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.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.