British police found a small amount of uranium in a package at London’s Heathrow Airport last month.
“While the uranium was detected and reportedly posed no harm to the public, it’s never good to hear about fissile material from one nuclear weapons state transiting a civilian airport that is reportedly bound for a business run by someone from a nuclear weapons-seeking and terror-exporting state,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow focusing on Iranian Security and Political Issues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital.
“Loose and unaccounted for fissile material is one of the gravest and least-understood international security threats,” Taleblu said. “The British public should seek a full accounting of the chain of custody for the uranium and the British government’s assessment as to the intent of the shipment.”
The city’s Counter Terrorism Command unit stressed that the amount detected on Dec. 29 was small and assessed as posing no risk. The Sun newspaper first reported that the material came from Pakistan and was headed for U.K.-based Iranians.
Airport security detected the material in a shipment of scrap metal, raising concerns that whoever sent the material may have intended to hide it. However, others suggested that the material could have resulted from contamination and “poor handling.”
Border Force agents noted the shipment was unregistered, and a source told The Sun that authorities are racing to “trace everyone involved,” but police have thus far made no arrests.
Richard Smith, head of London’s Counter Terrorism Command said he was “relieved to understand there was no threat to public health or public safety,” stressing that the screening operation had functioned properly.
“The consignment that had been identified included a very small amount of contaminated material,” Smith said. “We are now conducting further inquiries.”
However, the police may have focused investigations on an Iran-based firm with British “premises” where the material was due to pass through to mystery recipients, according to The Sun.
“That British authorities were able to detect and interdict the shipment is a testament to their dedication to countering terrorism,” Simone Ledeen, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, told Fox News Digital. “Those mechanisms wouldn’t be in place absent that.”
“At the same time, no one should be diminishing an attempted shipment of uranium in any quantity from Pakistan to an Iranian entity in the U.K. – the malign connections between Pakistan and Iran are too well established to be lithe about.”
Iran has reportedly enriched uranium at 60% purity at its underground Fordow facility – well short of the 90% required for weaponization but well above the agreed-upon limit of 20% as mandated by the 2015 nuclear deal.
Colonel Hamish De Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the British defense forces, told the BBC that the incident “should not worry the public”.
British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay said he hoped for more information in “due course” and it was right an investigation “looks at all the issues.”
Reuters contributed to this report.