Back in the 1970s and 1980s when he was keeping America’s nuclear weapons up to date, Robert Kelley didn’t pay much attention to their source of uranium.
But then he was reassigned to lead the international team that accounted for the of hundreds of tons of the heavy metal Iraq secretly extracted at a fertilizer factory to feed Saddam Hussein’s weapons program.
That discovery at the Al-Qaim phosphate plant underscored a loophole in the global policing of nuclear materials, allowing countries without much scrutiny to derive uranium from a mineral more often used as a nutrient for soil.
It’s also why Kelley and his colleagues are now concerned that United Nations officials and atomic regulators are poised to loosen rules on the industry, unlocking finance to take more radioactive material out of the ground without corresponding new checks.
“Uranium extraction from phosphates flies under the radar,” said Kelley who also inspected phosphate plants in Egypt and Syria as a director with the International Atomic Energy Agency. “This isn’t a theoretical risk. It’s real.”
For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-15/uranium-loosening-expand-phosphate-link-to-weapons-proliferation