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[casi] Iraq - a nuclear wasteland



Iraq is now effectively a nuclear wasteland, between the unimaginable
consequences of this and the DU weapons used (2000 tons of DU dust left,
according to the Royal Society, as oppose to a confirmed 325 tonnes in Gulf
war 1) who is accountable? 'Retirement plans ...'? Whoever is responsible
should be shot. Though it will be little comfort to the Iraqis as they die
in vastly greater numbers of radiation sickness and their genetic integrity
is sullied for all time. And as for the 'liberators': I'd be out of there,
big time. f.

Published on Saturday, May 10, 2003 by the Washington Post
Seven Nuclear Sites Looted
Iraqi Scientific Files, Some Containers Missing

by Barton Gellman

BAGHDAD -- Seven nuclear facilities in Iraq have been damaged or effectively
destroyed by the looting that began in the first days of April, when U.S.
ground forces thrust into Baghdad, according to U.S. investigators and
others with detailed knowledge of their work. The Bush administration fears
that technical documents, sensitive equipment and possibly radiation sources
have been scattered.
If so, there are potentially significant consequences for public health and
the spread of materials to build a nuclear or radiological bomb. President
Bush had said the war was fought to prevent the spread of "the world's most
dangerous weapons."

Iraq's nuclear research headquarters at Al-Tuwaitha. Looters are carting off
whatever they can carry from the nuclear site. (AFP/File/Awad Awad)
It is still not clear what has been lost in the sacking of Iraq's nuclear
establishment. But it is well documented that looters roamed unrestrained
among stores of chemical elements and scientific files that would speed
development, in the wrong hands, of a nuclear or radiological bomb. Many of
the files, and some of the containers that held radioactive sources, are
missing.
Previous reports have described damage at two of the facilities, the
Tuwaitha Yellowcake Storage Facility and the adjacent Baghdad Nuclear
Research Center. Now, the identity of three more damaged sites has been
learned: the Ash Shaykhili Nuclear Facility, the Baghdad New Nuclear Design
Center and the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment. All of them have attracted
close scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency and from U.S.
analysts who suspected that Iraq, despite IAEA inspections, was working to
develop a bomb.
The identities of two other sites, also said to have been looted, could not
be learned.
Army Lt. Col. Charles Allison, who led the U.S. survey team at Ash
Shaykhili, said in an interview that its "warehouses were completely
destroyed" by ransacking and fire. A Special Forces soldier, part of another
team that reached Ash Shaykhili before Allison, said "they were supposed to
store all their enrichment processing machinery there, but it was all gone
or badly burned."
Alarmed by similar reports about the two Tuwaitha-area sites, IAEA's
director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, sent a letter Monday pressing earlier
demands that the United States grant the agency access to Iraq's nuclear
sites. He has previously asserted that the IAEA has sole legal authority
over the sites under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N.
resolutions. But an adviser to ElBaradei said late Thursday that "we have
got no official reply" from the United States.
Ash Shaykhili, 10 miles southeast of Baghdad, was the legally designated
repository of heavy equipment used in Iraq's former nuclear weapons program.
Some of the equipment was destroyed when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in
1981 and when the United States bombed a Russian research reactor there 10
years later. Other gear had been seized and rendered useless by IAEA
inspectors between 1991 and 1998.
Subject to regular inspection by the nuclear watchdog agency, Ash Shaykhili
held destroyed centrifuges once used to enrich uranium, disks and machinery
used in an alternate enrichment process called electromagnetic isotope
separation, key components of the bomb-damaged reactors, vacuum pumps and
valves. Experts said it may have held small radiation sources, but not in
significant quantities.
Allison's U.S. survey team sought evidence that the site concealed other,
forbidden activities, particularly in an underground space that U.S.
intelligence thought suspicious. But when Allison arrived on April 24, he
found it "so looted that it was just basically warehouses with all kinds of
crap all over the floor," he said. "If there was something there it's long
since gone."
Another site known to have been damaged is the Baghdad New Nuclear Design
