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550 Metric Tons of Uranium Removed From Iraq 647

Posted by Soulskill
from the war-on-gas-prices dept.
Orion Blastar tips us to an AP report that 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" uranium has successfully been removed from Iraq. The operation lasted three months, and it required 37 separate flights and an 8,500-mile trip by boat to reach a port in Montreal. Quoting: "While yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a so-called 'dirty bomb' -- a conventional explosive that disperses radioactive material -- it could stir widespread panic if incorporated in a blast. Yellowcake also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, nuclear weapons using sophisticated equipment. The Iraqi government sold the yellowcake to a Canadian uranium producer, Cameco Corp., in a transaction the official described as worth 'tens of millions of dollars.' A Cameco spokesman, Lyle Krahn, declined to discuss the price, but said the yellowcake will be processed at facilities in Ontario for use in energy-producing reactors."
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550 Metric Tons of Uranium Removed From Iraq

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  • Thanks, media, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adreno (1320303) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:03PM (#24075517)
    ... for at least keeping this ONE story under wraps until a prudent moment!
    • Under wraps? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tgibbs (83782)

      It's hardly news. In fact, one of the reasons the CIA was skeptical about the claim (which Joe Wilson found to be false) that Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger was that Iraq was known to already have substantial stocks of yellowcake--just no way to process it, so there was no reason for them to be trying to buy more. This was just one of the pieces of information that was ignored by the media because it didn't fit with the "Iraq is actively seeking nuclear weapons" narrative that the Bush admin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:06PM (#24075537)

    We can't let those French Canadians have nuclear weapons!

    • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:45PM (#24075841)

      "We can't let those French Canadians have nuclear weapons!"

      Don't worry. Intel says they've hired Newfies to weaponize it and yellowcake cannon balls aren't much threat...

    • You already did that back in 1950.
  • by tsm_sf (545316) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:08PM (#24075545) Journal
    From TFA:

    And, in a symbolic way, the mission linked the current attempts to stabilize Iraq with some of the high-profile claims about Saddam's weapons capabilities in the buildup to the 2003 invasion.

    Accusations that Saddam had tried to purchase more yellowcake from the African nation of Niger -- and an article by a former U.S. ambassador refuting the claims -- led to a wide-ranging probe into Washington leaks that reached high into the Bush administration.

    Tuwaitha and an adjacent research facility were well known for decades as the centerpiece of Saddam's nuclear efforts.

    Israeli warplanes bombed a reactor project at the site in 1981. Later, U.N. inspectors documented and safeguarded the yellowcake, which had been stored in aging drums and containers since before the 1991 Gulf War. There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991, the official said.

    • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:47PM (#24075861)

      What is your point?

      Bush did not make an argument about Yellowcake that Saddam had. He said he was buying more... which ... was...a... LIE.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Toonol (1057698)
        Bush did not make an argument about Yellowcake that Saddam had. He said he was buying more... which ... was...a... LIE.

        Or possibly a mistake.
        • by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang @ g m a il.com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @01:31AM (#24080523) Homepage

          No. It was willful negligence more than anything else. Read "State Of War." The reports of Iraqi attempts to buy yellowcake uranium were based on a forged document. Moreover, the President relied on a source known as "Curveball" to make assertions regarding Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program in the State of the Union Address even though the German intelligence organization (and the US State Department) said Curveball was unreliable. Turns out that Curveball was an alcoholic Iraqi ex-pat living in Germany working at a McDonald's, and the guy had delusions of grandeur. Oops.

      • by unassimilatible (225662) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @05:12PM (#24077415) Journal
        Joe Wilson went on a fact-finding mission to Niger and returned and reported that Saddam was likely trying to get more yellowcake from Niger in his report. Wilson said Cheney sent him on that trip to Niger (lie). Then Wilson wrote the opposite of his report findings in a NY Times Op-Ed, that Saddam wasn't seeking more yellowcake. So either Wilson was lying the first time or the second. Which was it?
  • Canada.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:10PM (#24075557) Homepage Journal
    I would have waited until AFTER Dick Cheney left the White House to be seen buying Uranium....esp. with all that oil you have up there......
    • with all that oil you have up there......

