Uranium is a natural radioactive element that plays a twofold role. With its natural abundance greater than that of gold, silver, or mercury in the Earth’s crust, uranium has developed over the last six decades into a vital global energy resource that is used for military purposes as well as contributes to peaceful applications highlighting its dual significance in strategic and peaceful contexts.

According to the data of the World Nuclear Association, the world’s largest reserves of Uranium will be found in Kazakhstan, Canada, and Namibia, which are the major Uranium producers and exporters of the world by 2022.

India touted as one of the world’s largest nuclear powers, ninth largest Uranium producer, and one of the largest Uranium importers (since the 1990s, especially from Kazakhstan, Canada, and Russia), finds itself entangled in the black-market trade of uranium. The sequence of uranium-related events in India reveals an unsettling story of smuggling, theft, and security failures over the years. These incidents demonstrate the ongoing vulnerabilities in the safeguarding of nuclear materials.

These range from the alleged recovery of 2.5kg in Meghalaya in 1994, where smugglers claimed the scientist entrusted with 95kg failed to retrieve it, to the recent arrests in 2021 and 2022. The recent arrest on May 6, 2021, of two individuals with 7kg of natural uranium worth a staggering 2.9 million dollars is not an isolated incident but a stark reminder of a pervasive issue plaguing the nation’s nuclear capabilities. The incident of 2022 involved the illegal sale of a valuable item for Rs. 350 million per kg.

The given statistics of the consequential incidents have been extracted purely from Indian and international news outlets to avoid bias. The data lacks the exact quantity and the net worth of the confiscated radioactive or fissile material due to a number of reasons, such as inadequate reporting, a lack of particular information from the authorities, or ongoing investigations in which exact values have not been made public. Accurately determining the quantity and value of uranium that has been captured may also be difficult due to the covert operations and underground nature of the illicit trade.

However, the source of the uranium that the smugglers obtained—where the important government research officers are involved—is a common element throughout all the incidents. This demonstrates the nuclear risk that the nation of India poses to the rest of the world and its recklessness as a responsible nation.

Subsequent Incidents of Uranium Illicit Business in India

Month / Year Incident Source Quantity of Uranium (Kg) Approximate Worth Price
1994 (October 16) Police in Meghalaya recovered 2.5 kgs of uranium from four smugglers in Domiasiat, who allege that nearly 95 kg of unprocessed uranium, originally entrusted to them by a scientist from the DAE’s Atomic Mineral Division, remains hidden in the hills after the scientist failed to retrieve the radioactive material as promised. India Today 100 Not Defined
1998 (June) The authorities in the Indian state of West Bengal detained an opposition leader under the suspicion of transporting over 100kg of uranium. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), Indian Defence Review (IDR) 100 Not Defined
1998 (July) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confiscated eight kilograms of nuclear material from a structural engineer Arun, in Chennai, with subsequent analysis by the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) revealing six kilograms of natural uranium (U-237 and U-238) along with weapons-grade U-235. This discovery prompted additional seizures on July 31, 1998, involving 31 grams and 2 kilograms from two other engineers, suggesting a potential link to an atomic research center as the source; however, the case was eventually closed without further action. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), Indian Defence Review (IDR) 10.031 Not Defined
2000 (November 7) As per the IAEA, Indian authorities confiscated 57 pounds of uranium and apprehended two individuals for engaging in the illegal trafficking of radioactive material. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS)


25.85 Not Defined
2000 (November 13) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) disclosed that Indian authorities confiscated three uranium rods and detained eight individuals on charges related to the illegal trafficking of nuclear material, raising concerns about the vulnerability of civil nuclear facilities to such thefts. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) 3 Rods (Weight is Unknown) Not Defined
2001 Authorities in the Indian state of West Bengal arrested two individuals in possession of over two hundred grams of semi-processed Uranium Strafasia 0.2 Not Defined
2003 Indian agencies apprehended members of a terror outfit in a village along the Bangladesh border with 225 grams of milled uranium. Indian Defence Review (IDR)Strafasia 0.225 Not Defined
2006 (December) In August 2006, a fortified research facility in Rajrappa town, Ramgarh district, reported the theft of a container containing radioactive material, potentially carrying uranium with a radius of adverse radiation effects extending to 1.5 kilometers; however, officials have not disclosed the degree of uranium enrichment. ABC News Not Defined Not Defined
2008 A criminal gang was apprehended while trying to smuggle low-grade uranium, suitable for a basic radiation-dispersal device, from an Indian state-owned mine to Nepal. During the same year, another group was intercepted while illegally transporting a stock of uranium across the border to Bangladesh, with assistance from the son of an employee at India’s Atomic Minerals Division, responsible for overseeing uranium mining and processing. The Center for Public Integrity, Indian Defence Review (IDR) Not Defined
2009 An employee at a nuclear reactor in southwest India intentionally poisoned numerous colleagues with a radioactive isotope, exploiting significant security lapses in the plant, as revealed in an internal government report obtained by the Center. The Center for Public Integrity,

