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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
India foils uranium theft 'plot'
Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Meghalaya

Picture by Anirban Roy
The uranium is believed to have come from Meghalaya
Authorities in the north-east Indian state of Assam say they have uncovered a plot to steal uranium ore from a government facility.

A senior police official, Khagen Sarmah, said two men in possession of a kilogram of semi-processed uranium had been arrested in the capital, Guwahati.

India's Department of Atomic Energy has a large reserve of high quality uranium ore in neighbouring Meghalaya state.

The seized uranium is suspected to have been stolen from there.

Police sting

Mr Sarmah said the two suspects were arrested late last week after a tip-off.

"But we had to send the seized material for identification and now we know it is uranium," he said.

A team of special branch policemen posed as customers and apparently trapped the two by agreeing to buy the uranium for 1.5 million rupees ($34,313).

Mr Sarmah also said police were trying to find out how and where the suspects got hold of the uranium and where the consignment was destined for.

A team of senior police officials has left for Shillong in Meghalaya to conduct further investigations at the facility run by the federal Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

Enriched uranium - basically the higher-grade material extracted from the original ore - is used as fuel for nuclear power stations.

In 1993, 97 kilograms of "yellow cake" or semi-processed uranium ore was stolen from the DAE laboratory.

Police made several arrests and recovered a portion of the stolen ore. The bulk of the material remained untraced.

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