      It's not Oil [wikipedia.org] that Canada has that makes us so interested. It is in fact Oil Shale [wikipedia.org]. Which requires one to pay a tremendous cost (water, environment, energy) to develop the Kerogen [wikipedia.org] into usable liquid hydrocarbons.

      It's not worth the energy and materials needed IMHO.

  • Homer (Score:4, Funny)

    by mrbill1234 (715607) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:12PM (#24075569)

    Mmmmmmmmm, Yellowcake.

  • According to Xemplar Energy [xemplar.ca], the energy in one pound of yellowcake is equivalent to the energy in 31 barrels of fuel oil. So that 550 metric tons could keep 30 nuclear reactors going for a year.

    Since there is so much yellow cake in the world that they're literally tripping over it in a country everyone knew had none--the stuff must have been naturally occurring and just sitting around in "bunkers" eroded from underground water formations, since we all know Iraq wasn't importing the stuff or planning to use

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:22PM (#24075647)
      Furthermore, it's truly quite amazing how Bush manipulated the intelligence to show that Iraq had WMDs, even going so far as to manipulate Russia's, Jordan's, France's et al intelligence to show the same thing. He even went back in time and had the Carnegie Institute write the book Deadly Arsenals which outlined Iraq's WMD program, and of course while he was back in time had the Clinton Administration link Iraq with Al Qaeda just to show off. A truly impressive whitewash that no one has been able to uncover with a 5-second google search.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Brandybuck (704397)

        As much as I *hate* to stick up for Bush, the truth of the matter is that Saddam bluffed and we called him on it. He did everything he could to make everyone believe he had WMDs.

        That still doesn't justify the invasion, and it doesn't justify the continuing occupation.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Indeed, and it's amazing how the AC and others who still support Bush try to distribute and redirect the responsibility away from the White House: "But, but, but, THEY said the same thing too!"

          Yes, and they didn't go and invade Iraq, instead preferring to use diplomacy and trade tactics to try to convince Saddam to give up the WMDs, and the UN sent inspectors to make damn sure that he wasn't building WMDs. None of them falsified or glorified intelligence reports, nor did they link Iraq to 9/11 like the Bush

        • by localman (111171) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @03:04PM (#24076407) Homepage

          What are you talking about? He said he didn't have any, and (after dicking around a bit) he let in UN weapons inspectors, and they said he didn't have any [wikipedia.org]. The the US ignored this info, fabricated their own with faulty intelligence, and invaded.

          I don't like Saddam at all, but I knew, as did a large portion of Americans who were listening to more than just the US administration, that Iraq did not have WMDs and that an invasion was a bad idea. I had arguments to this effect with many people at the time, but about 2/3 of the nation was in a rabid war frenzy. I'd say about 1/2 still are.

          Our nation fucked up -- please stop trying to rewrite history.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Raenex (947668)

            I don't like Saddam at all, but I knew, as did a large portion of Americans who were listening to more than just the US administration, that Iraq did not have WMDs and that an invasion was a bad idea.

            That's bullshit. Virtually all the US media (even places like the NY Times) was reporting that Saddam likely had WMD. The vast majority of Americans believed he had it. What sources are you referring to when you say: "a large portion of Americans who were listening to more than just the US administration", since virtually all the media was highly uncritical and passed on reports from the administration?

            • by Valdrax (32670) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @07:39PM (#24078443)

              What sources are you referring to when you say: "a large portion of Americans who were listening to more than just the US administration", since virtually all the media was highly uncritical and passed on reports from the administration?

              Foreign media. Most people who were cynical about the administration's motives long ago realized that the US media wasn't to be trusted to seriously contradict the President.

              That's how I heard a lot about how the aluminum tubes that the administration was saying were for uranium centrifuges absolutely could not have been used for the purpose (instead before for rocket tubes). Foreign sources were also the biggest sources publishing Ambassador Wilson's logic for why Iraq wasn't getting yellowcake from Niger and were the ones who brought my attention to the fact that the "roving chemical weapons trailers" were actually for making hydrogen balloons to get artillery with. (The latter bit only came out after the war, though.)

