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This is an archive of blogs on the nuclear waste at Tuwaitha, Iraq.

From the June 10, 2003 Mahablog

To fully appreciate the disaster unfolding in Iraq, just look at Tuwaitha.
 
Tuwaitha is a town about 15 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. It sits next to a 23,000-acre nuclear waste site that once included a nuclear reactor. Last weekend a team of safeguards inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived to inventory the nuclear material there, or at least what was left of it.
 
Iraqi guards at the nuclear site left their posts in mid-March, as U.S. Marines approached. But the Marines did not arrive until April 7. In the interim, the people of Tuwaitha broke into the facility and carted off anything that looked useful or saleable or just interesting.
 
Brightly colored 55-gallon barrels were especially prized. The men of Tuwaitha emptied hundreds of the barrels of yellow-brown mud and used the barrels to haul water from wells and canals for drinking, baking, and cooking.
 
The yellow-brown mud was uranium oxide, or "yellow cake," a low-grade form of enriched uranium.
 
"How Did the World Miss All of This?"
 
Shortly after U.S. Marines occupied Tuwaitha, stories about an amazing discovery of nuclear material popped up in American news media.

So far, Marine nuclear and intelligence experts have discovered 14 buildings that betray high levels of radiation. Some of the readings show nuclear residue too deadly for human occupation.

A few hundred meters outside the complex, where peasants say the "missile water" is stored in mammoth caverns, the Marine radiation detectors go "off the charts."

"It's amazing," said Chief Warrant Officer Darrin Flick, the battalion's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist. "I went to the off-site storage buildings, and the rad detector went off the charts. Then I opened the steel door, and there were all these drums, many, many drums, of highly radioactive material."

To nuclear experts in the United States, the discovery of a subterranean complex is highly interesting, perhaps the atomic "smoking gun" intelligence agencies have been searching for as Operation Iraqi Freedom unfolds. ...

The mayor of this high-tech city is, for now, Capt. John Seegar, a combat engineer commander from Houston, Tx. He trudges up the 10-story hillocks hiding the campus from the surrounding villages and, crossing near a demolished mud bunker, it all opens up, gleaming and swaddled in roses.

"I've never seen anything like it, ever," said Seegar, who leads a company of combat engineers turned into combat grunts. "How did the world miss all of this? Why couldn't they see what was happening here?"  [Carl Prine, "Marines Hold Nuclear Site," Pittsburgh Review Tribune, April 9, 2003]

And the answer is, "the world" knew good and well about the nuclear material at Tuwaitha. The world, however, didn't bother to brief the Marines or the people (called "peasants" by Mr. Prine) of Tuwaitha.
 
What the World Knew: In the 1970s, Iraq built a 40 megawatt light-water nuclear reactor at the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Center near Baghdad with French assistance. France also supplied approximately 27.5 pounds of 93% Uranium-235 [source]. The reactor was called Osiraq by the French, Tammuz 1 by the Iraqis.
 
Israel believed Iraq planned to use the reactor to develop weapons-grade material. On June 7, 1981, eight Israeli F-16s accompanied by six F-15s dropped fifteen 2000-lb. bombs deep into the reactor structure, reducing the facility to rubble. Justification for this attack remains controversial. But in the months leading up to the recent war on Iraq, the Bush Administration cited the bombing as a precedent for the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war.
Rumsfeld was asked if he believed preemptive strikes against rogue states such as Iraq were likely. He immediately recalled Israel's 1981 bombing raid on Iraq's nuclear facility. [Joseph Laconte, "Rumsfeld's Just War," The Heritage Foundation, December 24, 2001]
Further, the IAEA had inspected the site several times before the Iraq War began in March, most recently on February 11, 2003 [source]. United Nations weapons inspectors had visited the facility in December, 2002 [source].
 
In short, the nuclear site at Tuwaitha was no secret, except to people most in danger from it.
 
Confirmed: It Could Be Plutonium
 
News of the Marines' "discovery" at Tuwaitha concerned the IAEA, which worried the Marines had broken inspection seals.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, which has inspected the Tuwaitha nuclear complex at least two dozen times and maintains a thick dossier on the site, had no immediate comment.

