Iraq - Nuclear Looting: Dirty Bombs for the Taking

In Iraq’s post-war chaos, looting of its main nuclear site – the al-Tuwaitha research centre thirty miles south of Baghdad – and at least six other locations has produced the worst nuclear security crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union. The potential is great for material to be sold on by looters to terror groups seeking to make radiological dispersal devices – so-called dirty bombs.

The World Today Updated 21 October 2020 Published 1 July 2003 4 minute READ

Andy Oppenheimer

Consultant on weapons of mass destruction, Jane's Information Group

More locally, people in nearby villages are already suffering from radiation sickness. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, who returned last month, are restricted to securing a small area within the plant.

As many as four hundred looters a day have ransacked the hundred and twenty-acre al-Tuwaitha, the main location of Iraq’s former nuclear weapons programme. Raiders entered by cutting the surrounding barbed- wire fence. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seals placed during past inspections have been tampered with and metal containers of between three and four hundred kilograms of natural and low-enriched uranium and uranium oxide – yellowcake, or processed mined uranium – either stolen or tipped out.

The containers have been used for domestic purposes, such as milking cows and storing drinking water, milk and tomatoes. Some have been recovered by US officials.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.