Iraq authorities are on a top-priority search for radioactive material deemed “highly dangerous” that went missing from a storage facility near Basra.
The material, stored in a container about the size of a laptop computer, was taken from a building owned by Weatherford, a United States (U.S.) oilfield services company, the Reuters News Agency reported.
The material, meanwhile, which uses gamma rays to test for flaws in pipelines, is owned by SGS Turkey, a company based in Istanbul.
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The material went missing in November and the big fear is it could be used by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to develop a dirty-bomb weapon.
A Spokesperson for Iraq’s Environment Ministry refused to comment, citing national security issues.
But a document leak describe “the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of lr-192 with highly radioactive activity belonging to SGS from a depot belonging to Weatherford in the Rafidhia area of Basra province,” Reuters reported.
And one senior security official requesting anonymity put it bluntly: “We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of ISIS. They could simply attach it to explosives to make a dirty bomb.”
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The International Atomic Energy Agency rates the material as Category 2, meaning it is dangerous enough to cause permanent injury if mishandled, or fatality.
Reuters reported, “large quantities of lr-192 have gone missing before in the United States, Britain and other countries, stoking fears among security officials that it could be used to make a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb combines nuclear material with conventional explosives to contaminate an area with radiation, in contrast with a nuclear weapons, which uses nuclear fission to trigger a vastly more powerful blast.”