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Coalition to Aid U.N. Inspectors at Iraqi Nuke Storage Site

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2003 – Coalition forces will assist International Atomic Energy Agency officials as they inspect the Iraqi nuclear storage facility near Baghdad, DoD officials said today.

The IAEA inspectors will help coalition officials determine if uranium or nuclear by-products are missing from the site.

IAEA inspectors last visited Location C at the Tuwaitha facility in December 2002. The inspectors were there as part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty annual inspection.

Site Charlie as officials call the storage area is about 12 miles southeast of Baghdad. Radiological materiel mostly "yellow cake," a naturally occurring uranium ore was stored at the facility. Officials said about 500 metric tons of the materiel were stored in Tuwaitha, along with very small quantities of low-enriched and depleted uranium.

DoD officials said reports from the area indicate that on or about March 10, Iraqi forces guarding the site took off. On March 20, civilian guards also left.

On April 7, U.S. Marines arrived in the area and assumed security. "The front gate was open and unsecured, and the fence line and barrier wall on the back side of the facility had been breached," said an official speaking on background. Parts of the facility had been looted.

Since April 7, no looters or trespassers have made it into the facility, officials said. American officials from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, assisted by Iraqi scientists, have entered the site to conduct technical assessments and an inventory.

Coalition officials offered a reward for any item from the facility. Iraqis in the surrounding area turned in more than "100 barrels of various shapes and sizes and conditions, as well as five radioactive sources and some other items."

IAEA officials arrive at the site June 7 and they will have the full cooperation of coalition experts, the official said.

While coalition experts say danger to the site's U.S. military guards is negligible, a team from the Army's Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine will arrive at the site this week to conduct a risk assessment on them. The team will also help in a wider search and health assessment of the surrounding civilian area.

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