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Nuclear Complex Security Handed Over to Iraqi Guards - 2003-09-30

U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq will turn over security at a large part of the Tuwaitha nuclear complex to Iraqi guards next week. But coalition troops will continue to protect the nuclear materials stored at the facility south of Baghdad until they are removed.

A Pentagon spokesman says the transfer of security responsibilities is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, October 7. Coalition forces at Tuwaitha will be replaced at much of the nuclear facility by guards for Iraq's Ministry of Science and Technology.

But the spokesman, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jim Cassella, says coalition forces will continue to guard the nuclear materials stored at the research center south of Baghdad.

Those materials consist of several metric tons of various non-weapons grade compounds, including uranium oxide and yellow cake, a processed form of uranium oxide.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected the stored materials in July of this year, following news reports of post-war looting.

The IAEA disclosed some safeguard seals had been removed and many containers were missing. But the inspectors reported many of the missing containers were later recovered. They ultimately estimated that about 10 kilograms of uranium compounds had been dispersed and said this did not represent a sensitive loss from a proliferation point of view.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon spokesman says arrangements are being made by the U.S.-led coalition to remove and dispose of the remaining uranium materials stored at Tuwaitha. In the meantime, the spokesman says those materials are secure.