Brief Panic: Trivial Amount of Unenriched Uranium Seized in Moldova

Gang Hoped to Sell Chunk of Ore for Millions of Dollars

There was a brief media stir this morning following reports that police in the city of Chisinau, the capital city of the Republic of Moldova, seized approximately four pounds of yellowcake uranium that a criminal gang had obtained and was trying to sell.

According to the initial reports the gang had been asking for 9 million Euros, or around $11 million, for the chunk of unenriched uranium, but it did not have any takers so far.

Which is perhaps unsurprising, because the current spot price for yellowcake uranium on the open market is only about $46 a pound, meaning the small rock was worth less than $200 at best.

But it did spark a bit of speculation about terrorists buying the thing and using it for the creation of a “dirty bomb,” speculation that is readily refuted however and doesn’t appear to have been based on anything but how scary the word “uranium” sounds.

The whole block of ore contains only about 1.08 millicuries of radioisotope, meaning it is roughly the same amount of radioisotope as you’d get from a few of those glow in the dark radium watchdials.

The are scores of other sources of radioisotope that would be cheaper, far more powerful, and far easier to obtain. Even if this did somehow fall into the “wrong hands” the most they could do is scare a bunch of people, which come to think of it they did anyhow.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.