But an expert familiar with U.N. nuclear inspections told The Associated Press that it was implausible to believe that U.S. forces had uncovered anything new at the site. Instead, the official said, the Marines apparently broke U.N. seals designed to ensure the materials aren't diverted for weapons use -- or end up in the wrong hands.

"What happened apparently was that they broke IAEA seals, which is very unfortunate because those seals are integral to ensuring that nuclear material doesn't get diverted," the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity. [Associated Press/Fox News, "Experts: U.S. 'Discovery' of Nuke Materials in Iraq Was Breach of U.N.-Monitored Site," April 10, 2003]

But many could not let go of a potential "smoking gun." After IAEA's concerns became news, Fox News reported,
U.S. Marines may have found weapons-grade plutonium in a massive underground facility discovered beneath Iraq's Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex, Fox News confirmed Friday. ... U.S. defense officials on Friday confirmed that preliminary field tests did in fact indicate the material could be plutonium. [Fox News, "Weapons-Grade Plutonium Possibly Found at Iraqi Nuke Complex," April 11, 2003]
Did the Fox News audience catch those qualifiers? Or did they hear "confirmed ... plutonium"? I contacted Fox News to find out of this story had ever been retracted, but as of this writing I have not received a response.
 
"His Teeth Are Still There"
 
By mid-May, reports of possible radiation sickness in Tuwaitha began to surface.

Amar Jorda is a boy who said he has fallen ill after drinking water from a plastic barrel from the site.

"My skin itches. I can't breathe well, and my nose bleeds at least four times a day," Amar said. [Karl Penual, "Iraqis Complain of Illness Near Nuclear Facility," CNN, May 16, 2003]

A spokesperson for the U.S. coalition, however, downplayed possible health problems:
"Our initial assessment is that the risk for health effects is not large," the spokesperson said.

"We have had folks there at the site, my deputy went there and his teeth are still there, and his hair is still in." [Ibid.]
U.S. reassurances could not be corroborated, because at that point the Bush Administration was refusing to allow UN and IAEA inspectors back into Iraq. IAEA director general Mohamed El Baradei feared a radiological emergency and pleaded repeatedly with the Bush Administration to be allowed back into the Tuwaitha site. Finally, in late May, the Bush Administration relented. All the while looting continued.
U.S. troops are now guarding the research center, but looting nonetheless has continued, and scientists are worried that missing nuclear material can result in a slew of safety and health problems.

"We're concerned about the health and safety of these people, and then we're also concerned about environmental contamination, and we're also concerned that this material could be used for illicit use -- a dirty bomb, or even a nuclear bomb," said IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky in a phone interview from Vienna. [John Hendren and Tyler Marshall, "U.S. Moving to Secure Iraqi Nuclear Research Center," Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2003]

However, the White House made it clear that the U.S. will limit the IAEA to the storage site itself.  The seven-member IAEA team has been given two weeks to compare their February inventory with what remains at the Al-Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center. Further, the team will work with heavy military escort. The IAEA team will be guarded more closely than the yellow cake.

Ari Fleischer told reporters that no more help is necessary; the coalition has the situation in hand.

Q: Does the U.S. support having the international inspectors go back in and do the full-fledged search that they were trying to do before the war started?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, that full-fledged search is well underway now as a result of the increasing involvement of the coalition.

Q:  But that's primarily with U.S. personnel --

MR. FLEISCHER:  That's correct.

Q:  -- not IAEA, which has a very limited role right now.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the IAEA is different. The IAEA is going in, that's the International Atomic Energy --

Q:  Right.

MR. FLEISCHER:  They're going in to look at the nuclear facility.

Q:  Right.  Just to make certain that the facility is intact?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. The search for WMD involves biological and chemical, which was not headed by IAEA.

Q: Well, why not have the other agency go in and be able to work without any --

MR. FLEISCHER: Because IAEA is going in to take a look at actual inventoried items that they, themselves, knew precisely where they were, what their status was, because they inventoried them. That wasn't the case with the chemical and biological. What the United Nations concluded about the chemical and biological is he had tons of  it -- anthrax, VX, sarin -- but it was not accounted for. They had accounted for these nuclear materials. And that's why the difference.

