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Suspects arrested in India with radioactive materials worth $570 million

India claims to be a responsible nuclear state, yet it faces recurring instances of mismanagement that undermine global peace and security.

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On Wednesday, acting on a tip-off, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers arrested Sailan Karmakar, 41, and Asit Ghosh, 49, with radioactive material Californium near Kolkata airport, both residents of Hooghly district in West Bengal.

According to a senior officer, the suspects had around 250 grams of suspected Californium worth over $570 million. This synthetic radioactive material is often used in nuclear reactors.

“Four ash-coloured stones weighing around 250 grams were seized from the accused. Preliminary enquiry revealed that it could be Californium. They were trying to sell it for a few lakh rupees,” said an officer. “We believe these materials have been stolen from some laboratory. We have initiated a probe into this matter,” he added.

Read More: India’s radioactive smugglers putting humanity at risk

CID officials said the samples would be sent to a government laboratory to verify whether they were Californium, a gram of which may cost up to a few crore rupees.

“The duo claimed that they bought the radioactive substances, which weighed 250 gm in all, from someone in Karnataka, after chancing upon him on social media, We are verifying all statements,” said the officer. Officers said the seized stones sparkled and seemed to be loaded with minerals.

Read More: India is not a responsible nuclear state after all

Sinha, a former director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, said that in a practical sense, making a nuclear bomb with the substance is absurd as it would be hugely expensive.

Californium is not found in nature and was first produced in a laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1950 by US scientists. The metal is silvery-white and is soft. It has various uses, including in the start-up of nuclear reactors, and is used to detect gold and silver in ores.

Earlier this year, in June, Pakistan demanded a thorough investigation into the reports of illegal uranium trade in India after seven other people were also arrested for possessing radioactive materials.

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