Nuclear mattersInvestigation into Italian mafia's trafficking of nuclear waste

Published 25 October 2007

Italian authorities are investigating charges that the Mafia was paid by the national nuclear research center to dispose of nuclear waste; informer says Mafia bought plutonium from the center and sold it to Iraq in the 1980s

Italy’s anti-mafia squad is investigating 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). Nature reports that eight former employees of ENEA’s Trisaia research center in the southern town of Rotondella, and two alleged members of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, are under suspicion following an inquiry which has been going on for several years. Trisaia is now a multidisciplinary research center, 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 in 1987 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. 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 center illegally produced plutonium during the 1980s, which the mafia allegedly sent to Iraq. ENEA denies all charges and says that the center 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.