Indian Defence Review (IDR)

Not Applicable
2013 According to Indian government sources, guerrilla rebels in northeast India illicitly obtained uranium ore from a government-operated milling plant in 2013, utilizing it to create a basic bomb before being apprehended by the police. Indian Defence Review (IDR) Not identified
2016 Around 9 kg of radioactive uranium, identified as depleted uranium through laboratory tests, has been confiscated from two individuals in Thane, with preliminary investigations suggesting it was brought from abroad for sale to unknown parties in the area. Two lab reports indicated uranium content of 87.7% and 79.5%, respectively. The banned nature of this substance makes it difficult to determine its exact value, though some independent media reports estimate depleted uranium to be valued at ₹3 crore per kg. NDTV 9 ₹3 crore per kg
2018 The Kolkata police uncovered another uranium smuggling network, arresting five individuals who had come to Kolkata claiming to sell one kilogram of radioactive material, valued at ₹3 crore in the open market. The Times of India 1 ₹3 crore
2021 Acting on specific information, the Nagpada unit of the ATS apprehended a 27-year-old Thane resident, Jigar Pandya, on February 14 for possessing small pieces of valuable substance and attempting to illegally sell them; during interrogation, it was revealed that the uranium pieces were provided by Abu Tahir Afzal Husain Choudhary (31) of Mankhurd in Mumbai. The ATS later arrested Choudhary at the Kurla Scrap Association premises in Mankhurd, seizing 7.1 kg of natural uranium from him. In a separate incident, two men were arrested in Maharashtra on May 7 for possessing 7.1 kilograms of natural uranium, estimated to be worth over Rs. 21.3 crore ($2.8 million); the source of the uranium was unknown and under investigation. Tested by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the substance was confirmed to be highly radioactive natural uranium, with a purity above 90%, deemed dangerous to human life. THE WIRE 7.1 2.8 million USD
2021 This was the second incident of Uranium illicit trade in India in 2021. On June 3, police in Jharkhand arrested seven individuals for allegedly possessing 6.4 kilograms of a substance believed to be uranium. However, on June 10, a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs disputed this claim, stating that the Indian Department of Atomic Energy affirmed the seized material is not uranium and is not radioactive. Arms Control Association 6.4 Not identified
2022 The two Indian nationals, Upendra Kumar Mishra and Raju Thakur from Bihar, along with six Nepali nationals, were arrested by the police as they were preparing to sell a valuable item for Rs. 350 million per kg. Bhupendra and Nawaraj were arrested from a car parked in parking lot of a five-star hotel in Boudha, where the substance was hidden, leading to the arrest of the other six based on information provided by them. All eight individuals are facing charges of illegally trading in uranium, and authorities have seized nine mobile phones from them, according to Nepal Police headquarters sources. (The total price of seized uranium could not be defined as the quantity was not identified.) NDTV Not identified (4.218 million USD per Kg)

Table 1: Author’s Compilation (Sources – Indian National news Outlets, International News Outlets)

Just in 2021, India saw three such instances that all pointed to a growing illicit market for nuclear materials and, more concerningly, a deterioration in safety regulations in a nation that plays a major role in the world nuclear scene. Under the cover of India’s nuclear aspirations, the underbelly of the nuclear business has exposed a troubling reality.

The Indian history in black marketing of uranium depicts that the credibility of India’s safety and security measures for uranium reserves is under question. Consequently, it is considered a responsible nuclear weapon state is factually wrong. The events point to a massive gap in the system, not just a fissure, that not only allows criminals to openly sell nuclear materials on the illicit market but also proves the involvement of government officials. It also presents a disconcerting picture of India’s nuclear depots, highlighting flaws that legitimately raise doubts about the country’s capacity to shield its population from nuclear catastrophes. This highlights the urgent need to confront and fortify safety measures in the context of escalating demands.

The international community’s indifference, together with the deafening silence on the illicit uranium trade in one of the world’s nuclear giants, is quite worrisome.

India’s illicit uranium supply chain is a ticking time bomb that threatens not just national security but also global security. However, the apathy of the international community towards addressing this issue head-on reveals a lot about how dedicated the states are to a world free of nuclear weapons. Because nuclear materials could fall into the wrong hands, the aforementioned incidents are those that have been reported, and there may be many more, though there is always the potential for devastating outcomes if nothing is done.

To fortify its security measures and ensure the integrity of its nuclear programme, India must take proactive and responsible action. Furthermore, the international community must unite against the growing threat posed by the illegal uranium trade in India and quit being so indifferent to it. Now is the moment to take immediate action before the dark market’s shadows engulf us all in a nuclear nightmare. The stakes are too high to stay blindfolded.

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