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3 arrested for hawking radioactive material

UKRAINIAN security agents have arrested a regional lawmaker and two companions for trying to sell a radioactive substance that could be used in making a dirty bomb, officials said yesterday.

The legislator in the western Ternopyl region and two local businessmen were detained last week for trying to sell 3.7 kilograms of radioactive material to an undercover agent of the security service, said Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the service.

The suspects tried to peddle the substance as plutonium-239, a highly radioactive material that can be used to build nuclear weapons, and demanded US$10 million, Ostapenko said.

But security experts later determined that the material was likely americium, a widely used radioactive material. Ostapenko said it could be used in a dirty bomb, but not nuclear weapons.

The service said it believes the material was produced in the former Soviet Union era and smuggled into Ukraine.

Ukraine renounced nuclear weapons after the Soviet Union's collapse. However, concerns remain over unsecured radioactive materials.


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