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DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia) February 07, 2005

IAEA IS LOOKING FOR DIRTY BOMBS

SOURCE: Novye Izvestia, February 2, 2005, p. 4

By Mekhman Gafarly

IAEA General Director Mohammed el-Baradei does not rule out the possibility that some terrorist organizations may lay their hands on nuclear materials. "IAEA has information that several kilograms of nuclear materials have been stolen, said materials being an equivalent in quality of enriched uranium." El-Baradei claims that Al Qaeda is looking for nuclear materials too, the assumption that is confirmed by projects of manufacture of nuclear weapons found in Afghanistan.

El-Baradei did not say from what countries the materials in question were stolen, but attention of the world became immediately focused on former Soviet republics lacking reliable nuclear material control and monitoring systems. IAEA experts maintain that, "there are uncontrolled sources of hard radiation on the territories of all Central Asian and Caucasus countries." They recall the episode in Georgia in 1997 when several border guards fell sick from hard radiation emanating from capsules with cesium discovered in their barracks. In fact, the search for two containers with cesium-137 in 2000 has never turned up the missing items. Specialists say that these containers were used in Soviet experiments of slowing down the growth of grain back in the 1970, and were lost when the Soviet Union disintegrated. The IAEA eventually discovered four of them in Georgia and five in Moldova. Two containers are still missing.

Kazakhstan too, attempted to make nuclear weapons once but it agreed to dismantle the shops in 1992. According to John Pike, Director of GlobalSecurity.org (Virginia, USA), US representatives did not carry out a serious program to prevent minor "radioactive" sabotage in Kazakhstan. "Top priority in the last decade was assigned to security of weapons themselves and their components and materials, not to the mapping of sources of radiation," Pike said.

Arjun Mahijani, President of the Institute of Energy and Environment Studies (Maryland, USA) believes that an effective campaign against thefts of nuclear materials "requires an inventory of all sources of radioactive materials, particularly plutonium, uranium, some isotopes of strontium, cesium, and cobalt, and a stiffer control over their use". "The use of these elements and their transportation are extremely dangerous," he said. "Even a fleeting exposure may be fatal."

Secret services arrested several smugglers of nuclear materials on the borders or near the borders of Central Asian states and Russia in the last several years. A citizen of Uzbekistan bound for a certain Arab country with a capsule of plutonium was arrested in Kyrgyzstan, last year.


Copyright 2005, Agency WPS