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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06KINSHASA1392 2006-09-05 08:21:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kinshasa
Cable title:  

MISSING CONTAINERS NOT LIKELY RADIOACTIVE

Tags:   CG EMIN ENRG ETRD IAEA KGIT PGOV PREL 
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1. (C) Summary. Post has found no evidence that containers
from the DRC that are reportedly circulating in Africa are
radioactive or have uranium. EmbOffs viewed some of the
containers during a 27 July tour of the DRC's nuclear reactor
facility at the Kinshasa Nuclear Research Center (CREN-K),
and have also spoken on several occasions with CREN-K's
director. Post regularly receives reports that containers
similar to those at CREN-K are being traded around Africa,
and even receives offers to purchase the containers. End
summary.

The Nuclear Center Tour


--------------------------



2. (C) On 27 July 2006, Professor Fortunat Lumu
Badimbayi-Matu, the Director of CREN-K and the Commissioner
of the DRC's Atomic Energy Commission, gave four EmbOffs and
one Econ LES a private tour of Kinshasa Nuclear Research
Center (CREN-K) and the nuclear reactor, located on the
University of Kinshasa campus (reftels A, B). The GDRC does
not regularly permit tours; EconOffs had begun requesting
permission for this tour in July 2005. Lumu did permit the
delegation to photograph the facility, although he only
showed EmbOffs one of the two reactors. (Note: Post has
classified photos of CREN-K available upon request. End note.)

Mystery Containers


--------------------------



3. (C) During the tour, Lumu explained that in about 1970, 50
containers allegedly housing enriched uranium were shipped
from the United States to the DRC. Lumu did not know why
they were transported to the DRC or who brought them. The
containers were unusually dense and heavy for their size;
Lumu said some people speculated that they were used as
ballast to stabilize airplanes. (Note: According to some USG
officials, these containers may originally have been used in
radioactive medical work in Ohio in the 1960s and 70s. End
note.)

4. (C) Lumu explained that in 1998, ex-President Laurent
Kabila collected the 50 containers and had them transferred
to the Presidential Palace for storage. In 2001, when DRC
President Joseph Kabila became president, he had the
containers moved from the Presidential Palace to Kimbomango
military training base, located approximately 30 miles east
of Kinshasa. Shortly thereafter, Lumu said that DRC soldiers
stole 40 of the 50 containers and sold them to unidentified
buyers. The GDRC is storing the other 10 at unknown
locations.

5. (C) EmbOffs' contacts state that in February 2004 the DRC
National Intelligence Agency (ANR) caught Abdallah Jacob
Jareed, an alleged South African of Kashmiri origin, and
Ousman Kumar Ahdry, an alleged Tanzanian of Saudi Arabian
origin, crossing the DRC-Zambian border in a truck at
Kasumbalesa with three of the 40 stolen containers. Ahdry
and Jareed reportedly planned to take the containers to a
company called FICM in Pretoria, then sell the alleged
uranium to unidentified individuals in Saudi Arabia via
unidentified intermediaries in Zambia. The ANR confiscated
the containers and sent them to CREN-K for testing and
storage, which Lumu said South African nuclear experts and
CREN-K scientists tested for radioactivity. The scientists
found that they were "lightly" radioactive, but posed no
danger to humans exposed to them. The scientists did not try
to open the containers and examine their contents directly
for fear of triggering an explosion or being exposed to
hazardous material.

6. (C) In April 2004, an EmbOff independently tested the same
three containers. The official scanned the containers with a
Ludlum Model 12SA Micro R Meter, and did not obtain a
radioactive reading. The containers were not penetrated,
however, and the contents were not verified.

7. (C) Of these three containers, which EmbOffs saw during
their August CREN-K visit, one is a small mound contained
within a square base. The mound is about six inches tall and
eight inches wide. The base is about 20 inches square and

KINSHASA 00001392 002 OF 003


two inches thick. The container is dense and heavy, weighing
about 75 pounds, and it has two ropes strung through either
side of the base for lifting. A steel plate is bolted onto
the top of the mound that reads:

Caution
Radio Active Material
Model: MM18-2103-50-15656-1
Serial: 388422ICE 18BC
XR 238U
Material: U238
Date: 30/10/1968
Removal of this label is prohibited
All Art Corps Cincinnati
Ohio-USA

8. (C) The second container is a green cylinder approximately
four feet tall and 30 inches in diameter. It has three
antennas coming out of the top - one 10 inches and two that
are each two inches. There are also five unlabeled buttons on
the side and two steel plates mounted into it. The plates
read:

Caution
Radio Active Material
Model: CU/12-520-6-1745
Serial Number: 388420-MB-111
Material: U235
Energy: 0,2MeV
Radioactivity: 150.000 C/S
Date: 1974
Ohio - USA

9. (C) The third container is a black cylinder approximately
four feet tall. It is about 50 inches in diameter at the top
and bottom, and about 30 inches in diameter in the middle.
It also has three antennas coming out the top, one 10 inches
and two that are two inches each, and five unlabeled buttons
on the side. It has two handles near the top, and a steel
plate mounted on it, which reads:

Caution
Radio Active Material
Model: CU/12-520-6-1745
Serial Number: 388420-MB-111
Material: U235
Energy: 0,2MeV
Radioactivity: 150.000 C/S
Date: 1968

10. (C) The containers look like they have been doctored.
Further, the plaques on the containers contain some
inconsistencies. The commas in the numbers reflect European
rather than American style, even though the containers were
allegedly manufactured in Ohio. For example, the labels
indicate "0,2 MeV" instead of 0.2, and "150.000 C/S" instead
of 150,000. In addition, the serial and model numbers for
two of the containers are exactly the same.

Some Supposedly Still Circulating


--------------------------



11. (C) Lumu and DRC authorities say they do not know what
happened to the other 37 containers. Some had reportedly
turned up for sale in different Africa countries, including
Uganda, Kenya and the Republic of the Congo. Lumu added that
in about 1998, an unidentified Republic of the Congo official
tried to sell some of the containers. That official had a
price list for the three types of containers he possessed.
The largest container, with antennas on it, was for sale for
100 million dollars, while the others were available for less.

12. (C) In the last six months alone three people have tried
to sell information about uranium in containers to EmbOffs.
In these instances, the sellers had photographs and/or
drawings of the containers, and all were nearly identical to
the three containers at CREN-K. The containers were the same
shapes and sizes, and the plaques attached to them contained
similar information, such as listing the contents as enriched
uranium and Ohio as the manufacturing location. (Comment:
Based on comparisons with photographs and drawings of the
other containers for sale, the containers offered to EmbOffs
appear to be either from the 37 that were originally stolen,
or replicas, which Lumu said have been made. End comment.)



KINSHASA 00001392 003 OF 003


13. (C) One of the people who has contacted Post and claims
to have access to enriched uranium is the Vice Minister of
Energy. Another is a senior political strategist for DRC
Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba,s political party, the
Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), who claims that persons
associated with President Kabila are trying to sell
containers of enriched uranium (reftel C). The strategist
provided photographs of one of these containers, which is
very similar to one of CREN-K's containers. (Comment: The
latter case appears to be just an attempt to discredit
President Kabila. End comment.)

Comment


--------------------------



14. (C) Based on Post's information, none of the allegedly
missing containers are likely radioactive, but they may well
be one source of the many attempted uranium scams that abound
in the DRC and throughout Africa. End comment.
MEECE