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Two Caucasus Men Arrested for Trafficking Dirty-Bomb Materials

Visiting U.S. nuclear-security officials take a tour in 2010 of Georgia's Red Bridge Border checkpoint, which received radiation-detection equipment from the U.S. government. The former Soviet republic late last month announced the arrest of two individuals accused of attempting to sell radium 226. Visiting U.S. nuclear-security officials take a tour in 2010 of Georgia's Red Bridge Border checkpoint, which received radiation-detection equipment from the U.S. government. The former Soviet republic late last month announced the arrest of two individuals accused of attempting to sell radium 226. (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo)

Authorities in the nation of Georgia apprehended two men accused of attempting to sell radioactive material that could be used in a so-called "dirty bomb."

The men, identified only as "Guram Ts," who turns 80 this year, and "Omar M," who turns 67, are in custody and the quantity of radium 226 they allegedly tried to sell has been seized. The radioactive material was found stored in specialized lead containers in the basement of Guram Ts's apartment, according to a Dec. 23 report in the daily Rezonansi newspaper, translated by the BBC.

It is not known how the two accused men came into custody of the radioactive material, how much of it they possessed or whether they had any buyers in mind. The radium 226 is being held at the Institute of Physics.

Nino Chkhobadze, co-chairman of the Georgia Green Movement and Friends of the Earth, said the material might have been smuggled in from one of Georgia's neighbors in the Caucasus region of Eurasia.

The men already have been sentenced in court, according to a Georgian Interior Ministry spokesperson. Georgian law authorizes a prison sentence of between five to 10 years for nuclear smuggling crimes, according to a Voice of Russia report.

Radium 226, if paired with conventional explosives, could be used in a dirty-bomb attack capable of spreading radioactive material across a wide area. Though the effect would be nowhere near as deadly as a nuclear explosion, a radiological attack could cause serious economic, environmental and psychological harm.

In the last eight years, Georgia has carried out at least 15 criminal investigations related to atomic- and radioactive-material smuggling inside its borders. The former Soviet republic is a major recipient of U.S. nuclear-security assistance.

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Country Profile

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Georgia

This article provides an overview of Georgia’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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