They claimed they were after weapons of mass destruction, but then allowed nuclear material to be carried off by the barrel. They said errant nuclear waste poses no health threat to the people in Iraq, but then denied access to experts. We delivered a dose of reality to the occupying forces: villages surrounding the Tuwaitha nuclear complex, just south of Baghdad, are contaminated with deadly radiation. Clean up must begin now.
Greenpeace radiation expert takes measurments outside the Al-Majidat school for girls (900 pupils) next to the Al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility.
A convoy of vehicles bearing Greenpeace banners that read "Al
Tuwaitha - nuclear disaster - Act now!" with a single activist
walking at its head, carrying a white flag, returned a large
uranium "yellow cake" mixing canister to the US military guards
stationed at the heart of the nuclear plant. The canister - the
size of a small car - contained significant quantities of
radioactive "yellowcake" and had been dumped on a busy section of
open ground near the Tuwaitha plant. Despite the military being
aware of its presence, locals say it has been left open and
unattended for more than 20 days.
"If this had happened in the UK, the US or any other country,
the villages around Tuwaitha would be swarming with radiation
experts and decontamination teams. It would have been branded a
nuclear disaster site and the people given immediate medical
check-ups. The people of Iraq deserve no less from the
international community. That they are being ignored is a scandal
that must be rectified without delay," said Mike Townsley of
Our radiation experts have found abandoned uranium "yellowcake"
and radioactive sources scattered across the community. Much of the
material was looted from the facility by villagers who used it for
house building and water and food storage. They did not realise the
potential danger. In a week long survey, as well as the "yellow
cake" canister, Greenpeace uncovered:
- radioactivity in a series of houses, including one source
measuring 10,000 times above normal
- another source outside a 900 pupil primary school measuring
3,000 times above normal
- locals who are still storing radioactive barrels and lids in
- another smaller radioactive source abandoned in a nearby
- consistent and repeated stories of unusual sickness after
coming into contact with material from the Tuwaitha plant
- several objects carrying radioactive symbols discarded in the
The preliminary survey and this morning's action in front of
heavily armed US troops highlights the total failure of the
occupying forces to address the urgent need for a full assessment,
containment and clean up of missing nuclear material from the
Tuwaitha Nuclear facility.
The occupying forces have so far refused to allow the UN nuclear
experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to carry
out proper documentation and decontamination in Iraq. The US
authorities in Baghdad have insisted upon retaining responsibility
for protecting human health but consistently deny there is a risk
to the local population.
Our team has only been surveying for eight days and has
discovered frightening levels of radioactive contamination. The
IAEA must be allowed to return with a full mandate to monitor and
decontaminate. They may believe they have accounted for most of the
uranium, but what about the rest of the radioactive material? If
the inspectors are allowed to come out from the shadow of the
occupying forces and into the community, they can do the job
The team went further inside the Tuwaitha nuclear facility with
the US army to deliver the radioactive canister. They then
accompanied the army to the house in the village where we found
radiation up to 10,000 times normal levels.
The US army surveyed the area and confirmed the levels. They
removed the radioactive source and took it back to the Tuwaitha
plant. The head of the radiation unit for the US army there said
that the WHO and the IAEA should get there as soon as possible.
At the same time, the IAEA tells us that their inspectors are
due to leave today as their limited remit - to make an inventory of
the uranium at Tuwaitha - is done.