Fears of Dirty Bomb in Libya Grow

Research site near Tripoli contains nuclear materials
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2011 11:01 AM CDT
Heavy smoke rises over the Tajoura area, some 20 miles east of Tripoli, after an airstrike on March 29, 2011. Security experts say, in the wrong hands, nuclear research facilities in the area could be...   (Xinhua/Hamza Turkia)

(Newser) – There's enough nuclear material in Libya to make a dirty bomb, former UN nuclear inspection chief Olli Heinonen warned today, urging rebel authorities to move to secure it. Libya's uranium enrichment program was dismantled in 2003, but a research center 20 miles east of Tripoli still has enough radioisotopes, radioactive waste, and low-enriched uranium to be dangerous, reports Reuters. Weapons experts are worried that desperate loyalists or unscrupulous looters could raid the research center.

A similar research lab in Iraq was looted after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Heinonen recalls. "Most likely due to pure luck, the story did not end in a radiological disaster," he says, but it should still serve as a warning that such facilities can become targets. And even if those nuclear materials remain safe, security experts still are worried about Gadhafi supporters turning to chemical weapons.

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