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[casi-analysis] Iraq Nuclear Security

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Dear CASI list,

The recently posted article "Probe Casts Doubt on Iraq Nuclear Security"
(Associated Press, April 15) I found particularly disturbing.

In 1996, I interviewed the late Maurizio Zifferero, an Italian national
and former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), who helped establish the permanent Nuclear Monitoring
Group in Iraq after the fist Gulf War.  He directed thirty IAEA
inspections in Iraq over the course of five years.  (My article first
appeared in the January/February 1997 issue of Fellowship, the magazine
of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and was reprinted in the book Metal
of Dishonor, Depleted Uranium, published in 1997 by the International
Action Center.)

The reason I interviewed Zifferero is because of my concern about the
boasts of General Norman Schwarzkopf reported in The New York Times on
January 31, 1991,  that "every target that we have attacked, be it
nuclear, chemical or biological, we have very carefully selected the
destruction means, okay, after a lot of advice from a lot of very, very
prominent scientists.  So we selected the destruction means in such a
way that we absolutely almost to a 99.9 percent assurance have no

During the first Gulf War, the U. S. became the first nation in history
to bomb an operating nuclear reactor when it destroyed the reactor at
the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center in Iraq, which is on the left bank
of the Tigris just ten kilometers southeast of Baghdad.  Zifferero
described the center as being "equipped with three nuclear research
reactors [like those found in many American universities],
French-supplied Tammuz 1 and Tammuz 2 and the Russian supplied IRT-5000.
"Of these," Zifferero said, "only the Russian was in operation at the
onset of the [first] Gulf War, the French ones having been destroyed
(without release of radioactivity) in an Israeli air raid in June 1981
while they were still in the cold commissioning phase."

As I say in my article, there was "negligible" contamination at
Tuwaitha, however, only because the bombs missed the reactor core.
Zifferero told me that he thought it was a miracle that the Russian
reactor core escaped destruction.  "Having seen the devastation produced
at Tuwaitha by the coalition bombs, I am skeptical about the story of
precision targeting there.  It was, I am convinced, sheer chance.  Or
how would one explain bomb craters scattered around Tuwaitha in free
areas between buildings?"

Zifferero said that "under IAEA's supervision, the most dangerous
material--the spent Russian reactor fuel--has been safely removed from
Iraq in the course of 1993 and 1994 and sent back to Russia.  All of it
is accounted for and none is missing."  The now defunct Arms Control
Research Center (ARC) noted that Russia did not initially want Iraq's
nuclear waste back.  But the Russian Mayak Combine at Kyshtym in the
Urals finally agreed to accept it.  ARC said at the time that Kyshtym is
described as "the world's most radioactive site."

According to Zifferero, at that time, the only other radiation sources
at Tuwaitha had been a "steady production of radioisotopes for medical
uses, gram quantities of plutonium in addition to a 'stock' (my quotes)
of depleted, natural and enriched uranium," which were under IAEA
safeguards.  Perhaps that "stock" contained the yellowcake mentioned in
the AP article that turned up in the scrap metal from Jordan.  For,  as
the AP article reports, since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, the
U. S. has not allowed the IAEA into the country.

It is my hunch, and, of course, that is all that it is, that it is not
terrorists that have "removed equipment" and even "entire buildings" in
Iraq but desperate Iraqis who have looted places like Tuwaitha, not
understanding the dangers in the material they handled.  I remember
reading an article after the second Gulf War started that some poor
Iraqi families had dumped out whatever was in the cauldrons they found
at the nuclear center to use them for cooking.

Keep the faith,

Suzy Kane

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