Even if it cannot be used to make a nuclear fission bomb, radioactive material can still be spread using conventional explosives in a so-called ‘dirty bomb,’ though the amount of missing Iridium-192 might not be enough for the purpose
BASRA, Iraq (Feb. 19, 2016) — Iraqi authorities are searching for radioactive material that went missing in southern Iraq more than 3 months ago, officials said on Thursday.
American oil and gas services firm Weatherford informed the Basra province environment commission on November 15 of the “loss” of radioactive material, said Khajak Ferweer, the head of the commission’s radiation department.
The search for the material is ongoing, he said.
Ferweer said that exposure to the missing material, which he said amounted to at most several grams of Iridium-192, can lead to burns in the short-term and cancer over a longer period, but that it cannot be used to manufacture a weapon.
But even if it cannot be used to make a nuclear fission bomb, radioactive material can still be spread using conventional explosives in a so-called “dirty bomb,” though the small amount of missing Ir-192 might not be sufficient for that application.
The material belongs to Turkish company SGS, Ferweer said.
A senior Basra security official said it was part of a device used to test welded portions of pipes for leaks or other weaknesses.
While it belongs to a Turkish company that had a contract with Weatherford, it went missing from one of the US firm’s warehouses last November, the official said.
Jabbar al-Saadi, a member of the province’s security committee, said that the material was considered missing and not stolen, and like the other two officials said it cannot be used to make a weapon.
The south is home to the heart of Iraq’s oil industry, which supplies the vast majority of government funds, and most of the country’s crude is exported via Basra.
Iraqi militia forces and criminal gangs are active in areas of southern Iraq, including Basra, while the Islamic State jihadist group holds territory north and west of Baghdad.