Europe - AP

Armenian Arrested With Radioactive Load
Europe - AP
October 18, 2004

YEREVAN, Armenia - Authorities have arrested a man found with
radioactive cesium-137 in the trunk of his car, a state official said
Monday.

The highly toxic material, which could contaminate large areas if used
in a "dirty bomb," was found Friday and "rendered harmless," Ashot
Martirosian, chief of the State Atomic Oversight department, said.

Yerevan resident Gagik Tovmasian was arrested on charges of illegal
trade in radioactive materials, Martirosian said.

It was unclear how the man obtained the material, but various sources
for it exist in Armenia, a small former Soviet republic in the
Caucasus Mountains, Martirosian said.

Various industries use cesium-137 in density gauges and for machine
calibration. Authorities in neighboring Georgia have spoken of the
need to create a storage site for gauges in which cesium-137 was used
to measure the level of gasoline in underground tanks at gas stations.

Martirosian did not say how much cesium was found, but he said the
substance is very hazardous to human health.

Devices containing cesium-137 can cause serious radiation exposure if
broken and held. Depending on the amount and form, experts say a dirty
bomb made with cesium-137 could spread intense radioactivity over a
section of a city, making it uninhabitable.

In February, Martirosian said a powerful source of radiation was found
on the Armenian-Iranian border, among scrap metal headed for Iran.