TUWAITHA, Iraq (AFP) - Environmental
group Greenpeace called Tuesday on the US-led coalition governing Iraq
to clean up villages surrounding a nuclear site outside Baghdad that have
been contaminated by "frightening levels" of radioactive material.
Carrying Arabic and English banners that read "Al-Tuwaitha - nuclear
disaster. Act now!", Greenpeace activists returned a large uranium
"yellowcake" mixing canister to US troops stationed inside the
nuclear plant, 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the capital.
The canister -- the size of a small car -- contained significant quantities
of radioactive yellowcake and had been left open and unattended for more
than 20 days on a busy section of open ground near the Tuwaitha plant,
"No one cares about us. We are dying slowly. Our whole neighborhood
is contaminated. Although Greenpeace came, it is too late," said Tareq
al-Obeidi, a 41-year-old Tuwaitha city council member.
"We need medicine and good hospitals. Removing it from the garbage
is just the beginning of our long suffering," he said.
Greenpeace said there were three kilograms (6.6 pounds) worth of yellowcake
-- slightly enriched uranium -- inside the mixer looted following the ouster
of Saddam Hussein's regime.
"It is a disgrace that occupying forces can say they are taking care
of human health here in Iraq and they can still allow this to lie open
on the ground where children can play in it," said Greenpeace spokeswoman
Greenpeace said in a statement released in Baghdad that "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."
Much of the material was looted from the facility by villagers who used
it for house building and water and food storage, according to Greenpeace
International official Mike Townsley.
During a week-long survey, Greenpeace said it had uncovered radioactivity
in a number of buildings, including one source measuring 10,000 times above
normal and another, outside a 900-pupil primary school, measuring 3,000
times above normal.
Locals were still storing radioactive barrels and lids in their houses,
several objects carrying radioactive symbols lie discarded in the community,
and there are "consistent and repeated stories of unusual sickness
after coming into contact with material from the Tuwaitha plant,"
the statement said.
Greenpeace said the preliminary survey "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
The environmental group accused the coalition of refusing so far to allow
experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out
proper documentation and decontamination in Iraq.
"The Greenpeace team has only been surveying for eight days and has
discovered frightening levels of radioactive contamination," said
"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?"
IAEA inspectors have been charged with taking a stock inventory at Al-Tuwaitha,
including checking on levels of uranium ore believed to have been looted.
From Tim James
After reading all the info concerning the state of the
radioactive contamination in Iraq. One has to wonder if there might be
a plan for this. At the rate Iraq is being contaminated, and the fact that
people are still dying from GWI DU contamination, our troops and the Iraqis.
It would seem that this would be an effective way to reduce the Iraqi population.
Of course it's also killing our troops at the same time. Greenpeace is
right, certain parts of Iraq should be declared radioactive disaster areas.
And to learn that even school children are being exposed to 2,000 times
the normal safe levels of radiation, and that nothing is being done about
it, shows that we don't really care about the long term effects of what
we are doing. Liberators by behind. If the Iraqis came here and did what
we are doing to them, does anyone really wonder why they don't want us
Keep the radioactive contamination from the oil fields
and who really cares if the people of Iraq die en-mass over the next 10
years or so. They have been dying since GWI by the thousands. But the bottom
line is that our troops are going to pay a heavy price for their patriotism.
A slow death, that the VA refuses to admit exists. Already we are hearing
of many people who are deciding not to enlist in the armed forces, or even
the reserves. Would you if you were a parent let your child join? Draft
time soon folks, endless war and all, ya know. The use of DU, and not securing
sights that contain radioactive material is absolutely beyond criminal.
It brinks on evil. Oh yeah, I love those bumper stickers. 'Proud to Be
An American" Might as well say "Proud To Be An Evil S.O.B.'