              The mainstream US media lost all credibility with me very early in the Bush administration when when went from hounding Clinton's every step to kissing Bush's ring pretty much within the span of a single year. I'm not the only person who feels that way by a long shot, and those of us who read the BBC and other foreign news were the ones who caught on pretty quickly that the causus belli was being manufactured.

  • Everybody panic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slittle (4150) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:15PM (#24075593) Homepage

    While yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a so-called 'dirty bomb' -- a conventional explosive that disperses radioactive material -- it could stir widespread panic if incorporated in a blast.

    So the primary hazard is mass panic.. exactly the same as a (uranium based) radiological dispersion device (dirty bomb) then. Also not too dissimilar to what the US have been doing for the last 5 years - shooting uranium all over the place.

    • I dont buy this idea that yellowcake uranium would not pose human health risks. Its a heavy metal, and there are reports of damage to internal organs and harm from it. Breathing this stuff would also be bad. The DU you mention has been used extensively in iraq since 1991 and there has been a drastic increase in cancer and birth defects in iraq since. The DU produces levels of radioactivity far higher than safe limits. The use of DU is truly a crime against humanity, it is the same as litering the country w

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621)

      While yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a so-called 'dirty bomb' -- a conventional explosive that disperses radioactive material -- it could stir widespread panic if incorporated in a blast.

      So the primary hazard is mass panic.. exactly the same as a (uranium based) radiological dispersion device (dirty bomb) then. Also not too dissimilar to what the US have been doing for the last 5 years - shooting uranium all over the place.

      No, the primary hazard is mass panic disproportionate to the

  • Quick question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edalytical (671270) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:15PM (#24075595)

    Is there any radioactive material that is potent enough for a dirty bomb? Wouldn't blowing the material up just spread it out so that it's doesn't emit enough rem to do damage?

    Even if you could find a material potent enough how would you store it? How would you move the bomb into a strategic position without killing yourself from radiation poisoning?

    I think a dirty bomb is about the dumbest idea I've ever heard.

    • Re:Quick question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:25PM (#24075679) Homepage Journal

      You choose a material that is biologically available. Then that brings strong alpha emitters up close to cells in the body. For example you might want something that could replace small amounts of calcium in people's bones and teeth with a radioactive isotope. Or something that would replace carbon in the fat in internal organ, skin and brain. That way when you spread the radioactive material far it can quickly be concentrated into human beings doint maximum damage. It also can decimate the environment due to bio-accumulation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kesuki (321456)

      there is at least one radioactive element dirty enough.

      do you remember the UK person who was 'poisoned' on an airplane with a microscopic dose of a radioactive element and then died 2 weeks later, as well as the person who targeted him? (apparently the assassin got enough contact with the stuff to die himself!) very nasty, the main problem being, how do you refine enough of that highly toxic stuff, since only machines can safely handle the stuff,

      oh yeah, i think it's also very rare, and perhaps a byproduct

    • by nospam007 (722110)

      > Is there any radioactive material that is potent enough for a dirty bomb? Wouldn't blowing the material up just spread it out so that it's doesn't emit enough rem to do damage?

      Plutonium would do quite nicely, even if it wasn't radioactive, its toxicity would be enough.

    • Re:Quick question (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jerry Coffin (824726) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @03:03PM (#24076399)

      Is there any radioactive material that is potent enough for a dirty bomb? Wouldn't blowing the material up just spread it out so that it's doesn't emit enough rem to do damage?

      Yes and no. For this purpose, the fact that uranium is radioactive is mostly incidental. Purified uranium is (approximately) .7% Uranium-235 (radioactive) and 99.3% Uranium-238 (stable) -- but this is also irrelevant. Uranium, radioactive or otherwise, is poisonous, and breathing uranium dust is one of the more hazardous methods of ingestion. Most of the other commonly known radioactive materials (e.g. plutonium) are poisonous as well. This is the principle behind a dirty bomb -- to use the material as a poison, with its radioactivity mostly incidental.

      That said, the real danger from a dirty bomb using yellowcake appears to be fairly minimal. First of all, yellowcake isn't really pure uranium. Rather, it's compounds relatively high in uranium, such as uranyl hydroxide hydrate, uranyl sulfate hydrate, sodium para-uranate, and uranyl peroxide hydrate. To produce anything very poisonous, you'd have to purify the uranium.

