‘Highly dangerous’ radioactive material in Iraq stolen – report

This undated photo provided by the Georgia Interior Ministry shows part of a seizure of radioactive substances including iridium-192 and europium-152. Police in Kutaisi, Georgia arrested two people involved in the smuggling in February 2011 (photo credit: AP/Georgia Interior Ministry)

This undated photo provided by the Georgia Interior Ministry shows part of a seizure of radioactive substances including iridium-192 and europium-152. Police in Kutaisi, Georgia arrested two people involved in the smuggling in February 2011 (photo credit: AP/Georgia Interior Ministry)

Fearing an Islamic State dirty bomb, officials are searching for Ir-192 that went missing from a US-owned facility in Basra

(SOURCE)  Iraqi authorities are searching for “highly dangerous” radioactive material that went missing from a US-owned oil company facility, sparking fears the Islamic State terror group could use the material in a dirty bomb, according to a Wednesday report.

Environment ministry documents reported on by the Reuters news agency reveal the material, stored in a laptop-sized case, went missing in November while in the possession of oil industry contractor Weatherford in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

“We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of Daesh,” a senior security official told Reuters, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “They could simply attach it to explosives to make a dirty bomb,” he said.

The environment ministry document described “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.”

An unnamed ministry official told the news agency the device contained up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of Ir-192 “capsules,” a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer.

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.

The International Atomic Energy Agency classifies the stolen material as Category 2, meaning that if not managed properly it could cause permanent injury or death to anyone in close proximity to it within hours.

The leaked document did not indicate the material had come into the possession of IS.

The terror group is not know to have any significant presence in Basra, on the Persian coast south some 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of the Baghdad.

However, locals have reported that Shiite militias and armed tribal groups have increasingly taken control of the area as security forces have been redeployed to help fight the Islamic State in the country’s northwest.

A Basra security official said an Iraqi military division of about 8,000 troops redeployed from the region in late 2014 to join the fight against IS, along with a police battalion of about 500 troops, leaving nine incomplete police battalions and only one army battalion for the entire Basra province, which has a population of about 3 million.

Iraqi security forces, in charge of the port security, take part in an exercise to simulate a terrorist attack on February 8, 2016 at the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr near the southern city of Basra. (AFP / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI)

Iraqi security forces, in charge of the port security, take part in an exercise to simulate a terrorist attack on February 8, 2016 at the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr near the southern city of Basra. (AFP / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI)

The result, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss security matters with the media, has been a wave of armed robberies targeting homes, cars, jewelry stores and currency exchanges, as well as a resurgence in tribal clashes and an increase in drug trafficking from neighboring Iran to Gulf Arab states.

The initial investigation into the missing radioactive material indicated perpetrators had specific knowledge of how to handle the material and how to gain access to the facility, a security official told Reuters.

There were “no broken locks, no smashed doors and no evidence of forced entry,” he said.

An operations manager for Taiz, the Iraqi firm that was contracted to protect the facility, declined to comment on the theft to Reuters, citing instructions from Iraqi security authorities.

Weatherford officials said SGS was responsible for safeguarding the material.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said officials are “aware of reports,” but said there was no indication the material had fallen into the hands of jihadists.

A spokesman for the office coordinating security in Basra province, said the Iraqi army, police and intelligence forces were working “day and night” to locate the material.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. Øystein

    This is actually interesting.
    Many years ago I went two years at school for education about “non-destructive testing” for welding-connections.
    We worked with (among other methods) with ultrasonic sounds and radioactive sources.

    About the radioactive ones:
    There is two types: The x-rays and the gamma-sources.
    The x-rays is not so dangerous (it is ) , but you can just pull out the plug. Then the whole process stop.

    The gamma-sources is far worse.
    They are the size of a pea, and in industrial works are closed in a box sheltered by uranium.
    It gets unstable by bombarding it by neutrons.
    So why we use it in industrial work?
    To get a photo on a film. – If the photo get a dark area somewhere, it is a sign that more radiation gets through than in other parts of the material, and that means a crack in the material.

    So why am I telling this?
    Because I want everyone to know a smart thing if a socalled dirty bomb should ever happen in your area.
    It’s a physical law.
    If you are close to any kind of radiation, you should know that if you double the distance from the radioactive source, then the radioaton will get 4 times less. – – Yes. 4 times less! I have to say it twice, because it’s so important.
    In physicks it’s called an quadratic function.

    We used the iridium-192 isotop when I worked with it. It’s dangerous but not the worst one.
    A Cobolt-60 is much stronger and much more radiation in it.

    Remember distance. That’s all you have to remember. Get far away if it ever happens.

    That was todays physicks lesson.

    From Øystein

  2. Øystein

    It’s opposite to a nuclear-bomb.
    Nuclear bombs use nuclear physicks to get a big conventional bomb.
    Dirty bombs use conventional explosives to spread radioactive material.
    So a dirty bomb will never get big as a nuclear-bomb, but it will destroy the little pea-radioactive source and spread it.
    A real evil bomb.

    From Øystein

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s