November 26, 2013

Out: Selling Ecstasy -- In: Selling Uranium

I'm trying to figure out just what this means, but if I'm reading this right then the uranium the drug dealers were trying to sell actually is of a lower grade then naturally mined uranium. The implication, I think, is that this is post-processed uranium. Kind of the opposite of enriched uranium.

So, the drug dealer was trying to sell .... nuclear waste? Nuclear waste that wasn't from South Africa, but which had been ... imported from another country?

That's how I read it at least. Maybe someone who has more expertise could fill me in here? Business Insider:

South African officials seized 2.2 pounds of uranium and 90 ecstasy tablets from two men allegedly trying to sell the items in the city of Durban, reports AFP....

“Yes it is uranium and the tests suggest that it must have come from a country that is dealing with some uranium enrichment at the moment, very very unlikely (in) Africa,” NECSA spokesman Elliot Mulane told AFP.

The uranium is 0.38 percent made up of the U-235 isotope and is well below the average 0.7 percent of the U-235 found in natural uranium. Uranium would need to be at a 90% level in order to be considered weapons grade.

So, is this a big deal or not?

I found an older article about the arrests that says that what they were trying to sell was yellowcake. Now, I thought yellowcake was something we didn't want bad guys to get their hands on. You'll remember that when we thought Saddam Hussein was trying to get the stuff, it was something we frowned on.

So, I know the stuff is less radioactive then other types of uranium. But still, would you carry it around in a shopping bag?

A shopping bag filled with stolen uranium has been seized in a sting operation in Durban, triggering alarm among local and international nuclear watchdog agencies....

They were found with a bag of the material in powder form, known as “yellowcake”, in what The Witness has established is only the fifth confirmed seizure of smuggled uranium in South Africa in the past 20 years.

Carrying yellowcake around in a shopping bag seems to be about as bright an idea as carrying around a cobra in your purse.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 01:09 PM | Comments |