Cablegate: Radioactive Smuggling Incident at Vientiane, Laos
DE RUEHVN #0569 2940510
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 200510Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2263
UNCLAS VIENTIANE 000569
FOR STATE ISN/CTR AND PM/ISO/PMAT (24/7)
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KNNP MNUC PARM KCRM PTER PREL ASEC LA
SUBJECT: RADIOACTIVE SMUGGLING INCIDENT AT VIENTIANE, LAOS
REF: STATE 162091
1. Post wishes to alert the Department and Washington
agencies per reftel that it has received a report indicating
a potential incident of illicit trafficking in nuclear and/or
radiological materials. This report came to the Embassy's
attention via a phone call from the Australian owner of a
local unexploded ordnance (UXO) company. Information
concerning this report was relayed telephonically to PMAT at
1105 on October 22, 2008.
2. Details of the incident follow:
A) Current location of the material: Reportedly in the
backyard of a Lao gentleman who claims he found the item in
an airplane crash site in the southern Lao province of
B) Transport status of the material: Buried in the backyard
awaiting a buyer. Not secure. The host government has not
yet been informed. Barring other guidance, we plan to inform
friend of the owner to tell his friend to turn the item over
to the Lao government. We will also inform the Lao
C) Assessment of the likelihood that the appropriate
authorities can/will secure the material: The government of
Laos (GOL) will likely pursue the material if informed of the
importance of removing it from circulation.
D) If in transit, means of transport: Reportedly moved from
Saravan to Vientiane via bus. Now stationary.
E) Intended destination of material: Unknown. Owner
reportedly trying to sell.
F) Routing of material, if via multiple ports: N/A
G) Supplier and/or origination point of material: Unknown,
H) Type of material: Carries the inscription "Caution -
Radioactive Material (line break) Uranium - High Salvage
Value (line break) HT7231-1" Reportedly about 9 kilos. See
picture sent to PMAT.
I) Date and time of incident: Received photos October 22 at
J) Source of the report: Received the photos from Mr.
Thammavong Phiphatsely, who works for Phoenix Clearance
Limited and is the friend of the alleged owner. We were put
in touch with Mr. Thammavong by his boss, Mr. Michael Hayes,
who saw the photos and contacted us.
M) Specific place where alarm or incident occurred: Item
reportedly found in Saravan, Laos, and then moved to
Vientiane (the capital).
N) Additional details: According to a member of the Joint
POW-MIA Detachment Three staff, the item appears to be
depleted uranium, which has been used to make counterbalance
weights in some types of civil and military aircraft.
3. Action officer at post for handling the incident is
Joshua Archibald, reachable in the office at
(856-21)-26-27156 or on his mobile at (856-20)-551-1740 and