Where to Bury Iraq Nuclear and Toxic Waste

Arabian Desert.  image from Wikipedia. Iraq's desert is part of Arabian desert. In this image the yellow line  indicates the ecosystem and the black lines the national boundaries .

Most of the Iraq’s vast deposits of radioactive materials are a legacy of the turbulent regime of former leader Saddam Hussein, and have built up over the last four decades. Other toxic materials can be found in the country’s graveyards of contaminated industrial equipment“The parliament has decided to study the situation again after other provinces [including Dhi Qar] rejected such decision,” said Yahya al-Nasiri, governor of the southern Dhi Qar province.

“The proposals suggest burying the waste outside the country or in the desert...Asked if there are other ways to dispose of the waste, he said “it could possibly be buried in the sea using special containers or be sent to countries willing to take it, in exchange for money.”

While Nasiri said other provinces have rejected a similar request, Dhi Qar’s provincial council voted against the Iraqi parliament’s proposal in early July 2015 to use some of the southern province’s land as a burial site for the radioactive pollutants coming from all other provinces of the country.  Dhi Qar’s health and environment committee head Abdulamir Salim at the time slammed the proposal and said it posed a “real threat to the health and security of the province’s citizens.”..

An official Iraqi study in 2010 found more than 40 sites across the country that were contaminated with high levels or radiation and dioxins.  Iraq “without doubt” suffers from these radioactive pollutants inherited from “continuous wars” starting in the 1980s Iraqi-Iran war to the Gulf War in 1990s till 2003, when the United States used highly advanced weapons - including depleted uranium - in its efforts to topple Hussein’s regime, the governor lamented....However, it is not only war-produced pollutants that harm people’s health in Iraq – in addition, there is a lack of quality controls imposed on imported goods.  Radioactive material is also “the result of imports of car parts from Japan to the province,” he added....Areas around Iraqi cities such as Najaf, Basra and Fallujah accounted for more than 25 percent of the contaminated sites, with the southern city of Basra – the frontline during Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War – having 11 sites, according to the 2010 study.

The study, carried out by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around the capital Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionizing radiation, which is thought to come from depleted uranium used in munitions during the first Gulf war and since the 2003 invasion.  “The U.S. army unfortunately caused an increase in these radioactive material by using uranium and its advanced arms that use a lot of harmful radioactive material,” Nasiri said. “But the U.S. army did not help nor support our projects to get rid of these pollutants.”

Excerpts from Dina al-Shibeeb, Iraq studying new plan on where to bury radioactive waste, says official, Al Arabiya News, July 18, 2015

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