Russian Customs Seizes Tehran-Bound Radioactive Metal
Russian customs has seized a shipment of Sodium-22 being carried in the luggage of an Iranian passenger bound for Tehran:
The Federal Customs Service said in a statement that its agents found 18 pieces of metal at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after a radiation alert went on. It says the gauges showed that radiation levels were 20 times higher than normal.
It was not immediately clear if the substance could have any use in Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
Sodium-22 emits positrons and has a long half-life. For that reason it’s used for point sources in PET (positron emission tomography) scanners. I know of no military applications for it or any way in which it might be useful in Iran’s nuclear development program.
I think there are a couple of ways to read this story. First and foremost, I think it illustrates the impact that trade restrictions are having on Iran. The difficulty of getting certain materials into Iran probably makes this sort of smuggling worthwhile. Second, I find it somewhat reassuring that the Russian authorities are paying attention to this stuff.