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Eye on Supply: Winter 1993




by David Kay

David Kay is the Secretary General of the Uranium Institute, an international trade association. Mr. Kay was the team leader for three IAEA inspections in Iraq. The following is adapted from a transcript of a talk given for the Program of Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies on February 10, 1993. 

What are the lessons learned from Iraq? I've been surprised to find out how many people do not understand what the Iraqi challenge was. To address this question, it's important to look at what the Iraqis were doing, so you will understand the need to try to draw lessons from the Iraqi experience. 

Background: The Clandestine Iraqi Program

In June, 1981, Iraq's Osirak reactor, which was being constructed with French assistance, was attacked by the Israelis. From information acquired during the inspections of Iraq, we know that after the attack, the Iraqis had a full inter-governmental task force review what their policy should be with regard to their clandestine nuclear program. One of the questions before that task force was what Iraq's attitude should be about continued membership in the Nonproliferation Treaty. It essentially broke down into two camps. The diplomats said Iraq should stay in the NPT, and go ahead with the clandestine program. They said it would just draw too much attention to the program if Iraq got out. The scientists, being far more upstanding, said no, get out of the NPT; it didn't protect us anyway when the Israelis attacked our reactor, and let's go ahead with our clandestine program as is our right. 

At the final meeting, Saddam Hussein turned to the individual who eventually became the scientific head of the Iraqi program, Jaffar Dhia Jaffar, and said, "Dr. Jaffar, if we stay in the NPT, will it in any way hinder the clandestine nuclear program?" Jaffar says his answer was an immediate and unequivocal no; he said it would have absolutely no effect upon Iraq's program. That is one of the most important lessons to learn. If anything has to make tomorrow different from today, and all other days previous, it has to be that governments that are trying to make a similar decision (that is, if we stay in the NPT, will it make a difference) have to not be able to reach such an absolute conclusion with such assurance. 

The Iraqis did reach this conclusion, and Iraq went ahead and developed an enormous program. The current estimate is that it involved between seven and twelve billion dollars of expenditures. It involved physical facilities all over Iraq from about 60 kilometers to the south of Bagdad, all the way out to the Syrian border, all the way up north of Mosul. These are large facilities: the facility at Tarmiya, the civil construction for which was done by a Yugoslav construction firm, is about 3.5 kilometers on a side, and there's a similar one at Ash-Sharqat. The Iraqis also had in place three major uranium enrichment programs: a calutron program (the original method used by the US, which was also used by the Soviet Union, Britain, Japan and the PRC); a gas centrifuge program, which acquired or built enough parts for at least 10,000 gas centrifuges, which is a huge number; and a chemical enrichment program. They also did a significant amount of research on gaseous diffusion, laser enrichment and jet nozzle enrichment as well. 

At the time of the war, they were already in at least the fifth iteration of an implosion design device, with a calculated yield of 20 kilotons, which is roughly the size of the weapon used at Hiroshima. Equally important is the fact that they cut the weight of the device in half. This in fact is the way you really measure efficiency in a weapon design program, particularly if you have to put the device on the end of a missile. Scientists initially develop things that are essentially delivered by 747s, and then the engineers scale it back. At the unclassified weapons museum at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, they have the initial US H-bomb, the one that was in the inventory for about two years. It's huge. It's just unbelievable, particularly when you consider it had to be - and was - dropped from a B-52. If you look at the models of how it was scaled down, you can get an idea of what the Iraqis did. They were also looking at more advanced technologies. They had work progressing on the production of lithium 6, which is necessary for tritium for thermonuclear boosting. 

The Iraqis had already validated their design work by testing various weapons components. Here again is something technical that is important to understand, and, for a lot of people, very difficult to understand. As long as you are not interested in developing the latest cutting edge multi- stage fusion device, it is no longer necessary to test weapons by taking a bomb out and setting it off. Weapons are tested at the component level, with inert material, and with computers. There has been tremendous progress in this area, so much that it misleads people. For example, the computer that I carry around, a Macintosh 140 Powerbook, with 8 megabytes of memory, etc., has more computer power than was available to US scientists doing weapons design work in 1967, when our major nuclear program went ahead. We managed to obtain the Iraqis' hydrodynamic codes, which are the simulation codes of how material behaves under extreme pressure. A team of modern weapons designers that looked at them remarked on how primitive they were, but we had the people who had worked in the US and British programs in the early days of the programs look at them as well. We asked them to baseline the Iraqi codes against codes that were used in the 1950s and 1960s. The codes that the Iraqis used are freely available - they run on PCs - and they are much, much better than the codes that were available to weapons scientists then. 