Q: But if, indeed, the threat was imminent before we went in, in the middle of March, why not have as many people as possible on the ground, regardless of their affiliation, to find these weapons? Because the last thing that you want is to have them get into --

MR. FLEISCHER: Because the coalition is leading this effort and will continue to do so, for those reasons.

Q:  Is it enough people?

MR. FLEISCHER: It is. And the DOD will make continued judgements, as we work with the agencies, about the ebb and the flow of it. And they make those decisions. [White House Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, June 9, 2003]

However, military commanders in Iraq say they are "unequipped to handle the nuclear site. 'I know that the Tuwaitha facility is larger than the assets we have now in country to deal with it,' said Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq." [Associated Press, June 7, 2003] Perhaps Mr. Fleischer should speak with General McKiernan.

Conclusions, and Questions

The war on Iraq was supposed to be about weapons of mass destruction, not oil. Yet the Pentagon moved quickly to secure oil fields but forgot about Tuwaitha.

The war on Iraq was supposed to benefit the Iraqi people. If the United States is concerned about the health of the people of Tuwaitha, why not invite in the United Nations and Doctors Without Borders and Meals on Wheels and anybody else willing to come and help? The Pentagon says only that a health study in Tuwaitha will begin soon.

Jos Padilla, a United States citizen, has been held in military custody as "enemy combatant" for one year.  He was suspected of conspiring to release a "dirty bomb"; however, he had no bomb, no materials for a bomb, and apparently little idea how to make such a bomb. Yet the Justice Department considers him to be so dangerous he cannot be allowed to speak to a lawyer. How many dirty bombs might be made from materials looted at Tuwaitha?

Why was the White House and Pentagon so complacent about Tuwaitha that the IAEA is just now being allowed back into the facility, two months after the Marines arrived? And why is the White House putting such stringent limits on their mission?

And, if the situation in Tuwaitha is such a mess, what about the rest of Iraq?

Sources:

ABC News, "UN Inspectors Search Iraq Nuclear Facility," December 4, 2002

Associated Press/Fox News, "Inspectors Visit Chlorine Plant, Nuke Site," December 9, 2002

Associated Press/Fox News, "Experts: U.S. 'Discovery' of Nuke Materials in Iraq Was Breach of U.N.-Monitored Site," April 10, 2003

Associated Press/Rocky Mount (NC) Telegram, "Iraqi Nuke Site Was Close to Making Bomb," June 6, 2003

Associated Press/Baltimore Sun, "UN Nuclear Agency Has Returned to Iraq," June 7, 2003

Ellen Barry, "For Neighbors, Atom Plant May Inflict Scars," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2003

Federation of Amerian Scientists, "Weapons of Mass Destruction Around the World: Osiraq / Tammuz I"

Fox News, "Weapons-Grade Plutonium Possibly Found at Iraqi Nuke Complex," April 11, 2003

John Hendren and Tyler Marshall, "U.S. Moving to Secure Iraqi Nuclear Research Center," Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2003

IAEA, "IAEA and Iraq: The Next Steps"

Joseph Laconte, "Rumsfeld's Just War," The Heritage Foundation, December 24, 2001

Colum Lynch and Bradley Graham, "UN Presses Bush on Iraq," The Washington Post, June 6, 2003

Karl Penual, "Iraqis Complain of Illness Near Nuclear Facility," CNN, May 16, 2003

Carl Prine, "Marines Hold Nuclear Site," Pittsburgh Review Tribune, April 9, 2003

William Reilly, "International Inspectors Return to Iraq," UPI, June 6, 2003

Tina Susman, "Iraq Village's Nuclear Fallout," New York Newsday, June 7, 2003

United States Department of Defense, "Background Briefing on IAEA Nuclear Safeguards and the Tuwaitha Facility," June 5, 2003

White House Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, April 22, 2003

White House Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, June 9, 2003

 
Postscript
 
While researching this article, I came across an Associated Press story in the Mount Rocky (North Carolina) Telegram headlined "Iraq Nuke Site Was Close to Making a Bomb." The article itself said no such thing.
 
