Six people have been detained for smuggling an unspecified amount of the form of uranium that can be used to make a nuclear weapon, an official said Wednesday.
Interior Ministry official Vitalie Briceag said the uranium-235 was brought in from Russia. He said the smugglers were trying to sell it to a North African country for euro20 million ($28.85 million).
Uranium-235 makes up less than 1 percent of natural uranium. Highly enriched uranium _ which is used to arm nuclear weapons _ is 90 percent or more uranium-235.
The International Atomic Energy Agency considers 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of uranium-235 a "significant quantity" _ technical language for the amount needed to make a nuclear bomb.
Television channel ProTV Chisinau posted on their Web site a video released by the Interior Ministry showing one of the smugglers talking with an undercover police officer who claimed he was interested in buying the uranium. One of the smugglers told the policeman they could provide one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of uranium, but not the whole quantity at once, according to the video.
IAEA officials contacted shortly after the detentions were reported said they had no immediate comment.
Four detainees are Moldovan citizens, one is Russian and another is from Moldova's separatist Trans-Dniester region, Briceag said. He said the uranium was kept in a lead cylinder, adding more information will be disclosed after an investigation is conducted in a Western country.
In 2010, Moldovan authorities arrested three people who were trying to sell nearly two kilograms of uranium-238 worth euro9 million ($13 million) on the black market. The amount was too small _ and not radioactive enough _ to be used in a "dirty bomb."
George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.