By Tia Ghose

Some security experts are worried that a cache of radioactive material reportedly stolen from an oil field in Iraq could be used by organizations such as the Islamic State group to produce a dirty bomb.

A laptop-size case with about 0.35 ounces (10 grams) of the material, called iridium-192, allegedly went missing from an oil field storage facility in Basra that is run by the American company Weatherford, Reuters reported. Both the company and the Iraqi government declined to confirm the report.

“We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of Daesh,” a senior security official with the Iraqi government, told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, also called ISIS. “They could simply attach it to explosives to make a dirty bomb.” [Doomsday: 9 Real Ways Earth Could End]

So, what is iridium-192, and could it really be used in a dirty bomb?

Based on reports of what was allegedly stolen, “you will not make a dirty bomb that has much of an actual health risk, because there’s so little material,” said Robert Rosner, former director of Argonne National Laboratory and a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Chicago. “But you can scare the bejesus out of people.”

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