any other investigating agency was involved and also did not comment on whether they sought custodial interrogation of the arrested accused,” the publication added.
Another publication said that the suspects were looking for customers to sell uranium, adding that its price had been fixed at 5 million INR.
“It is unclear how they got their hands on the radioactive material. During interrogation, they mentioned West Bengal, Giridih and a few other places. Seven mobile phones and a motorcycle were also seized from them,” the Times of India quoted the same SP as saying.
Last month, Indian police had seized over seven kilogrammes of uranium from two persons in the Maharashtra state.
The repeated cases of seizure of uranium from unauthorised persons indicate that a nuclear market is being run in India that could be connected to international elements.
Pakistan had also expressed concerns after reports of seizing uranium surfaced, pointing to gaps in state control mechanisms there.
“We have noted with serious concern the reports about the seizure of more than 7kg natural uranium from unauthorised persons in India,” Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri had said.
“Security of nuclear materials should be the top priority for all countries,” he said.
“There is a need for thorough investigation of the matter as to how such sizeable quantity of uranium could become available outside any state control and identify the gaps which made this possible.”