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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.

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