Tag Archives: depleted uranium

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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Nuclear Materials in Iraq and 2014 Civil War

university of mosul. image from http://www.uomosul.edu.iq/en/

The U.N. atomic agency said on Thursday (July 10, 2014) it believed nuclear material which Iraq said had fallen into the hands of insurgents was "low grade" and did not pose a significant security risk.  Iraq told the United Nations that the material was used for scientific research at a university in the northern town of Mosul and appealed for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad".

Iraq's U.N. envoy this week also said that the government had lost control of a former chemical weapons facility to "armed terrorist groups" and was unable to fulfill its international obligations to destroy toxins kept there.  An al Qaeda offshoot, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, took over swathes of Syria and Iraq before renaming itself Islamic State in June and declaring its leader caliph - a title held by successors of the Prophet Mohammad.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "is aware of the notification from Iraq and is in contact to seek further details", IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said.  "On the basis of the initial information we believe the material involved is low grade and would not present a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk," she said. "Nevertheless, any loss of regulatory control over nuclear and other radioactive materials is a cause for concern."

Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a July 8 letter that nearly 40 kg (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at the university.  "Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state," he said.

However, a U.S. government source said it was not believed to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to use to manufacture into a nuclear weapon. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the reported seizure likely posed no direct threat. But, he said: "The sheer fact that the terrorists ... show unmistakeable interest in nuclear and chemical materials is, of course, very alarming".

Any loss or theft of highly enriched uranium, plutonium or other types of radioactive material is potentially serious as militants could try to use them to make a crude nuclear device or a "dirty bomb", experts say.  Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA chief inspector, said that if the material came from a university it could be laboratory chemicals or radiation shielding, consisting of natural or depleted uranium.  "You cannot make a nuclear explosive from this amount, but all uranium compounds are poisonous," Heinonen told Reuters. "This material is also not 'good' enough for a dirty bomb."  In a so-called "dirty bomb", radioactive material such as might be found in a hospital or factory is combined with conventional explosives that disperse the hazardous radiation.

Citing U.N. investigations dating back ten years or more, Heinonen said there should be no enriched uranium in Mosul. The Vienna-based IAEA helped dismantle Iraq's clandestine nuclear programme in the 1990s - during Heinonen's three decades there.  "Iraq should not have any nuclear installation left which uses nuclear material in these quantities," he said.  Another proliferation expert, Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, said: "The Mosul region and several university departments were scoured again and again by U.N. inspectors for a decade after the first Gulf War (1990-1991) and they know what materials were stored there."  "These included tons of uranium liquid wastes, sources, uranium oxides, and uranium tetrafluoride. Some of these items are still there, but there's no enriched uranium," he said.

Excerpts from Fredrik Dahl, UPDATE 4-Seized nuclear material in Iraq "low grade" - UN agency, Reuters, July 10, 2014

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Texas is Thirsty for Nuclear Waste

Texas Compact Waste Facility (CWF) image from http://www.wcstexas.com/facilities/compact-waste-facility/

The company operating Texas' only radioactive waste dump site is asking state regulators to allow disposal of depleted uranium and triple the capacity of a burial site that accepts waste from dozens of states.  Although Waste Control Specialists says the uranium stored at its West Texas site would have only low-level radioactivity, opponents say the proposal would get the company another step closer to handling more dangerous material that wasn't part of the original license. The company has already been in talks with county officials about high-level waste disposal.

Meanwhile, the Dallas-based business has also asked the state to reduce the money it's required to have available to fund potential liability at the site — to about $86 million from $136 million."The public should be paying attention, but they're not," said state Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat who has taken an active role in monitoring how the state handles radioactive waste. "We have less and less financial assurances and greater threat for more harm."...

Environmental groups have long worried about the local geology and contamination of underground water sources near the site, which can accept low-level waste from compact members Texas and Vermont as well as 36 other states.  The site could soon be the resting place for hotter material that's being stored at Texas' four commercial nuclear reactors.

In March, Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked lawmakers to explore establishing a location in Texas to store the high-level radioactive waste from these reactors. Two months earlier, House Speaker Joe Straus directed lawmakers to examine the economic impact of permitting such a site.  McDonald said the company has had conversations with Andrews County officials about high-level waste storage. Officials in Loving County, the nation's least populous county, have interest in building a storage site there

Excerpts from BETSY BLANEY, West Texas site seeks to bury depleted uranium, Associated Press, June 14, 2014

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