Missing Radioactive Material Found in Iraq

Essam Al-Sudani—Reuters
Essam Al-Sudani—Reuters

Consternation abounded last week when Reuters reported that a device containing nuclear material, roughly the size of a laptop computer, was stolen from a storage facility in November and remained unaccounted for. The dirty-bomb possibilities of such material in the hands of terrorists like the Islamic State (ISIS) was chilling.

Reuters now reports the missing radioactive material has been found intact near a gas station in the town of Zubair, ten miles south of Basra.

The chief of the provincial security panel, Jabbar al-Saidi, announced:

A passer-by found the radioactive device dumped in Zubair and immediately informed security forces which went with a special radiation prevention team and retrieved the device. After initial checking I can confirm the device is intact 100 percent and there is absolutely no concern of radiation.

A security official told Reuters the material had been dumped by the “perpetrators” who stole it, promising that “it is only a matter of time before we arrest those who stole the radioactive device.”

The radioactive device, which is normally used to test oil and gas pipelines, belongs to Texas-based oilfield services company Weatherford. It was stored in a facility owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey. Reuters reports both companies denied responsibility for the disappearance of the radioactives.

“We are pleased that the source has been located without incident,” said a statement from Weatherford, quoted by USA Today.

USA Today noted that although the missing device was the size of a laptop, the radioactive material contained within it was a tiny sample of iridium-192, about the size of a BB-gun pellet. It is, however, radioactive enough to potentially kill humans exposed to its radiation for an extended period of time.