Geneva: Four Central Asian nations agreed on Monday to secure some 800 million tonnes of radioactive and toxic uranium waste sludge that could be used to make a “dirty” radiological bomb, a UN agency said.
“It has been explained to us that the kind of material that exists can be used for dirty bombs, that’s the kind of risk that exists today,” UN Development Programme deputy regional director Jens Wandel told journalists.
Waste from uranium mines exploited during the Soviet era is held in the open behind fragile dams and also threatens water supplies for millions of people in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, according to the UNDP.
Most of the uranium tailings sites, similar to slag heaps from coal mines, are in densely populated and “disaster prone” Central Asian river basins according to the UNDP.
“They represent a major potential risk to the region’s water supply and the health of millions of people,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.
The four central Asian countries and several international and regional agencies agreed on a joint declaration to cooperate in tackling the problem during a meeting in Geneva.
They also urged the international community to support their attempts to deal with the uranium tailings.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov warned that without securing storage as a first step, the health and environmental consequences would “be as dangerous as the use of any weapons.”
He told journalists that international control or monitoring of storage would also act as “a guarantee”.