An unspecified quantity of uranium has been discovered in a shipment that arrived at Heathrow Airport last month. The Daily Mail reported on January 10th that the quantity was “several kilos” but other news sources suggested a day later that the quantity may have been minute. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the shipment consisted of “metal bars embedded with uranium.”
The uranium was destined for Iranians living in Britain. It is believed the uranium was shipped from Pakistan to Oman, before being loaded onto a passenger plane at Muscat. Destined for London, it was unloaded at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 on December 29th, and was spotted by a nuclear scanner on its way to a freight warehouse.
Authorities reassured the public that there was no immediate threat, but it is still unclear whether the uranium was deliberately concealed or a result of poor material handling at the source in Pakistan.
While it was not of sufficient quality or quantity to make a nuclear bomb, low-grade uranium can be used to make a ‘dirty bomb.’ Also known as a radiological dispersal device, it could be used in conjunction with explosives, spreading radioactive material over a large area, killing thousands.
Hamish De Bretton-Gordon, who used to lead the UK’s nuclear defence said: “Uranium can give off very high levels of poisonous radiation. It could be used in a dirty bomb. The good news is the system worked and it has been interdicted.” Another former head at the ministry of defence, Major General Chip Chapman, said the uranium could also be used in a radiological attack.
On January 11th, international security expert Will Geddes, speculated on GB News, “because it was a very, very small trace … this looks like a dummy run, a trial run. It is not uncommon.”
A terrorist nuclear or chemical attack has been a constant threat since 2003 when MI5 Director General Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, warned it was, “only a matter of time before a dirty bomb or chemical weapons attack was launched on a major Western city.”
In October 2004, Muslim convert Dhiren Barot received a 40-year prison sentence, later reduced to 30 years, for the preparation and assembly of dirty bombs for use in Britain and America.
On Talk TV, interviewed by Mike Graham, De Bretton-Gordon added “we should never drop our guard.”
Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism unit are investigating, as of yet no arrests have been made. Met Commander Richard Smith told the BBC, “so far, it does not appear to be linked to any direct threat.”