Thursday, December 07, 2006

Khiam bomb crater tests positive for uranium

Khiam bomb crater tests positive for uranium
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Tests carried out on samples taken from a bomb crater in the southern region of Khiam following the summer war with Israel showed the presence of uranium, Chris Busby, the British scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, told Environment and Development magazine for its December issue. "The analysis was accurate and showed the presence of depleted uranium," Busby said in a telephone interview with Environment Hotline, an environmental research team affiliated with the magazine. Busby said in late October that samples taken from a bomb crater in Khiam had been sent for analysis to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire, southern England. He added, at the time, that "samples thrown up by Israeli bombs showed elevated radiation signatures resulting from a new experimental weapon used by Israel." "There is no way the signs of uranium found in Khiam were the result of natural or industrial materials ... Their only source is nuclear reactors," Busby said. The magazine says Busby's statements in October spurred the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission to take more samples from Khiam for analysis.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which has been studying ecological damage in Lebanon after the war, had also sent another team to gather samples from Khiam, a statement said. "The results will be issued soon," it added. A team of 20 UNEP activists spent two weeks with their Lebanese counterparts at the beginning of October to evaluate the environmental impact of the month-long war. The team tested air, water and soil samples at 30 heavily bombed sites in Southern Lebanon and the suburbs of southern Beirut. The samples were sent to Switzerland for analysis.

However, a statement issued in early November ruled out the presence of uranium. While a UNEP statement in November reassured the Lebanese that they were not in danger of exposure to radioactive materials, it called for further research on "the effects of using depleted uranium for military purposes." The UN results mirrored those of the National Council for Scientific Research, which also ruled out the presence of uranium in Lebanon. In a statement issued on October 20, the council said 50 samples taken from several war-torn areas had tested negative for depleted uranium in tests conducted at the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission. The council and UNEP have both vowed to follow-up on the issue and conduct more tests, the magazine said. - The Daily Star

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