Radioactive Material Found On Passenger Flight


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Radioactive Material Found On Passenger Flight

By Daniel Baxter

July 2, 2010 - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing civil penalties totaling $422,500 against two Indian companies for violation of U.S. Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations.  

The FAA alleged that IIS & Allied Services, and its freight forwarder, Gallant Freight & Travels Private, Limited of Mumbai, India, offered a shipment containing depleted uranium, a radioactive material, to British Airways for air transport from Mumbai to Boston, June 7, 2008, without declaring the hazardous nature of its contents.  

The shipment flew as cargo on a passenger-carrying flight. British Airways employees at its cargo center in Boston discovered the radioactive material June 16th when the bottom of the outer packaging failed and separated from the rest of the crate.


The companies allegedly offered the hazardous material for transportation when it was not packaged, marked, classed, described, labeled or in condition for shipment as required by regulations. Radioactive materials, with some exceptions, may not be shipped as cargo aboard passenger aircraft. The proposed civil penalty for IIS & Allied Services is $227,500; and for Gallant Freight, $195,000. IIS and Gallant have 30 days from receipt of the FAA letters to respond to the agency.

In 2006, during the investigation into the death of a former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, it was learned that a number of British Airways aircraft that flew between Moscow and London had been contaminated with radioactive material. Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was an officer who served in the Soviet KGB and its Russian successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB). In November 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

Litvinenko was arrested the following March on charges of exceeding his authority at work. He was acquitted in November 1999 but re-arrested before the charges were again dismissed in 2000. He fled with his family to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, where he became a journalist and writer.

During his time in London Litvinenko authored two books, "Blowing up Russia: Terror from within" and "Lubyanka Criminal Group," where he accused Russian secret services of staging the Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in an effort to bring Vladimir Putin to power. He also accused Putin of ordering the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.


On November 1, 2006 Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized in what was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 and that resulted in his death on 23 November. British police became interested in a flight from Moscow to London on October 25.  

The events leading up to Litvinenko poisoning and death are today a matter of controversy, spawning numerous theories relating to his poisoning and death. It is known Litvinenko met two Russian contacts, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, at the Millennium Hotel in London's West End on November 1, the day he fell ill. 

Two BA Boeing 767s were grounded at Heathrow following tests ordered by Scotland Yard, and a third aircraft had been tested in Moscow. British Airways appealed to passengers to come forward. The airline at that time had reported that "very low traces" of the substance had been discovered on the Boeing 767s and the risk to public health was low and that passengers concerned about their health should call NHS direct. It would make sense that the airlines should be doing a better job in screening all cargo for radioactive material.


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