July 7, 2004


U.S. removed nuclear material from Iraq (CNN, 7/07/04)

The United States removed nearly two tons of radiological and nuclear materials from Iraq last month, the Energy Department said.

The material could have potentially been used to make a "radiological dispersal device" -- a so-called dirty bomb -- "or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program," the department said Tuesday.

Radiological sources for medical, agricultural or industrial purposes were not removed, the department said. Less-sensitive materials were repackaged and remained in Iraq.

The departments of Energy and Defense removed "1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium and roughly 1,000 highly radioactive sources from the former Iraq nuclear research facility," Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Tuesday.

So when the Supremes kick Jose Padilla loose does he get his dirty bomb material back?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 7, 2004 7:14 PM

This will be downplayed (again) simply because the IAEA was already aware of its existance and chose to leave it there when dismantling other parts of the program.

In other words, the IAEA trusted Saddam to keep the stuff, so why shouldn't we?

Posted by: John Resnick at July 7, 2004 7:35 PM

The low-enriched U is 2.6% U-235 according to the article, which is a nullity as far as a dirty bomb is concerned (though it could make decent reactor-grade fuel, and we don't want that). The 1000 'highly radioactive sources' are exactly what terrorists want though. I'd like to know what they are, but fat chance finding out (CF-252?).

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at July 7, 2004 8:14 PM

Bruce, I'll venture a guess the individual sources were Cecium. Don't know the A# but if it was used industrially that could fit the bill. Most of those type sources are in the low Curie range, maybe up to 40 or so. I can see a ligitimate purpose considering Iraq is an oil producing country. Those sources would be used constantly for radiographing pipe for corrosion and welding integrity.

Posted by: Tom Wall at July 7, 2004 8:31 PM

Tom -

Yes, Cesium-137 and Co-60 make sense, but a complete accounting could yield surprises,; i.e. a trail of things done that were not supposed to have been done by the Iraqis.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at July 7, 2004 9:12 PM

LGF is reporting the UN isn't happy that we removed it.

We told them, but we didn't get a permit.

Posted by: Sandy P at July 7, 2004 10:09 PM

Bruce, even low-enriched uranium is certainly not "a nullity as far as a dirty bomb is concerned." Irrational fear of radiation is very common. If a bomb blows uranium dust around in a city, do you think calm information about it being "only 2.6% U-235" is going to sooth panicked No Nukes types? Heck, all terrorists would have to do is add one old radium watchdial to a small bomb and announce it was "dirty." No facts would get in the way of a good fraction of the city claiming they could feel the radiation giving them cancer. The hysteria would be massive.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 7, 2004 11:49 PM

Papaya: Imagine the burgeoning growth industry such a scenario would provide for the likes of ambulance chasers such as Sen. Edwards? Talk about a windfall.

Posted by: at July 8, 2004 12:11 AM

Bruce, actually the Iraqi's could have legally purchased Cesium or Americium for their intended purpose. It could have been hidden in plain sight. This would have kept the IAEA at bay which has proven easy to do. Why they had 1,000 unique sources is kind of mysterious. That may be the reason the UN is torqued up because of the amount that the US has removed which seems excessive. That's a lot of material even if less than 60 Curies each. Just a thought.

Posted by: Tom Wall at July 8, 2004 4:54 AM

PapayaSF -

Unfortunately, you may be correct.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at July 8, 2004 10:23 AM

Tom -

The article said that "...Radiological sources for medical, agricultural or industrial purposes were not removed.."

Which leaves....what? And 1000 of them, yet! It is mysterious.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at July 8, 2004 10:27 AM