Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Kyrgyzstan Intercepts Radioactive Material

Kyrgyzstan border guards on Dec. 31 seized a small delivery of a radioactive substance from a train heading to Iran, Kyrgyz officials announced Wednesday (see GSN, Oct. 1, 2007).

The train stopped and returned to Kyrgyzstan after radiation sensors in Uzbekistan detected the material's presence, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.  Kyrgyz officials isolated the material and moved it to a special holding area.

"Not quite a bucket load of radioactive waste material was there mixed in with sand, dust and snow," said Almabek Aitikeev, a departmental head at Kyrgyzstan's Emergency Situations Ministry.  "We did our work and sealed up the waste on Dec. 31."

Kubanych Noruzbaev, an official with the Kyrgyz Ecology and Environmental Protection Ministry, identified the material as cesium 137, a byproduct of weapons testing and nuclear reactor operation that is commonly used in medical equipment. 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said the material could also be used in a radiological "dirty bomb," which would disperse radioactive particles with conventional explosives.  The incident calls attention to the vulnerability of dangerous nuclear materials stored throughout the former Soviet Union despite international efforts to secure the nuclear assets, RFE/RL reported.

"It passed through our border, the Kyrgyz border (and) it passed through two border checkpoints in Kazakhstan, entering and exiting (Kazakhstan)," Noruzbaev said.  "Only on the territory of Uzbekistan was it discovered, and they (the Uzbeks) sent the train back to us."

The discovery has raised a variety of questions regarding the material's quantity and potency, who ordered its delivery, and how it managed to pass through three border checkpoints before being detected.  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also questioned why Kyrgyzstan took nine days to announce the seizure.

Noruzbaev said the material should have been uncovered before it reached Uzbekistan.

"How could it happen that it was not detected when it passed through special checkpoints?" Noruzbaev said.  "And even more so, how could a (radioactive) source like cesium 137 or 140 pass (without detection)?" (Bruce Pannier, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jan. 10).



NTI Analysis

  • Sub-Saharan Africa 1540 Reporting

    Jan. 9, 2014

    The UNSCR 1540 implementation process in sub-Saharan Africa has been slow. As of October 2011, 26 of the 48 states in the region have submitted 1540 national reports.

  • Latin America and the Caribbean 1540 Reporting

    Nov. 8, 2013

    This report is part of a collection examining implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in Central America, South America and the Caribbean to-date.

Country Profile

Flag of Kyrgyzstan


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

Learn More →