UraniumUS government

Authorities in the former Soviet state of Georgia have arrested six people for trying to sell $200 million worth of uranium, Reuters reports.

"Officers of Georgia's State Security Service detained three citizens of Armenia and three citizens of Georgia," Savle Motiashvili, a security service investigator, told reporters. "The members of the group were planning to sell the nuclear material, uranium-238, for $200 million when they were detained."

He did not elaborate on the origin of the uranium nor whether there was an intended purchaser.

The six suspects could receive up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

U-238 is an important component in most modern nuclear weapons. The primary explosion is based on plutonium, but the uranium reduces the amount of plutonium needed and greatly increases the nuclear fallout from the blast.

Motiashvili explained that the same factor which make U-238 attractive to bomb-makers also make it dangerous, even on its own. "Given the gamma ray emission, the identity of the source and radiological expertise report, the seized substance is dangerous for life and health," he said.

Georgia has seen several instances of people trying to sell radioactive material since the fall of the Soviet Union. The most high-profile case occurred in 2006, when a man attempted to sell weapons-grade uranium to radical Islamists for a million dollars. He was caught and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.