2003 April 10 Thursday
Marines Find Lots Of Radiation At Al-Tuwaitha

Writing for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Carl Prine reports that the US Marines have entered the Al-Tuwaitha nuclear site in Iraq (site of the famous Osirak nuclear reactor which the Israelis blew up in an air strike) and have found many buildings with radiation levels too high to enter safely. The Marines have discovered an unexpected secret underground lab complex.

Investigators Tuesday discovered that Al-Tuwaitha hides another city. This underground nexus of labs, warehouses, and bomb-proof offices was hidden from the public and, perhaps, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors who combed the site just two months ago, until the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Engineers discovered it three days ago.

IAEA inspectors have toured this site 12 times and never found indications that there was a secret underground lab complex.

Update: the site may have weapons grade plutonium.

While officials aren't prepared to call the discovery a "smoking gun," two preliminary tests conducted on the material have indicated that it may be weapons-grade plutonium.

Update II: A team from the US Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency has shown up to investigate the site.

The Pentagon team also began interviewing a former nuclear physicist and engineer who recently worked at Al-Tuwaitha. The two men told the Marines they would show Coalition investigators “everything we didn't show the inspectors” from the IAEA.

Update III: In his latest update Carl Prine reports that looters would sack the nuclear development complex if the Marines were not actively working to keep them out.

"We will stay here until we're replaced by the Army," said Capt. John Seegar of Houston, Tex. "The big problem has been civilian looters trying to get in. We turn back their trucks. Then it's funny to watch them slowly driving around us, looking for breaks in the barbed wire.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 10 12:44 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control

Cam said at April 10, 2003 1:19 PM:

National Review Online's THE CORNER linked to this story either yesterday or the day before. I assumed that the story would have spread like wildfire given that the TV newsies really need 'new' news for their 24/7 coverage....but no dice. It was picked up for the first time on LA radio today, 4/10, on KFI and I haven't seem much of anything else.

Another real surprise is that the Centcom people seem to have been caught off guard about it, too. At a news briefing today they mentioned that they'd just heard of the embed's article and that was all they knew...AND THIS IS DESPITE THE REPORT THAT THE MARINES HAVE BEEN FIGHTING OFF COUNTER-ATTACKS, TOO. Very, very weird. So what gives, guys?

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