Tags: 'Nuclear | Mess' | Iraq

'Nuclear Mess' in Iraq

Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM

Coalition forces allowed the special inspection to go forward after intensive pressure from IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei, who has publicly spoke about a nuclear "emergency" existing in the Baghdad suburbs.

Iraq's main nuclear research center at Tuwaitha (about 15 mi. south of Baghdad) is believed to have been heavily looted during the US/UK invasion.

Within the center was a large underground storage facility containing highly toxic nuclear waste. It had been stored, secured and inventoried by the IAEA prior to the March invasion.

Some of the waste is missing. The IAEA will try to determine just how much. Nuclear specialists familiar with the waste say it could be used by terrorists to fashion a so-called "dirty bomb."

In early April, as US troops advanced towards Baghdad, one group of soldiers that had been sent in to secure the nuclear center entered an underground storage facility.

Published reports from journalists embedded with the troops stated that some steel barrels within the storage facility had been opened and examined. It was also noted that radiation detectors carried by some of those troops were "ticking wildly."

UN sources confirm that the US troops found "nothing new" at Tuwaitha. In fact, one UN source intimately familiar with the nuclear center called the US military inspection "sloppy" and that the IAEA had passed on information to the Pentagon to alert them to the presence and location of the nuclear waste.

It seems the Pentagon never sent the information to the troops in the field.

The UN source believes that the US troops were likely exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation during the inspection. The Pentagon has not released any information about the military unit since the April operation.

Over the last two months, there have been reports of local residents near the Tuwaitha center becoming ill. It is believed that some of the problems may be related to radiation exposure.

Local residents may have looted some of the drums containing nuclear waste, which may have been dumped in nearby rivers and the empty drums used to carry food and drinking water.

Within those drums were natural uranium, low-enriched uranium, depleted uranium and cesium 137, all of which could prove to be hazardous if not handled correctly.

IAEA sources say that 1.8 tons of natural uranium were under seal, 500 tons of natural and depleted uranium as well as an undisclosed amount of the highly toxic cesium 137. Nuclear experts say the cesium would be ideal for use in a dirty bomb.

At least 70 barrels which once contained almost 2 tons uranium have been emptied say IAEA sources. The agency will not reveal how many barrels of nuclear waste had been stored at Tuwaitha.

That will be one of the main objectives of the emergency investigation, to see just what is missing.

According to IAEA sources, the team will spend about "2 weeks" in Iraq to "determine what is missing, repackage and reseal any free waste found and (try) to recapture any of the missing material."

That may be easier said than done.

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Coalition forces allowed the special inspection to go forward after intensive pressure from IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei, who has publicly spoke about a nuclear "emergency" existing in the Baghdad suburbs. Iraq's main nuclear research center at Tuwaitha...
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2003-00-04
Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM
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