Iraqi uranium removed to Canada

08 July 2008

Uranium from Saddam Hussein's former weapons program has been removed from Iraq for ultimate use in civilian power generation.


Blind River (Cameco) 
Yellowcake deliveries at Blind River. The
materials from Iraq will be handled in
much the same way. (Image: Cameco)

Canadian uranium producer Cameco has accepted the delivery of some 550 tonnes uranium oxide (U3O8) that had been stockpiled at the Tuwaitha complex about 18 kilometres south of Baghdad. The shipment to Canada was completed on 5 July at the port of Montreal.


Gord Struthers of Cameco told World Nuclear News that the shipment contained only natural uranium and no enriched material. He said the yellowcake would be taken to Cameco's Port Hope conversion and fuel manufacturing facility or the Blind River refinery. It was sold to Cameco and shipped out by the US military on the request of Iraqi leaders.


Over the next few months the uranium will be handled alongside the rest of Cameco's stocks and prepared for sale as uranium oxides or uranium hexafluoride for use in the process of manufacturing fuel for power reactors, Struthers said.


The Iraqi uranium originated from mines at Ukashat and was originally intended for use in Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program, which was discovered and halted in 1991 after the first Gulf War.


Peter Rickwood of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) told WNN that the materials were catalogued and sealed by IAEA officials and kept under safeguards from that time. This situation continued until immediately before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when IAEA staff had to leave. Upon its return in the summer of 2003, the IAEA re-sealed the complex and re-catalogued its contents. It was found that local people had entered the site and taken contaminated barrels for their own use during the security vacuum. Although no significant amounts of uranium went missing, some high explosives did.

Rickwood said the uranium had been kept under safeguards while in Iraq, it had been transported by competent authorities and put again under safeguards on entering Canada.