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Radioactive material 'stolen' in Egypt

2012-01-20 12:04

Cairo - Experts are investigating reports that a safe containing radioactive material was stolen from a site where Egypt plans to build its first nuclear power plant, government newspapers said on Friday.

The UN atomic energy agency issued a statement on Thursday saying "the items that have gone missing are low-level radioactive sources".

"The sources were stolen not from an operating NPP [nuclear power plant], but from a laboratory at a construction site for an NPP that is not yet operational," the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

The Vienna-based agency said it is "in touch with the Egyptian authorities".

Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Thursday that a safe containing radioactive material was stolen from a site in Al-Dabaa, on the Mediterranean coast.

Another safe was broken and some of its contents were taken, Al-Ahram said.

Villagers claiming the government has confiscated some of their land to build the plant in Al-Dabaa clashed with security officials last week, causing some damage to the site, according to press reports.

No evidence

Al-Akhbar newspaper said on Friday that the experts who toured the site on Thursday found "no evidence of any theft of radioactive material" or any radioactive leakage.

But Al-Ahram gave a conflicting report.

It said the team of experts entered the site but "did not find the missing safe. It did, however, find two sources of radioactivity in another safe that had been broken into", adding that the radioactivity was not harmful.

The experts also toured the site to assess damage caused during last week's clashes, the newspapers reported.

In May, the official MENA news agency reported that Egypt completed technical studies and would invite tenders for building a nuclear power plant at Al-Dabaa, but the plan has been delayed by unrest in the country.

The project designed to meet the energy needs of the most populous Arab nation with more than 82 million inhabitants.