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Italian mafia accused of trafficking nuclear waste

Italy's anti-mafia squad has launched an official investigation into allegations of illegal trafficking and disposal of nuclear waste ? as well as clandestine production of plutonium ? by managers of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment (ENEA).

Eight former employees of ENEA's Trisaia research centre in the southern town of Rotondella, and two alleged members of the 'Ndrangheta mafia, are under suspicion following a decade-long inquiry. Trisaia is now a multidisciplinary research centre, but in the 1970s and 1980s it specialized in nuclear waste processing and storage.

A mafia informer told the anti-mafia bureau in Potenza that an ENEA manager paid the 'Ndrangheta mafia to get rid of 600 drums of nuclear and toxic waste from Germany, France, Switzerland and the United States in 1987. He claimed that the mafia disposed of the radioactive material at unauthorized, non-secure sites in southern Italy, Somalia and in the Mediterranean Sea.

Investigators also suspect that the centre illegally produced plutonium during the 1980s, which the mafia allegedly sent to Iraq. ENEA denies all charges and says that the centre did not have the capacity to produce plutonium. ?But we will collaborate fully with the investigations to dispel any suspicion of misconduct,? says its president, Luigi Paganetto.

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Italian mafia accused of trafficking nuclear waste. Nature 449, 768 (2007).

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