Deployment Radiation Risks to U.S. Troops at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center During the Early Phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom


M. A. Melanson, S. Goodison, F. Szrom, G. A. Falo, D. P. Alberth


Immediately prior to the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center (TNRC), the crown jewel of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons research program, was abandoned by its Iraqi guards. Consequently, local Iraqis from nearby villages entered the facility and looted it. Advancing U.S. forces secured the ransacked complex to prevent further pillaging and to search for weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, at the highest levels of the U.S. government, concerns surfaced as to whether American soldiers and Marines that had been guarding the TNRC were safe. In response, the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) deployed a team to conduct an environmental radiation risk assessment for these troops. First, exposure scenarios were developed to bracket potential radiation exposures. Next, environmental samples were collected and the results were used to estimate reasonable upperbound doses for these troops. This high-visibility mission was extremely dangerous, given the extent of the damage to the TNRC and the ongoing threat of enemy ambush. Risk communication was provided to soldiers on the ground and their leadership. Additionally, environmental survey data and upper-bound dose estimates were archived in the event that more refined analyses or assessments are required.


This abstract was presented at the 38th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Materials Control and Security: Risk Assessment, Handling, and Detection", Materials Control and Security Risk Assessments Session, 2/13/2005 - 2/16/2005, held in New Orleans, LA.

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