What We Know About the Uranium-Contaminated Package Found at Heathrow Airport

The shipment was caught by specialist scanners after it arrived in the UK from Pakistan via Oman.
uranium heathrow airport
FILE PHOT. Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A package contaminated with uranium was seized in late December at Heathrow Airport by counter-terror police. 

What Is Uranium?

The Sun newspaper reported that a shipment sent from Pakistan via Oman, contained uranium – a material that can be used to build nuclear weapons. The paper reported the package was destined for Iranian nationals in the UK.


It was found in a shipment of scrap metal, a source told the BBC.

No arrests had been made as of Wednesday morning after the package was caught by specialist scanners. 

A spokesperson from London’s Metropolitan Police said: “We can confirm officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command were contacted by Border Force colleagues at Heathrow after a very small amount of contaminated material was identified after routine screening within a package incoming to the UK on 29 December 2022.”

Commander Richard Smith said: “I want to reassure the public that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and has been assessed by experts as posing no threat to the public. Although our investigation remains ongoing, from our inquiries so far, it does not appear to be linked to any direct threat. As the public would expect, however, we will continue to follow up on all available lines of enquiry to ensure this is definitely the case.

“However, it does highlight the excellent capability we and our partners have in place to monitor our ports and borders in order to keep the public safe from any potential threats to their safety and security that might be coming into the UK.”

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the UK’s nuclear defence regiment, told The Sun: “For uranium to turn up on a commercial airliner from Pakistan to an Iranian address in the UK is very suspect.”

He added: “The good news is the system worked and it has been interdicted. Uranium can give off very high levels of poisonous radiation. It could be used in a dirty bomb.”

Iran’s poor human rights record, as well as its research into nuclear technology that could be turned into weapons, has made it the subject of international sanctions.