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Cablegate: Nnsa Assisting Uganda in Building Radiological

VZCZCXRO2186
RR RUEHGI RUEHRN RUEHROV
DE RUEHKM #1025/01 2530712
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100712Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1754
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KAMPALA 001025

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG EMIN EPET PARM TRGY UG
SUBJECT: NNSA ASSISTING UGANDA IN BUILDING RADIOLOGICAL
SEALED-SOURCE STORAGE FACILITY

1. (U) Summary: An August 24-26 visit from U.S. officials from the
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is the latest step
in a joint U.S.-Ugandan response to the theft of radiological
material from a storage area at Mulago Hospital in Kampala in 2007.
The objective of this effort is to enhance the radiological security
capability of the Ugandan government through training and
infrastructure development. With Uganda taking concrete steps to
increase its regulatory and administrative capabilities, and
increasing numbers of disused cancer treatment machines and
geological equipment with small amounts of radiological material,
NNSA has offered to help finance the construction of a permanent
radiological source storage site. End Summary.

------------------------------------------
Background: Theft of Radiological Material
------------------------------------------

2. (U) Uganda has a small but growing number of radiological
sources in country for industrial and medical purposes. The largest
of these sealed sources are a cancer-treatment machine at Mulago
(Kampala) and a disused source at St Mary's Lacor (Gulu) hospitals.
Other smaller sources include calibration sources, well-logging
sources, and road-construction moisture density measurement
equipment. Further, the recent discovery of oil in western Uganda
will likely result in the importation of additional devices with
radiological sources.

3. (U) In 2002 and 2003, two orphan sources of Cesium 137 and
Cobalt 60 were confiscated from illicit traffickers. These and
other spent sources were stored in a 3 foot by 4 foot stand alone
storage area at Mulago Hospital. Security at this storage area was
limited to a padlock with no electronic-surveillance equipment. In
July 2007, thieves broke into the storage area and stole
radiological sources placed there for safe keeping. Local
authorities suspect the thieves were simply looking for something of
value and were unaware of the radiological nature of the items
taken.

----------
NNSA Visit
----------

4. (U) This theft brought Uganda to the attention of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the NNSA.
Representatives from the NNSA first visited Uganda in 2008 to assist
in developing the capability to manage Uganda's medical and
industrial nuclear and radiological material. Concrete steps taken
thus far include:

-- Installation of security systems on the Mulago Hospital storage
area and the cancer-treatment machines at Mulago and St Mary's Lacor
Hospitals.

-- Training of personnel to search for, identify, and recover
disused radiological sources.

-- Development of an initial inventory of known nuclear and
radiological source material in Uganda.

-- Passage of the Atomic Energy Act, 2008 in Parliament.

-- Development of an Atomic Energy Council, made up of academics and
medical and industry experts, to act as a national regulator for
nuclear science and technology.

5. (U) With these steps already in place, NNSA representatives
Michael Itamura and Michael Strosinski again visited Uganda August
24-26 to discuss next steps and areas of collaboration with the
Uganda Ministry of Energy and the Atomic Energy Council. The main
thrust of the visit was a discussion on building of a permanent
radiological material storage facility with funding from NNSA. The
current storage area at Mulago Hospital is insufficient for current
needs, not to mention estimated future increases in disused
radiological material.

6. (SBU) NNSA representatives said the return of relative calm to
northern Uganda offered a chance to remove a disused/broken cancer
treatment machine from the hospital in Gulu. The machine cannot be
moved, however, until Uganda has a new storage facility with enough
space to safely secure it.

7. (U) To move this facility forward, the Atomic Energy Council must
first develop a complete inventory of nuclear and radiological
sources in Uganda and an estimate of future sources. Uganda's
current inventory includes only 24 sources - a relatively low number
that likely indicates the existence of many unrecorded/unregistered
items. Further, the Atomic Energy Council must acquire land for a
new storage facility and obtain all necessary environmental and
regulatory clearances from the Government of Uganda (GOU). NNSA

KAMPALA 00001025 002 OF 002


will then assist with the funding of an appropriate storage facility
based on the current and estimated future needs in Uganda.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) The theft of radiological material in 2007 brought the
issue of unsecured radiological material in Uganda to the attention
of the GOU, the IAEA, and the NNSA. The actions undertaken thus far
by the GOU with the assistance of the NNSA show a strong initial
commitment to enhanced regulation and security of radiological
materials in Uganda. With the discovery of oil and the development
of the oil industry in the Albertine Rift, Uganda faces an increase
in imported industrial nuclear and radiological material for
geological measurement purposes, resulting in an eventual increase
in disused sources in need of proper storage. The successful
development of a strong and capable regulatory authority will enable
this material to assist Uganda's economic growth without creating a
security threat in East Africa. This cable was cleared with the
Department of Energy.

LANIER

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