UK counter-terrorism police launch probe after uranium was detected on commercial flight last month

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By Euronews  with AFP
Travellers at Heathrow airport, in London
Travellers at Heathrow airport, in London   -   Copyright  Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

UK counter-terrorism police are investigating after cargo contaminated with uranium was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The Metropolitan Police force confirmed that a routine screening by border officers revealed a "small amount of contaminated material" on a passenger flight from Oman on 29 December.

"It absolutely shouldn't be on a commercial airliner," said Hamish De Bretton-Gordon, the former Head of the British Army's Chemical Weapons Unit. 

"We can move nuclear material like uranium and plutonium around the world. It's usually done in caskets, heavily protected, occasionally by air, but not on commercial airliners," he explained.

Uranium is a radioactive metal which is harmful to humans. Media reports suggest it was found in a shipment of scrap metal originating from Pakistan.

"What it may mean is, if London is being used to trade and prove sampling capability of what can be sold, this is very serious and if so, it's an indicator of part of the weapons build-up we're seeing," said Dr Sally Leivesley, a risk management consultant. 

UK authorities have said investigations are ongoing and insist there is no risk to the public. No arrests have been made.