A Kazakhstani court has sentenced members of a nuclear-smuggling ring to multiyear prison terms for their roles in an attempted sale of cesium.
An engineer at a Kazakhstani uranium-enrichment facility and an associate were given four-year prison sentences by a Karaganda region court, Interfax reported on Tuesday. Two other individuals were sentenced to three years behind bars, said judge Bakhyt Akhmetova.
The container of radioactive cesium-137 is to be destroyed, according to the court ruling.
Cesium-137 is used in the medical field, but the material could also be used to build a so-called "dirty bomb," which would use conventional explosives to disperse harmful radiological materials across a large area.
The engineer pilfered the cesium-137 from a storage facility in the early 1990s and for years kept the material hidden in a tightly sealed container at his workplace. However, last June he passed the radioactive material to three individuals who lived in the area, asking them to find a buyer.
The smuggling ring was disrupted on June 19, 2013, when a covert Kazakhstani National Security Committee agent acquired the material for $250,000. After the deal was made, all four traffickers were apprehended.