IAEA says nuclear material seized in Iraq was low grade

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s atomic watchdog, said on Thursday it believes the nuclear material seized by insurgents in Iraq was low grade and did not pose significant security risks.

Iraq said the material was used for scientific research at a university in the northern town of Mosul. Last week, the Iraqi government also lost control of a former chemical weapons facility and said it was unable to fulfill its international obligations to destroy the toxins kept there, Reuters reports.

"(The IAEA) is aware of the notification from Iraq and is in contact to seek further details," Gill Tudor, a spokeswoman for the IAEA, said, according to Reuters. "On the basis of the initial information we believe the material involved is low grade and would not present a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk. Nevertheless, any loss of regulatory control over nuclear and other radioactive materials is a cause for concern."

Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Iraq's U.N. ambassador, said that approximately 88 pounds of uranium compounds were kept at the university.

"Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state," Alhakim said, Reuters reoirts.

A U.S. government source said the material was not thought to be enriched uranium and would be difficult to use to manufacture into a nuclear weapon.

Alhakim appealed for help to stave off the threat of the insurgents. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al Qaeda offshoot, took over parts of Syria and Iraq before it renamed itself the Islamic State in June, according to Reuters.