4 held for possessing 2.5 kg of unprocessed uranium in Nepal; probably smuggled from India years ago

Shirish B Pradhan
·2-min read

Kathmandu, Mar 13 (PTI) Four Nepalese nationals were arrested here on Saturday for possessing 2.5 kilogrammes of unprocessed uranium, with one of them claiming that her father-in-law 'brought' it from India where he worked in a uranium mine some 20 years ago, police said.

According to Senior Superintendent Sushil Singh Rathour, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari, the arrest was made on a tip-off.

A house in the Boudha area was raided, based on a tip-off, and four persons were found hiding 2.5 kg of Uranium 238, officials said at a press briefing.

One of the arrested persons has claimed that her father-in-law had 'brought the material from India some 20 years ago', where he worked in a uranium mine, police said. The police are looking into the claim.

“We were informed that some people were trying to sell uranium after which our team raided the house of one of the arrestees at Boudha and arrested her and three others,” said Rathour.

According to preliminary investigation, one of the arrestees had the material at her home in Boudha “for a very long time.” “Her father-in-law used to work in uranium mines in India some two decades ago. The man brought home some uranium with him and had kept it at his home,” said Senior Superintendent Ashok Singh, chief of Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range.

Her father-in-law is now 86 years old and currently lives in the United States, Singh was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post.

“After learning that it was a high-value material, she tried to sell it with the help of three other people,” said Singh. “We confirmed from the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology that the confiscated item was raw uranium-238.” Police said they were yet to ascertain the worth of the confiscated material.

Dr Suresh Kumar Dhungel, spokesperson for the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, however, said they were yet to verify if the confiscated material is uranium-238.

“From the sample, we found out that the substance contains highly radioactive material, but we are yet to ascertain what exactly it is,” Dhungel told the Kathmandu Post.

Nepal has no technology centre or agency where this metal can be used, experts said.

This is perhaps the first time that arrests have been made in connection to uranium smuggling, police said.

The arrested -- two aged 20 years and two aged 40 years -- will be charged under the Explosives Act.

Uranium 238 is a natural occurring metal. Its enriched form can be used to generate electricity and in nuclear weapons. PTI SBP IND AKJ IND