(AP) – A senior official at the Armenian energy ministry dismissed on Wednesday claims by Georgian authorities that they have detained an Armenian man who tried to smuggle 300 grams (10.5 ounces) of radioactive uranium into Turkey.
Eduard Ghazarian was detained on the border with Armenia on Friday, said Vika Chubinidze, a spokeswoman for the Georgian state security ministry. Ghazarian was heading to Turkey, she said.
Ghazarian was traveling on a regular bus and carried the uranium in a special capsule, Chubinidze said. She would not say what type of uranium Ghazarian was carrying and how enriched it was, but said that experts believe the material had been stolen from the Armenian nuclear power plant.
But Aram Gevorgian, Armenia's energy ministry official in charge of nuclear power, angrily dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous.” Gevorkian said Wednesday that Armenia has duly safeguarded all its radioactive materials, keeping them under watch “every second” with assistance from international experts.
Armenia's Soviet-built Medzamor nuclear power plant was shut down amid safety concerns in the aftermath of the devastating 1988 earthquake, but its reactor No. 2 resumed operation in 1995 because of the country's desperate energy shortage.
Numerous thefts of radioactive materials have been reported in many ex-Soviet republics since the December 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but officials claimed that they all involved low-concentration substances in small quantities that were unfit for making a nuclear bomb.