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Bolivia: Radioactive Uranium Seized in La Paz?

On August 28, 2012, Bolivian authorities seized two tons of solid material, presumably uranium or radioactive minerals, that were being transported from a property at a central district of La Paz, close to a number of diplomatic offices, under no security or protection measures.

Minister of Government Carlos Romero led the operative, which was conducted by special police units. Later, Mr. Romero informed [es] that laboratory tests and analysis determined that the material was “not radioactive. It will not produce any [health] risks”.

However, Romero also announced [es] further investigation by the Geologic and Mining National Service Sergeotecmin [es] and the Bolivian Institute of Science and Nuclear Technology. The potential radioactivity of the material remains therefore unclear.

Police seize 2 tons of uranium in Sopocachi, La Paz, on August 28. Photo shared via Twitpic by Twitter user @pagina_siete

Police seize 2 tons of uranium in Sopocachi, La Paz, on August 28. Photo shared via Twitpic by Twitter user @pagina_siete

Mainstream media reported on the event immediately and covered it throughout the day. Concerns and comments, including ironic ones, were also expressed on social media sites under the hashtag #uranio.

Blogger and journalist Andres Gómez Vela commented via his Twitter account (@andrsgomezv) [es]:

@andrsgomezv: Ojo, Bolivia no produce #uranio, ¿de dónde apareció este cargamento? Quizás Estaba en tránsito hacia a otro país, dice Viceministro Pérez

@andrsgomezv: Mind you, Bolivia does not produce uranium. Where did this load come from? Maybe it was in transit towards another country,  Vice-Minister Pérez says.

Moreover, netizens are criticising the precarious way in which such potential radioactive material was manipulated in the first place.

An early tweet by Fernanda San Martin (@Fer_SanMartin) [es] commenting on the issue, provoked an immediate reply by blogger and Twitter user Mario Duran (@mrduranch) [es]:

@mrduranch: @Fer_SanMartin ¿fuente? #uranio ? ese material debe manejarse cubierto en recipiente de plomo es peligroso

@mrduranch: @Fer_SanMartin Source? #uranio (uranium)? that material must be handled covered in a lead container, it's dangerous.

Andres Gómez Vela (@AndrsGomezV) [es] also pointed out:

@AndrsGomezV: Algunas dudas #uranio: hasta ahora ningún experto lo vio ni certificó y si era tan radiactivo ¿por que transportaron como si fuera arena?

@AndrsGomezV: Some doubts #uranio: so far no expert has examined or certified whether it is radioactive or not. Why is it transported like if it were sand?

Renan Justiniano (@renanjustiniano) [es] concluded:

@renanjustiniano: Si el mineral encontrado ayer es #uranio lo primero que deberia haber hecho era ver si era radiactivo no llamar a la prensa! #bolivia

@renanjustiniano: if the mineral found yesterday is #uranio (uranium), the first thing they should have done was verify if it was radioactive instead of calling the press! #bolivia

Investigation into the nature and radioactivity of the minerals seized in La Paz is still under way.

2 comments

  • miker

    WTF man!!!
    This material is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS for everyone than approaches to it!
    OMG…all those people, will die soon of cancer. Maybe all the city will be under that poison.
    Nobody in Bolivia knows about radioactivity???

  • Laila

    If it is Uranium, do you think they will make it public? and actually show how irresponsible and how many people have been put in severe danger.
    I honestly doubt it. This has the potential to become a serious international problem, depending on who is involved: transporters, place of origin and above all buyers and sellers that were ready to buy uranium or yellowcake (intermediate process and I believe first step towards enriched uranium).

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