      Then you're left with a few more problems, such as the fact that purified uranium is a soft, dense metal so that:

      • It's hard to get it to disperse evenly over a wide area
      • It tends to precipitate out of the air fairly quickly.

      There's also the fact that while uranium is poisonous:

      • Quite a few other things (e.g. tetanus toxin and nerve agents) are far more poisonous
      • Uranium is a fairly slow-acting poison, mostly causing cancer.

      All in all, the real threat from uranium in a "dirty bomb" is pretty minimal. For this purpose, lead would be about as effective, and a whole lot cheaper and easier to get.

  • by mseidl (828824) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:17PM (#24075607) Homepage
    I'm shocked.
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:18PM (#24075611) Journal

    Yellowcake also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, nuclear weapons...

    Why do people always feel the need to stress that yellowcake could be made into weapons, no matter how far from being a weapon it presently is? It's like saying:

    Rust also can be smelted for use in cast iron lawn ornaments and, at higher levels, steel tools...

    ...though making a high quality steel tool from rust is significantly easier than making a weapon from yellowcake. The ubiquitous anti-nuke meme (it's radioactive, be afraid!)? Or just boilerplate like measuring energy use in average households equivalents or heavy things in adult male elephants?

    -- MarkusQ

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Not trying to be a smart-ass here, but can you name another reason for a country to actively obtain and store uranium ( in any form ) other then to use it for either power generation or weapons?

      Its not like it was just laying around, like the rusty lawn ornament example you give in comparison. ( nor is anyone collecting the rust...)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zippthorne (748122)

        Uranium, due to it's huge number of electronic states, actually makes a pretty good radiation shield. It also makes decent fishing weights, armor plates.. a number of uses of uranium are listed here [wikipedia.org]

    • So you're saying that the yellowcake is a lie?

  • It's about time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stebalo (316987) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:23PM (#24075651)

    It is gratifying to hear we've disassembled the last remnants of Iraq's non-existent WMD program.

    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot AT keirstead DOT org> on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:51PM (#24075891) Homepage

      Its easier to make WMD out of oil (napalm) than it is to make them out of yellowcake.

      This stuff was most certainly never going to be used in any kinds of weapons program. Iraw never had the facilities to process this stuff at the levels required, and even if they did it would probably be cheaper and easier to just buy black market soviet stuff en masse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by khallow (566160)

        Its easier to make WMD out of oil (napalm) than it is to make them out of yellowcake.

        You get a lot more bang for your buck with nuclear weapons than you do with napalm. And I'm puzzled why you made the comparison. It's like saying breathing is a cheaper and easier than selling cars. So no way would someone be sell cars - even if they had this well-lit lot with a couple hundred cars on it - and a history of attempting to sell cars.

        This stuff was most certainly never going to be used in any kinds of weapons program. Iraw never had the facilities to process this stuff at the levels required, and even if they did it would probably be cheaper and easier to just buy black market soviet stuff en masse.

        I hate statements like this. First, this stuff was used in a weapons program. Iraq has a long history of attempting to make nuclear weapons dating back to the 70's

  • The Iraqi government sold the yellowcake to a Canadian uranium producer, Cameco Corp.

    OMGWTFBBQ! Canada has bought iraqi Yellowcake??
    I guess we can't blame them anymore... [youtube.com]

  • WMD argument ender (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info.devinmoore@com> on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:31PM (#24075727) Homepage Journal

    Even if this yellowcake was a WMD, it wouldn't be harmful on its own. The only WMD we ever had to worry about is the "Death to America" attitude. All the physical WMD's in the world won't kill many people if they're not wielded with the motive to kill.

  • by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@gamerslST ... .com minus berry> on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:40PM (#24075811) Homepage Journal

    so now we're led to believe that CANADA is pursuing nuclear weapons?

    They just purchased 550 Metric tonnes of yellowcake uranium from a supposed Terrorist state and we're just letting them do it?

    Canada is a ticking bomb here people!

    We need to attack Ontario now!

    Why isn't bush willing to protect us from these terrorists?

    • by novakyu (636495)

      Why isn't bush willing to protect us from these terrorists?

      The Democratic congress. They are not letting him declare war on Canada. Darn those Democrats.

