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Iran’s quest to become a nuclear power has galvanized the Balkan mafias, security sources have warned following the discovery of potentially lethal nuclear enrichment material in the region.
Last week, Bulgarian customs officials prevented a car from crossing into Romania after discovering 3.5kg of hafnium, a metallic element that is used in the nuclear enrichment process and which could potentially be employed in the manufacture of radioactive “dirty bombs”.
According to General Veleri Petrov, the Bulgarian police chief, the hafnium consignment, discovered at the Ruse border crossing point, was destined for a Romanian mafia with Middle Eastern connections. One Bulgarian and three Romanian nationals in the car were arrested.
On its own, hafnium is not radioactive. The consignment was “virtually 100% pure” and suitable for use in nuclear reactors as a control material.
Apart from its use in the nuclear industry, hafnium can also be transformed into a powerful explosive – one gram of hafnium having the potential, after sophisticated and expensive treatment, to emit gamma rays equivalent in power to 50 kilos of TNT. Because of this it is highly sought after by Middle Eastern terrorist armourers.