Police claim they seized 2.5 kg uranium

Experts doubt it’s genuine

Gajendra Basnet

March 13, 2021


Police claim they seized 2.5 kg uranium

KATHMANDU:  The Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari on Friday made public four persons for their alleged involvement in trafficking 2.5 kg uranium.

The arrested are Narayan Singh Tamang, 40, Januka Tamang, 40, of Likhu, Tamakoshi, and Prakash Chauhan, 20 of Bagjor, Ramechhap and Manoj Neupane, 20 of Sindhuli in connection with the seized uranium.

According to the police, the uranium was recovered from Boudha, Kathmandu.

“The precious metal was recovered last Monday from the place it was secretly stored,” AIG Hari Bahadur Pal, the Chief of Ranipokhari Police said in a press meet organized on Friday.

AIG Pal estimates the market price of the seized uranium goes above Rs 5 billion.

The police source claimed that the seized precious metal is the uranium of 238-category. The uranium of 235-category is regarded as the best one. Uranium 238 is converted into uranium 235 by refining it. The uranium seized now is said to be the natural uranium.

AIG Pal told media persons that the police managed to arrest four individuals with the precious metal after its week-long endeavor.

Uranium is a radioactive metal with atomic weight.

If the police claim is anything to go by, this is the largest amount of uranium ever seized in Nepal.

The alleged doing time in police custody now say that it was bought from India 20 years ago.

Four nabbed while seeking customers to buy it at Rs. 11.5 billion

According to AIG Pal, the four were arrested while they were searching for a customer to sell 2.5 kg of uranium for Rs. 1.5 billion.

“They even offered a commission of up to Rs. 20 million to a middleman who could get the customers,” Pal said, “According to one of the alleged Januka’s statement at the police station, the uranium was kept there from India by Amar Lama. Lama is said to be in USA these days.”

The police shared that Januka had told Narayan Singh about the uranium and Singh had told that the metal was worth billions of rupees.

“After hearing about the high market price, they assigned Manoj Neupane and Prakash Chauhan to search the customers promising 20 million rupees as commission,” AIG Pal narrated, “We reached there as customer and raided it all.”

Experts skeptical about the genuineness of the precious metal

The police have claimed that the uranium seized has been confirmed genuine by a lab.

“We sent the sample for the test in the lab of the National Institute of Foresnic Sciences, the lab verified it as genuine,” AIG Pal said.

However, Dr. Suresh Kumar Dhungel, the Spokesperson of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) says it is still early to say whether it’s uranium not.

“Nepal Police had brought some suspicious objects to NAST for test. The radiation dose was found quite abnormal than in normal rock,” Dhungel told Khabarhub, adding “ Yet, the finding is not enough to prove that it is uranium. It is still in the early stages of investigation.”

The Deputy Director General of the Department of Mines and Geology Jaya Raj Ghimire said that he has not got any formal information about the uranium seized by the police.

“We also read it in the news, we have not got any official information yet,” Ghimire told Khabarhub, “So, we are not in the position to say anything about the police claim yet.”

Former DIG Hemanta Malla also hinted that the uranium might not be genuine.

“People used to seize the uranium like substance in the pearls shape in small quantities, but they were proved fake,” Malla said, “The quantity this time is unbelievably large,  it can not be said for certain yet.”

He thinks it is essential to investigate in large provided it turns genuine as the quantity is really alarming.

The experts are skeptic about the metal’s genuineness owing to the immense quantity and the high market value.

The police have held the alleged four in five days custody under the Explosives Act 1961.

 Past cases

According to the police sources, some people in Nepal had given some uranium to the US Embassy 50 years before and the test in the USA had found that the objet was not uranium at all.

In the past also there used to be some news that some uranium like objects meant to sell in Iraq or North Korea were found in Nepal, but later the objects used to be proved fake as well.

According to military sources there was a major upheaval in 1975, when a brother of Nepal’s ambassador to Japan allegedly gave a sample of uranium to the Americans. Later, the object was proved fake as well.

The US authority  had felt fooled in similar incident in 1973 as well. The source wondered why such incidents are occurring time and again.

According to investigating officials, no genuine uranium has been recovered in Nepal till date. Bihar Police had arrested six people with four kilograms of natural uranium from India’s Supaul district near the Nepal border on February 9, 2008.

What is Uranium?

According to experts, uranium is a radioactive metal with 238 atomic weight. It is considered as the most precious metal. Uranium is a chemical element with atomic number 92.

It lasts for hundreds of years because it can constantly emit energetic radiation for long. Uranium has been found in pegmatite and granite rocks in Nepal. Various studies have shown that the amount of uranium mixed with sand is more than 50 percent.

Experts measure radiation power with the help of GM counter , cyntillation counter etc. The genuineness of uranium is ascertained only by measuring this radiation.

There are mainly two types of uranium: uranium-238 and uranium-235. Uranium-238 is found naturally and after it is processed in a nuclear refinery, uranium-235 is made.

It is found that the electricity generated from one kilogram of uranium-235 is equivalent to the power generated by burning 300,000 tons of coal.

According to a study by the European Nuclear Society, one kilogram of coal emits eight kilowatts and one kilogram of oil emits about 12 kilowatts of electricity. However, one kilogram of uranium-235 produces 24 million kilowatts of energy.

According to experts, uranium can be used for various purposes like energy production, medicine, industrial and geological studies etc.

According to the official websites of the US Department of Energy, the price of 10 grams of pure uranium (uranium-235) in the international market is two million nine thousand US dollars which is equivalent to 180 million rupees. Thus, the price of the seized uranium nears to 209 million US dollars which is around 18 billion rupees.