  • by copponex (13876) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:41PM (#24075817) Homepage

    In order to keep up appearances, the American government will be forced to give Iraqis some sort of democracy, and they (as a Shia majority) will absolutely elect someone friendly to their neighbor Iran. This was probably pre-emptive move to get the uranium out the grip of Tehran.

    As we all know, countries cannot be left to conduct business on their own terms, because it could possibly be harmful to the only interests that matter: ours.

  • AP is owned by The Washington Times, which, in turn is owned by the Unification Church - headed by Rev. Moon.

    Murdoch-Moon / same coin different sides.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Myung_Moon [wikipedia.org]

    • You're thinking of UPI.--United Press International.

      The Associated Press, or AP is a cooperative owned by the media organizations that contribute to it.

  • by qazwart (261667) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @01:54PM (#24075899) Homepage

    Sadam had declared this depot of uranium during the last Gulf War. It was put under U.N. jurisdiction and monitored for years.

    Sadam had lots of weapons and stockpiles that were put under U.N. seals, and monitored by personnel and remote cameras. These depots were located all over Iraq and most were intact when the U.S. invaded. Fortunately, this nasty stuff stayed in the depot despite all the chaos.

    Unfortunately, much of the material that was under U.N. jurisdiction did disappear right after the U.S. invasion. In one depot, the U.S. troops acknowledged that a long range rocket depot was still intact, left for the Battle of Bagdad, and when they came back, it was all gone. This particular depot was about 50 miles from the Iraq/Iran border, and there is some thought that maybe the Iranians saw their chance to grab some "Weapons o' Mass Destruction" before anyone noticed. Then again, Iraqis may have entered this compound and sold its contents for scrap. We will never know.

  • depleted uranium (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johnrpenner (40054) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @02:05PM (#24075981) Homepage

    all the while, pumping the iraqi countryside full of depleted uranium [globalresearch.ca]... :-P

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 06, 2008 @02:16PM (#24076063) Homepage

    Yes, Iraq did have a nuclear program, back in the 1970s and 1980s. It didn't go well. They couldn't get any of the separation processes to work. A mid-level physicist in the program defected to the US and wrote a book about it, which gives a view of the strange world of working for Saddam Hussein. If he was annoyed at a manager, he sent them to a torture camp to be tortured for a while, then put them back to work. If they did well, he gave them one of his ex-mistresses.

    Iraq tried to build calutrons [newscientist.com], which do isotope separation in one or two steps but can process only tiny amounts of material. So it's necessary to build a large number of them to enrich enough uranium for a weapon. The US built some sizable calutron plants during WWII, but they were too slow to be useful when fed with natural uranium. They were used as a final upgrade step for uranium partially enriched in the gaseous diffusion plants. None of the other nuclear powers ever bothered much with calutrons, except little research-sized units. Iraq never actually built enough calutron capacity to accomplish much.

    Iraq's yellowcake (uranium oxide, unenriched) is left over from that era. Extraction of yellowcake from raw ore is an ordinary chemical process [chemcases.com], usually performed somewhere near the mine. It's the first and easiest step of the process, and that's as far as Iraq got.

    • It's not only the easy part, in some facilities there are metric shitloads of the stuff. Back in the 80's when I visited Springfields (formerly a BNFL uranium processing facility) doing some consultancy work for a UK software house I had a really interesting chat with one of the managers doing CAD/CAM. Apparently, there was trade from (the then) Apartheid South Africa via Springfields to the Russians (then the Soviet Union). Yep, dirty secrets in the middle of the Cold War.

      Couldn't believe that, but 6 mon

  • Israeli warplanes bombed a reactor project at the site in 1981. Later, U.N. inspectors documented and safeguarded the yellowcake, which had been stored in aging drums and containers since before the 1991 Gulf War. There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991, the official said.

    Of course, they likely won't let the facts dissuade them.

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:08AM (#24081611) Homepage Journal

    The uranium in form of 4-inch, cone-tipped bars was hidden under a thin layer of soil and embedded in walls in and around several military complexes of Iraq. Photo of one of one of the uranium bars [wikipedia.org]

    This is another proof that Iraq attempted to produce nuclear WMD.

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