Out: Selling Ecstasy -- In: Selling Uranium

I'm trying to figure out just what this means, but if I'm reading this right then the uranium the drug dealers were trying to sell actually is of a lower grade then naturally mined uranium. The implication, I think, is that this is post-processed uranium. Kind of the opposite of enriched uranium.

So, the drug dealer was trying to sell .... nuclear waste? Nuclear waste that wasn't from South Africa, but which had been ... imported from another country?

That's how I read it at least. Maybe someone who has more expertise could fill me in here? Business Insider:

South African officials seized 2.2 pounds of uranium and 90 ecstasy tablets from two men allegedly trying to sell the items in the city of Durban, reports AFP....

“Yes it is uranium and the tests suggest that it must have come from a country that is dealing with some uranium enrichment at the moment, very very unlikely (in) Africa,” NECSA spokesman Elliot Mulane told AFP.

The uranium is 0.38 percent made up of the U-235 isotope and is well below the average 0.7 percent of the U-235 found in natural uranium. Uranium would need to be at a 90% level in order to be considered weapons grade.

So, is this a big deal or not?

I found an older article about the arrests that says that what they were trying to sell was yellowcake. Now, I thought yellowcake was something we didn't want bad guys to get their hands on. You'll remember that when we thought Saddam Hussein was trying to get the stuff, it was something we frowned on.

So, I know the stuff is less radioactive then other types of uranium. But still, would you carry it around in a shopping bag?

A shopping bag filled with stolen uranium has been seized in a sting operation in Durban, triggering alarm among local and international nuclear watchdog agencies....

They were found with a bag of the material in powder form, known as “yellowcake”, in what The Witness has established is only the fifth confirmed seizure of smuggled uranium in South Africa in the past 20 years.

Carrying yellowcake around in a shopping bag seems to be about as bright an idea as carrying around a cobra in your purse.

Posted by: Rusty at 01:09 PM


1 Sounds like the drug dealers in the movie PU-239.

Which was kind of a good movie. Scientist gets lethal radiation poisoning after accident, so he steals some PU-239 to make money for his family before he dies.

Posted by: wooga at November 26, 2013 01:58 PM

2 It's depleted uranium oxide rather than the metal form. If converted to metallic uranium it makes swell bullets.

Posted by: Agesilaus at November 26, 2013 02:50 PM

3 As crazy as the EPA is now days, putting natural uranium or nuclear waste into a coffee can with an M-80 firework and setting it off in a city center would not only cause havoc but probably get the entire area quarantined for a century.

I figure the terrorist won't need to get a real working weapon when the stupidity of the liberals will do their work for them...

Posted by: TimO at November 26, 2013 03:00 PM

4 Yellowcake is, if I recall correctly, and intermediate result of refining uranium ore. Uraniuim is derived from ores like uraninite (same as metals like iron are derived from magnetite). I agree with #2, sounds like they have depleted uranium left over from use in a reactor.

Posted by: Raving Lunatic at November 26, 2013 03:43 PM

5 Grrr... my head is up my arse; that should be "use in refining"

Posted by: Raving Lunatic at November 26, 2013 03:53 PM

6 The stuff is depleted uranium in the oxide form. It has not been in a reactor but it was probably converted to uranium hexafloride and run through somebody's centrafuge or if using older technology, a gaseous diffusion plant. It's uranium that has the radioactive U235 removed as far is practical. That's what the Iranians are doing with yellowcake to fool the big stupid O. Depleted uranium is the trash left over. It's very heavy stuff and somewhat poisonous (chemically), We have lots of the stuff from our nuclear activities. So we put it to one of its best uses: Kinetic ordinance. WhaddaImean? We use it for tank and artillery shells that do not explode, but destroy a target because we hit it so hard with a very hard, heavy piece of metal. It absolutely destroys tanks, better than explosives. The liberals hate the stuff, like they hate everything effective. Their argument is about the poisonous of the small cloud of uranium dust that results from the usually devastating impact. But if you are close enough to breathe the dust, you probably stopped breathing anyway. The sellers of this stuff were pulling off a scam. It's the third world, waddaya expect?

Posted by: faboutlaws at November 26, 2013 11:10 PM

7 "A shopping bag filled with stolen uranium has been seized in a sting operation in Durban..."

I always disliked Dick Durban, but why where they inside him? That seems gross.

Posted by: Kevin at November 28, 2013 04:22 AM

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