A shipment of scrap steel believed to be from Iraq contains radioactive material known as yellowcake, according to a recycling company in the Netherlands.
The shipment was passed on from a Jordanian metal dealer who claims he was unaware it included uranium oxide, the Associated Press reported.
The material, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, was at the center of a controversy last year over President Bush’s reference in his State of the Union address to a report Iraq was seeking to purchase it in Africa.
Key documents supporting the claim were found later to be forgeries, but the U.S. said its original information about the alleged attempt to buy yellowcake from Niger came from British intelligence. The UK’s Foreign Office still stands on its claim.
Paul de Bruin, spokesman for Rotterdam-based Jewometaal, told the AP he has dealt with the Jordanian dealer for 15 years, and the man is convinced the material came from Iraq. De Bruin has been told to not reveal the dealer’s name, however, because the find is being investigated.
Uranium oxide is not highly radioactive, experts say, but with advanced technology can be processed into enriched uranium, suitable for a nuclear weapon.
The Dutch Environment Ministry confirmed yesterday Jewometaal reported the find Dec. 16, the AP said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency visited Rotterdam Wednesday but had no further comment, the newswire reported.
Environment Ministry spokesman Wim Van der Weegen said the material was discovered in a small steel industrial container used to connect pipes or electrical wires.
Dr. Alan Ketering, a researcher at the nuclear research plant at the University of Missouri-Columbia, told the AP yellowcake has no non-nuclear industrial use. It would be strange to find it in random scrap metal, he said.