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Uranium haul in Mumbai sends shockwaves.

THE police on Monday arrested three persons in Mumbai for being in the possession of five kg of uranium.

The Navi Mumbai crime branch arrested Premsingh Savitri ( 42), Srinivas Venkateshan ( 32) and Tulsidas Bhansale ( 35) and seized around five kg of Uranium ( U238) from them.

Savitri works as a transporter while Venkateshan is a gunny bag vendor.

The police were unwilling to comment on how they came to know about the uranium or what led to the arrests. Sources said the material was seized after a raid on a flat in Sai Villa at Sai Nagar in Panvel.

The confiscated material was sent for analysis to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre ( BARC), which confirmed it as " depleted uranium". The analysis was reportedly done by Mrinal Roy, regional director, central region ( exploration and research).

The BARC also summoned officials from the Atomic Minerals Directorate ( AMD), Nagpur, to inquire into the matter.

Top officers tried to allay fears by saying the confiscated uranium was not " bombgrade" but " depleted", meaning it could not have been used for making bombs.

After initial tests, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board ( AERB) said the content of radioactive Uranium 235 ( U235) is much lower in the recovered material than that found in nature. It is the volatile U235 which is used in atom bombs, and not U238.

" The material that the police have recovered has only 0.17 per cent of U235. So, it is depleted uranium," AERB chairman S. K. Sharma said.

He added that depleted uranium is used in radiographic cameras and clinical radiology equipment such as shielding material. " It looks like the material came from such a source, and it poses no security or safety threat," Sharma said.

The police said being a sensitive material, the usage of depleted uranium is tightly regulated. " It can't be transported without following safety and security protocols," an officer said.

The three were booked under Section 24A of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, and were remanded in police custody till December 17.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 9, 2009
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