Note: Every progressive web site in the world will be linking Krugman's Tuesday column. Why should I be any different?

From the June 12, 2003 Mahablog:
 
 
American journalists mince daintily about the missing weapons of mass destruction issue, and polls say most Americans think the war on Iraq was righteous even if no WMDs are found.
 
Will this be a campaign issue? Maybe, but most potential Democratic candidates will have to (a-HEM) explain why they didn't ask more questions last October. I am still waiting for my senators -- my allegedly liberal New York senators -- to publicly apologize for voting for the dadblamed Iraq war resolution. And, in my opinion, Lieberman and Gephardt have no hope of getting the support of the rank-and-file in a presidential campaign.
 
But here's an issue the Dems should be all over like ketchup on freedom fries: The looting of radioactive waste at Tuwaitha.
 
Let's review (for details and documentation, see the June 10 Mahablog, below):
 
The Tuwaitha nuclear waste site is a short distance from Baghdad, and it was no secret. Inspectors from both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations visited Tuwaitha last winter to take inventory of its contents. According to the IAEA, the Tuwaitha site held 1.8 tonnes (1 tonne = 1.1023 U.S. tons) of low enriched uranium and 500 tonnes of natural uranium.
 
And, we know that the Bush Administration was aware of Tuwaitha. Twenty years ago, Israelis bombed a nuclear reactor there shortly before it was to be loaded with fuel. They did this to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons. Some in the Bush Administration -- Donald Rumsfeld, for example -- cited the bombing of Tuwaitha as a precedent for the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war.
 
Yet last March, the Pentagon seemed in no hurry to secure Tuwaitha. Iraqi soldiers and civilian guards abandoned Tuwaitha in mid-March, yet the U.S. Marines didn't arrive until April 7.
 
What's worse, the radioactivity at the site took the Marines by surprise; it is obvious they had not been briefed. News stories from April 9 and 10 reveal that the Marines believed they had discovered nuclear weapons materials. In one of its finest moments, Fox News reported
U.S. Marines may have found weapons-grade plutonium in a massive underground facility discovered beneath Iraq's Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex, Fox News confirmed Friday. ... U.S. defense officials on Friday confirmed that preliminary field tests did in fact indicate the material could be plutonium. [Fox News, "Weapons-Grade Plutonium Possibly Found at Iraqi Nuke Complex," April 11, 2003]

(I love that quote. How many viewers heard "confirmed" and "plutonium" and assumed Saddam's nuclear arsenal had been found?)

Anyway: In the three weeks or so between the time the guards skedaddled and the Marines arrived, the people of Tuwaitha (who didn't know about the radioactive waste, either) entered the facility and looted it. They emptied barrels and jerrycans of uranium oxide and used them for hauling water for drinking and bathing. Even after the Marines arrived, there were not enough of them to guard the entire 23,000 acres of the nuclear site, and looting continued. 

Boston Globe reporter, in a story published June 8, said that even then -- two months after the arrival of the Marines -- there were objects from the nuclear site for sale in the local markets. [Ellen Barry, "For Neighbors, Atom Plant May Inflict Scars," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2003]

Now there are two big problems to deal with. One, the people of Tuwaitha are showing signs of radiation sickness. The Pentagon denies that this is a problem.

The sprawling site, left unguarded by U.S. troops who passed by during the war, was ransacked by nearby residents who dumped uranium out of IAEA barrels, then used the potentially radioactive containers to store drinking water.

The U.S. military has conducted an initial radiation survey in the villages, and a health study is to begin soon.

"There is no health risk to the population or the soldiers guarding the site," said Mickey Freeland, part of the U.S. nuclear team involved in the weapons hunt. [Associated Press/Baltimore Sun, "UN Nuclear Agency Has Returned to Iraq," June 7, 2003]

The people of Tuwaitha are complaining of rashes and nosebleeds, but there are no health problems, and soon the Pengaton will begin a health study to prove it. 

