NICOSIA, Cyprus — Customs officers Saturday discovered 35 tons of zirconium, a metal used in nuclear reactors, stored at Limassol port, just days after some of the material was found in New York.
It was the second discovery of the material on the Mediterranean island in three days. The first was part of a sting operation by U.S. authorities, helped by the Cypriots, that also netted five tons in New York. The U.S. haul was the largest of nuclear-related material to be seized in the United States.
Cypriot acting customs director Demetris Hadjicostis told reporters that the 35 tons found Saturday had arrived in two shipments within days of each other on Aeroflot flights from Russia in 1992.
They sat in a bonded warehouse in Limassol for three years after being assigned to an unnamed offshore company.
An additional 10 tons from one shipment was exported to Austria the week before last, Hadjicostis said. The total 45 tons is worth more than $9 million, he said.
Importing zirconium is not illegal in Cyprus, where it is imported in small quantities for jewelers' use, and the shipment had been declared. But customs officials said they were treating the discovery as suspicious because of the amount involved.