Science - Reuters
Contaminated Nuclear Barrel Swap Launched in Iraq
Sat Jun 28, 6:44 AM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace launched a campaign Saturday to give Iraqis clean water barrels in exchange for contaminated containers they have been using which were looted from a nuclear complex.

Greenpeace said their scheme was meant to be of more practical use to Iraqis than a three dollar per barrel offer from the U.S. Army for the containers, previously used to store low-enriched uranium peroxide powder known as "yellow cake."

Iraqis in the impoverished local community near the Tuwaitha complex, 16 miles south of Baghdad, would have to pay about $15 each for new containers to replace contaminated barrels, the group said.

Looters plundered the complex in the chaos following the toppling of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led forces in April.

"This morning we collected four barrels. It is a good start," said a spokesman for the group, which believes about 150 of 500 containers looted from the site are still missing.

It said it would take days if not weeks for word of the scheme to spread. Many Iraqis had been reluctant to give up the looted barrels as they saw their need for water storage as greater than the unseen threat of radioactivity, it said.

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have visited Tuwaitha in recent weeks and say they have accounted for most of the missing uranium.

"Yellow cake" is low-enriched uranium peroxide powder used as a raw material for radioactive fuel.

U.S. officials have played down its dangers, saying its radiation level is fairly low. But they began paying Iraqis to recover the containers after reports emerged that people were now storing food and water in them.

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