From the BBC
IAEA probes Congo uranium claims
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa editor
The UN nuclear agency says it is concerned by reports that top nuclear officials in the DR Congo have been held on suspicion of smuggling uranium.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was investigating the situation, its spokesman said.
DR Congo's attorney-general said the two were accused of illicitly selling uranium but did not reveal the buyer.
A local newspaper said hundreds of bars of uranium had disappeared from the nuclear research centre in Kinshasa.
The newspaper said that illegal trafficking had been going on for years.
Last August, a British newspaper reported that uranium from the Democratic Republic of Congo had been sold to Iran, a charge vigorously denied by the Congolese authorities.
The IAEA says Kinshasa has signed strict protocols requiring it to declare all its uranium exports, and has so far failed to make any such declaration.
The country has a long history of producing the mineral.
A mine in the southern province of Katanga supplied the uranium used in the atomic bombs dropped by the Americans on the Japanese towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
I dealt with this a little bit in my open letter to Daniel Schorr, (which never recieved a response from Schorr or NPR thank you very much)after it was addressed in the Butler Report
To sum up the President says, "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
After years of criticism of the President, despite two separate investigations that found his statement well founded, the IAEA investigates uranium smuggling in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is (at least the last time I checked) located on the continent of Africa.
Sounds like possibly the "16 Words" might have had some basis in fact after all.
Update: Since I initially posted this the BBC article has changed considerably and now has quite a bit more detail:
- One of the individuals involved was the DRC's top nuclear official (Wow glad there is all that security on African uranium mines)
- DRC's daily newspaper Le Phare on Wednesday reported that more than 100 bars of uranium, as well as an unknown quantity of uranium contained in helmet-shaped cases, had disappeared from the centre as part of a vast trafficking of the material going back years.
I missed this article but on the 27th of February the BBC published about a potential nuclear black market:
There is growing concern that uranium - which could be used to make nuclear bombs - is being secretly mined and smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Officially, no uranium at all should now be leaving the country. But the United Nations has reported that in the past six years more than 50 cases of smuggled uranium have been seized in Congo
And a report published last July by the UN left little doubt about who was to blame.
It said: "The frequency of the seized consignments in the central African region leaves no doubt that the extraction and smuggling of radioactive material must be the result of organised efforts, and that these illegal activities must be highly rewarding financially.
"It is equally clear that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is at the very least tolerating these risks, since it makes neither any attempt to prevent access to the most important mining sites, nor does it credibly monitor the radioactivity of exported materials."
The worry is, who is buying in this nuclear black market. There are rumours it could be Iran or North Korea.
But there is also the terrifying prospect that this material could end up in the hands of terrorists.