The Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday (December 20th) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the European Union (EU) to build a $2.6 million landfill for dumping radioactive nuclear waste, according to a ministry statement. During a joint press conference with Iraqi Science and Technology Minister Abdul Karim al-Sammarae, the head of the EU Delegation to Iraq, Ambassador Jana Hybášková, said the memorandum will complete joint activities and programmes that began in 2008.
The grant allocates money to design and prepare a landfill and train Iraqi scientists in the field, she said. Al-Sammarae said the MoU is slated to take effect for a maximum of three years, during which all destroyed nuclear facilities are to be liquidate
EU to build $2.6 million radioactive waste landfill for Iraq, http://www.al-shorfa.com, Dec, 21, 2012
More than 40 sites across Iraq are contaminated with high levels or radiation and dioxins, with three decades of war and neglect having left environmental ruin in large parts of the country, an official Iraqi study has found. Areas in and near Iraq’s largest towns and cities, including Najaf, Basra and Falluja, account for around 25% of the contaminated sites, which appear to coincide with communities that have seen increased rates of cancer and birth defects over the past five years. The joint study by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionising radiation, which is thought to be a legacy of depleted uranium used in munitions during the first Gulf war and since the 2003 invasion.
The environment minister, Narmin Othman, said high levels of dioxins on agricultural lands in southern Iraq, in particular, were increasingly thought to be a key factor in a general decline in the health of people living in the poorest parts of the country. “If we look at Basra, there are some heavily polluted areas there and there are many factors contributing to it,” she told the Guardian. “First, it has been a battlefield for two wars, the Gulf war and the Iran-Iraq war, where many kinds of bombs were used. Also, oil pipelines were bombed and most of the contamination settled in and around Basra. “The soil has ended up in people’s lungs and has been on food that people have eaten. Dioxins have been very high in those areas. All of this has caused systemic problems on a very large scale for both ecology and overall health.”…
Ten of those areas have been classified by Iraq’s nuclear decommissioning body as having high levels of radiation. They include the sites of three former nuclear reactors at the Tuwaitha facility – once the pride of Saddam Hussein’s regime on the south-eastern outskirts of Baghdad – as well as former research centres around the capital that were either bombed or dismantled between the two Gulf wars.
Bushra Ali Ahmed, director of the Radiation Protection Centre in Baghdad, said only 80% of Iraq had so far been surveyed. “We have focused so far on the sites that have been contaminated by the wars,” he said. “We have further plans to swab sites that have been destroyed by war. “A big problem for us is when say a tank has been destroyed and then moved, we are finding a clear radiation trail. It takes a while to decontaminate these sites.”
Scrap sites remain a prime concern. Wastelands of rusting cars and war damage dot Baghdad and other cities between the capital and Basra, offering unchecked access to both children and scavengers.
Othman said Iraq’s environmental degradation is being intensified by an acute drought and water shortage across the country that has seen a 70% decrease in the volume of water flowing through the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. “We can no longer in good conscience call ourselves the land between the rivers,” she said. “A lot of the water we are getting has first been used by Turkey and Syria for power generation. When it reaches us it is poor quality. That water which is used for agriculture is often contaminated. We are in the midst of an unmatched environmental disaster.”
Excerpts from Martin Chulov, Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds, Guardian, Jan. 22, 2010