August 27, 2021


On July 14, 2021, The National Security Committee (NSC) of the Republic of Kazakhstan – the republic's intelligence agency – announced in a press release that last year it thwarted some ten attempts to sell radioactive material on the national territory.

The NSC specifically described two cases. In the first one, the Committee joined forces with a security service of an unnamed Central Asian state to shut down a transnational group of citizens of Central Asia involved in the illicit trafficking of nuclear material. During the first phase of the operation, the NSC detained a Kazakh citizen, who tried to sell material containing Uranium-235 and Uranium-238 brought into Kazakhstan from a neighboring country. Committee staff traveled to the state in question and worked with its security services to detain a group of people trying to sell nuclear material. The local security service opened a criminal case, and the investigation was ongoing.

In the second case, which happened at the end of 2020, a Kazakh citizen together with four co-conspirators from other Central Asian states planned to sell Uranium-238 in Kazakhstan. The material was stolen in an unnamed Central Asian country and smuggled through Kazakh borders. The group was detained in the act of trying to sell it. According to the specialists from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the confiscated material was Uranium-238 with a gamma dose rate of 4 μSv/h (26 times the threshold value). The organizer of the group and his accomplices were sentenced to 7 and 8 years in prison for violating Art. 286 of the national criminal code (illegal sale of radioactive materials) and Art. 283 (smuggling of controlled materials).

Russian Nuclear Security Update previously reported on a similar case, which took place in Georgia in 2019.

Source: "Nuclear Contrabandists": In the Crosshairs, July 14, 2021.