‘Dangerous’ radioactive material stolen in Iraq raises security concerns

(From Reuters)

Iraq is searching for “highly dangerous” radioactive material whose theft last year has raised fears among Iraqi officials that it could be used as a weapon if acquired by Islamic State (IS).

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Baghdad reported the stolen material to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November but has not requested assistance to recover it, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday.

The material, stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer, went missing from a storage facility near the southern city of Basra belonging to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford , an environment ministry document said.

A spokesman for Iraq’s environment ministry said he could not discuss the issue, citing national security concerns.

Weatherford said in a statement that it was not responsible or liable for the theft. “We do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored,” it said.

The material, which uses gamma rays to test flaws in materials used for oil and gas pipelines in a process called industrial gamma radiography, is owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey.

An SGS official in Iraq declined to comment and referred Reuters to its Turkish headquarters, which did not respond to phone calls and emails.

The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reports but has seen no sign that IS or other militant groups have acquired it.

The environment ministry document, dated Nov. 30 and addressed to the ministry’s Centre for Prevention of Radiation, describes “the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity belonging to SGS from a depot belonging to Weatherford in the Rafidhia area of Basra province”.

A senior environment ministry official based in Basra, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the device contained up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of Ir-192 “capsules”, a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer. Read More



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