But here's the other problem: How many dirty bombs might be made from the nuclear material "liberated" at Tuwaitha?

The Iraq war was supposed to be about disarming Saddam Hussein, not about oil. Yet U.S. troops quickly secured oil fields. They also quickly tore down statues of Saddam. And the same week the Marines got to Tuwaitha, U.S. soldiers entered the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad to do some decorating. They tore up the mosaic floor tile picture of George H.W. Bush and replaced it with a picture of Saddam Hussein. 

Someone further up in the hierarchy remembered the Al-Rashid floor, but forgot Tuwaitha. They remembered the oil fields and arranged the photo-op of Saddam's statue being toppled, but forgot Tuwaitha.

What does this tell us about priorities?

Although the U.S.-coalition clearly lacked the resources to properly secure the nuclear material and deal with potential health problems, for two months the Bush Administration rebuffed IAEA petitions for access to Tuwaitha. Last week there was a reversal; the IAEA is being given two weeks to re-inventory Tuwaitha, but the inspectors are limited to the nuclear facility itself and will be accompanied by military guard at all times. The Pentagon will keep closer watch on the IAEA team than on the barrels of uranium oxide.

However, military commanders in Iraq say they are "unequipped to handle the nuclear site. 'I know that the Tuwaitha facility is larger than the assets we have now in country to deal with it,' said Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq." [Associated Press, June 7, 2003]

So, radioactive material may even yet be "liberated" from Tuwaitha. There are not enough personnel in Iraq to hunt it all down and secure it. But the White House refuses to allow the United Nations and the IAEA to provide any meaningful help.

On the surface, this is colossal hubris mixed with incompetence. But is the Bush Administration trying to hide the full extend of the foul-up?  Is covering their political behinds more important than keeping nuclear material out of terrorist hands?

And why aren't the Democrats speaking up about this?

From the June 13, 2003, Mahablog
 
Friday the 13th Edition
 
This is an update on the two previous blogs. Be sure to read Nicolas Kristof's column in the New York Times today.

To help out Ms. Rice and Mr. Cheney, let me offer some more detail about the uranium saga. Piecing the story together from two people directly involved and three others who were briefed on it, the tale begins at the end of 2001, when third-rate forged documents turned up in West Africa purporting to show the sale by Niger to Iraq of tons of "yellowcake" uranium. [Kristof, "White House in Denial," The New York Times, June 12, 2003]

The documents were a howling lie; the government of Niger didn't have any yellowcake (uranium oxide) to sell. The CIA knew good and well the documents were forged. It appears everybody in Washington knew the documents were forged. Even so, the Niger story turned up in the State of the Union address as a reason to go to war with Iraq.

And, anyway, Iraq already had more than two tons of yellowcake in barrels in Tuwaitha, just 15 or so miles from Baghdad. These same two tons of yellowcake may be scattered all over Iraq by now. Yet the White House and Pentagon are strangely unconcerned about it.

Another Update

According to Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer

The [IAEA] inspectors are kept isolated in the Rashid Hotel and are not allowed to speak to the press. Nor did U.S. officials permit them to bring a press officer from their Vienna headquarters. When I try to drive toward Location C, where the IAEA team is working on a limited two-week assignment, I am stopped by Sgt. Steven Collier. Standing in front of a tank, he tells me his superiors "don't want nobody here right now. They don't tell us why." [Rubin, "Looting of Iraqi Nuclear Facility Indicts U.S. Goals," Knight-Ridder/Charlotte Observer, June 12, 2003]

Further, an Iraqi scientist who lives near the complex told Rubin that radioactive isotopes -- which are a lot more dangerous than uranium oxide -- are being looted every day. Right now, perhaps.

He says the isotopes, which are in bright silver containers, "are sold in the black market or kept in homes." According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, such radioactive sources can kill on contact or pollute whole neighborhoods. [Ibid.]

I don't know about you, but ... I'm angry. Really angry.

From the June 14, 2003, Mahablog
 
In what may be a classic "I did not mess around with that woman" moment, George W. Bush is sticking by the "Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa" story. He says there is other evidence beside the forged documents.
 
