04:37 - Source: CNN
Highly-radioactive material missing in Iraq

Story highlights

Radioactive material went missing from site in southern Iraq in November

The radioisotope Iridium-192 was being used in a device to test oil pipes

CNN —  


That’s what Iraq’s deputy health minister, Dr. Jassim al-Falahi, told CNN on Sunday: “Thank God.”

Al-Falahi’s sigh of relief was over the discovery of some potentially deadly radioactive material that had been missing for months.

“We found the missing radioactive material inside its case with no damages,” he said.

The incident was reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency in November.

The item in question, an industrial radiography device about the size of a laptop, was found apparently undamaged Sunday near a patrol station in the southern Iraqi town of Zubayr.

The fear was that the material – which has the potential to harm many – could have fallen into the hands of ISIS or another terror group.

But according to al-Falahi, everything was in proper order when it was found.

“We don’t have any concern about radiation since the case has not been damaged at all,” al-Falahi said.

What was missing?

An industrial radiography device is basically a tool that uses the radioactive isotope Iridium-192 to beam gamma radiation. Iridium-192, which is sometimes used for radiotherapy, was in this case being used to test oil pipelines for structural problems such as weakening welds.

Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist at the anti-nuclear advocacy group Beyond Nuclear, said the gamma rays emitted by the Ir-192 can deliver fatal doses of radiation at close range.

“It is shocking just how little radioactive material can do so much damage,” he said.

Iraqi and international officials said last week that the missing Ir-192 had been stolen from a contractor working for an oil services company in Basra province.

CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Jennifer Rizzo and Yousuf Basil contributed to this report.