Center. A prominent yellow building, the center housed the key personnel
responsible for the crash program that nearly succeeded in building a
nuclear bomb in 1991.
That program, known by the code name Petrochemical Three, or PC-3,
demonstrated Iraqi mastery of three different nuclear enrichment
technologies: fabrication of finely milled uranium or plutonium spheres for
the core of a fission bomb and the makings of a sophisticated implosion
device to detonate the weapon.
Many of the principal scientists and technicians of PC-3 moved to jobs at
the new nuclear design center. They formed an umbrella organization for
electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering research, all potentially
useful for a nuclear weapon. But IAEA inspectors watched the work carefully,
and an expert with detailed knowledge of the results said the agency "didn't
find anything that indicated ongoing prohibited activities regarding nuclear
weapons."
Last month U.S. Central Command sent the Pentagon's Direct Support Team to
survey the site. Sources said they found it looted and collected little that
would help resolve U.S. suspicions about what was being done there. They
declined to detail the damage.
The third site that was badly damaged is the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment.
Jacques Baute, who heads the IAEA's Iraq Action Team, made that site his
first stop when IAEA inspections resumed Nov. 27, according to press
accounts. Tahadi was thought to be a potential location of renewed weapons
activity because, like the Baghdad center, it employed some of Iraq's
leading weapons scientists. Unlike the Baghdad center, it housed substantial
dual-use equipment, capable of both permitted and prohibited work.
Tahadi hosted magnetic research and development of high-voltage power
supplies. Those can be used as components of a program to enrich uranium to
weapons grade. An expert on Iraq's weapons program with close ties to the
IAEA said in an interview that the site was "at the top of the list" of
sites that might be involved in prohibited centrifuge work. The Bush
administration accused Iraq of attempting to import specialized aluminum
tubes for such a centrifuge cascade, but the IAEA said they were not
suitable.
The administration sought evidence at Tahadi, but the Direct Support Team
found little left.
At the Baghdad site and Tahadi, experts said there might have been small
radiation sources to calibrate instruments, but nothing in quantity. At two
other looted sites, Tuwaitha's Location C and the Baghdad Nuclear Research
Center nearby, there were significant quantities of partially enriched
uranium, cesium, strontium and cobalt. U.S. survey teams have been unable to
say whether any of those radiation sources were stolen.
According to witnesses, Allison's survey team reached both of these sites on
April 10, the same day that ElBaradei cited them as the two most important
for U.S. forces to protect. But because of continuing debate within the Bush
administration over whether to enter without IAEA inspectors present,
Allison received a hasty order to withdraw. When Allison was told to
evacuate all U.S. personnel, including troops providing security at the
perimeter, he grew agitated, witnesses said.
"Whoever gave that order better check his retirement plan, because if we
leave this place open somebody is going to lose their job," he told an
officer at the ground forces operations center of Central Command, according
to two witnesses. Allison confirmed the gist of the conversation.
Eventually Central Command relented and ordered a company of the 3rd
Infantry Division to guard both Tuwaitha-area sites. But the twin complexes,
about a square mile each and half a mile apart, were far too big for the
force left in place. Soldiers posted there permitted Iraqi civilians who
said they were employees to enter freely. Looting at both places continued
last Saturday, when a Washington Post reporter spent four hours at the site.
Daoud Awad, who ran the electrical design department at Tuwaitha, said in a
brief interview that he "saw with my own eyes people carrying the containers
we used to put radioactive materials in." The containers slightly resemble
jugs commonly used for milk, he said, "and they didn't know what was
inside."
"I saw some papers on an experiment, and the people threw the papers on the
floor and took the table," he said. "If they knew how valuable the papers
were, they would have kept the papers, not the table."
"How could they leave a place like this without protection?" he asked. "It's
not an ordinary place. It's too dangerous."
Staff researcher Robert Thomason in Washington contributed to this report.
 2003 The Washington Post Company
###


 

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