Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

Isolation of Radioactive Military Wastes in Iraq

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  • Abstract

    Iraq has been subject to a series of wars for more than fifty years, the latest one leaving large amounts of wrecked tanks, vehicles, weapons and ammunition. A considerable part of the waste has the form of, or contains, depleted uranium (DU), that is concluded to have cancerogenic effects through its radioactivity and toxicity. The DU exists in significant concentrations in areas where combat took place, mostly in and around the cities of Bagdad and Basra, the total number of particularly encountered areas being about 15. The way of long-term isolation of DU that is proposed in this paper is to construct relatively simple landfills of sandwiched contaminated soil and clay or clayey soil, covered by sand/gravel and erosion-resistant coarser material on top. The very low annual precipitation and long draught in the deserts, implying significant evaporation, means that the system of tight soil interlayered with contaminated soil, embedding wrecked military objects, minimizes percolation and release of DU, keeping it adsorbed on the finest soil particles. The clay-based material must be composed in a way that, i/ desiccation fractures are not formed in periods of long draught and ii/ not swell uncontrolled and loose strength in wet periods. The DU-contaminated soil is proposed to be scraped off and transported in closed trucks to four desert sites where landfills of the sandwich-type are proposed to be constructed.