If Saddam had wanted uranium, there were more than two tons of the same stuff he allegedly tried to buy in Niger just a short hike from Baghdad (see recent blogs, below). It was in barrels sealed by the IAEA in 1991. He hadn't done a thing with any of that. And he was trying to buy more, because ....?
 
The uranium purchase story first appeared in this paragraph in the 2003 State of the Union speech:

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

This entire paragraph is a lie from beginning to end. To begin with, the IAEA never said Saddam had an advanced nuclear weapons development program. The IAEA said just the opposite; that Saddam's nuclear weapons program had been "uncovered, mapped, and neutralized." You can read one of their reports here.
 
Next we have the famous "out of Africa" story, based on documents that are known to be clumsy forgeries.
 
And then there were the evil aluminum tubes. See the January 30, 2003 Mahablog, "Tales of the Tubes" (scroll down). Better yet, to save you the trouble, here are the relevant passages:
Bush said that intelligence sources say that Saddam attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), quoted favorably by the president elsewhere, reports that the tubes are for rockets, not nuclear production, and that there is no evidence of Saddam trying to buy uranium. [Jonathan Alter, "Scoring the Speech," MSNBC, January 29, 3003]
(Note: the Alter link is broken; story no longer on the web. This is why I go to the trouble of keyboarding in sources of quotes and information along with links; I still know where the quote came from.)

"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production," Bush said again, repeating the charge that he first made at the U.N. last September.

As everyone knows who listened to (or read) Mohammed ElBaradei's report to the U.N. Security Council on nuclear research and development in Iraq, he found that the emphasis on those tubes by Bush and Condoleezza Rice was misplaced if not misleading. Today's Washington Post carries yet another story -- buried for some inexplicable reason on page A13 -- that sums up the International Atomic Energy Agency findings in Iraq so far. According to ElBaradei, who heads the IAEA, the tubes "can not be used" for the purpose of enriching uranium. He also inspected the eight buildings formerly used in Saddam's nuclear program, which U.S. intelligence -- and Bush -- have suggested were being refurbished for the same purposes. There was "no evidence" to support the president's allegations, he said. [Joe Conason, Salon, January 29, 2003]

Last Sunday, Condi Rice hit the television news show circuit to say that the Niger story was not central to the President's case that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. They might want to figure out what is central to the argument, and let the President know.

From the June 21, 2003, Mahablog
 
 
Tuwaitha Update
 
Several U.S. newspapers today are running a story under the headline "Iraq's looted uranium found." This will mystify readers, since most of them had not been told uranium had been lost.

From the Associated Press:

Experts from the U.N. atomic agency have accounted for tons of uranium feared looted from Iraq's largest nuclear research facility, diplomats said Friday.

Not said: tons might still be unaccounted for.

...The mission -- whose scope was restricted by the U.S.-led interim administration of Iraq -- was not allowed to give medical exams to Iraqis reported to have been sickened by contact with the materials, said the diplomats.

They also said that the IAEA team was unable to determine whether hundreds of radioactive materials used in research and medicine across the country were secure. Officials fear such material could be used to make crude radioactive devices known as "dirty bombs."  ...

The diplomats did not detail how much uranium had been looted and where it was found, but it appeared much of it was on or near the site. [link]

It is probable that most of the uranium stored in barrels was dumped out within the site, since the looters were interested in the barrels and not the uranium. However, the source of the information in the Associated Press story, the "diplomats," is murky.

According to Reuters, the IAEA itself is not saying anything.

VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency declined to comment on Saturday on a U.S. magazine report that inspectors had found most of the uranium missing from a looted storage facility at Iraq's main nuclear site. ...

But at the Vienna-based IAEA, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the agency would not comment until the inspectors finished their job of assessing the damage from wartime looting at the storage site for radioactive materials.

"We are not commenting on any findings while the team is still working," Fleming told Reuters.[Link]

The IAEA has no deadline for issuing its report, so the facts of what was found may not come out for weeks. But, somehow, word is getting out that the uranium was 'found.' Hmm.

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