We also have certain expectations about what a weapons program involves, and I think this is what fundamentally misled the intelligence communities in a number of countries. When the inspection team first went into a place called al-Atheer, which was the major weaponization site of the Iraqis, one of the inspectors came up to me after a few hours. He said, "You know, you guys are absolutely wrong, this could not be what you think it is." To say the least, I was interested, so I asked him why. He said, "I can tell you, you cannot work with radioactive material in the spaces they have designed and meet the latest OSHA standards." (For those non-Americans in the room, I should explain that OSHA standards are the Occupational Health and Safety Standards that govern US industry.) I swear, he was serious. Now this was someone who was about 35, who worked at one of the US weapons labs, and was not a weapons designer so much as a bureaucrat. His major working life had been in that period when, in fact, we had stopped designing weapons and started worrying about OSHA and EPA regulations. But there is a lot of that. The first time we found a major weapons test bunker, a lot of the scientists said, "They're not making use of all the data. This couldn't be the real site, because there are not enough data collectors and data streams coming off the site." There again, we took them back and had them look at old US weapons testing sites. 

If you look in Dialogue, or any of the other databases today, you can find vast amounts of information about weapons designs that were abandoned or not pursued, or are now so outdated that they are now in open literature. A classic case of this is the Scud. The Scud is nothing but, with the exception of a small change in the guidence system, a V-2 rocket. Now you can buy a full set of V-2 plans in Washington or at the Imperial War Museum in London. It's available. Peter Zimmerman has called this "bronze medal technology," as an analogy to Olympic medals. And there is a huge amount of that. Last September, the British home office was fielding applications for four hundred Russian salesmen to go to the major British airshow to sell military parts. Among other things, they were offering to sell, was satellite photography with 10 meters resolution. And, if you wanted to pay a little more, you could get it at half that resolution. There is a tremendous amount of information out there about nuclear, missile, and chemical weapons technology that does not have to be reinvented and tested. The Iraqis understood that. 

Components vs. Systems

What is the lesson we can draw from this? Certainly, it is that nuclear proliferation is now possible by more routes, more states and, most importantly, with less warning than has recently been thought probable. 

Why is this true? One reason is that there is a rising level of technological wealth and managerial skill. Let me stress the last part, managerial skill. The Iraqis defeated the export control regimes, not because of the ineptness of the regimes or because of corruption, but because they learned that they did not have to buy a final assembled instrument with everything they wanted. If they could buy it in parts from three different countries and had the proper project management skills, they could put it together themselves. In fact, if you want to look at scientific talent in developing countries, the most important talent for a nuclear program is not physicists. In fact, the Iraqi program would have gone a lot better is they had locked the physicists up (because they spent too much time thinking about better ways to do things). It is the mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, project management types that make a difference. Even in countries that we look at as being poor and disorganized, these types of engineers are there in large numbers, and there may be some sectors that are very, very advanced. 

For example, when the invasion of Kuwait took place, General Motors was about to establish a very large truck self-assembly plant in Iraq to serve all of the Middle East. General Motors tried to sell the Iraqis a technology enhancement project, in which they would train welders, lathe operators, and other technicians. The Iraqis told GM to send 12 of its best production engineers and they would let them see what they were doing, just to see whether Iraq needed this package. The engineers' assessment of the current state of Iraqi engineering essentially said that the Iraqis were making three-axis computer numerically controlled machine tools of their own, and doing electron beam welding. Incidentally, these are all nuclear- applicable technologies. The GM report listed all of the technical skills that Iraq had and concluded that Iraq did not need GM's help. Other countries in the developing world have the same type of management cadre that Iraq has used so well. 

Information Access

Information access is global. The Iraqis managed to access every data bank. They did not send graduate students exclusively to one country. Instead, they placed graduate students in the same field in three and four different countries. That is extremely smart, because we don't teach alike. When I taught, I tended to use a certain set of references. If you go to a German classroom, or a French classroom, a Russian classroom, you will discover that everyone presents a slightly different view of reality. So, if someone in hydrodynamics has been trained in the UK, France, or the US, they have parallel views of reality which are slightly different because of access to different information. The Iraqis did that, and they did it consistently, in every one of their fields. This does tell you that information is global. There is no hope of controlling information, particularly if what you are after are not the most recent scientific developments, but those that are expedient. For example, there is so much in the open literature today about neutron initiation, one of the keys of setting up an explosion, or X-ray focusing, which is necessary for advanced nuclear weapons. What's not in the open literature can be deduced by anyone who can read and understand what is there. This is true in many fields. 

The Problem of Analysis

Another reason why proliferation is possible by more routes with less warning has to do with the intelligence services themselves, in two different ways. One is what I call "mirror imaging." Has anyone ever wondered why the US Polaris submarine and the equivalent Russian ballistic missile submarine have exactly the same number of tubes? God did not create a rule that said that there can only be X number of tubes on a missile submarine. This happened as a result of one side looking at the other, and drawing conclusions about what is necessary. We tend to look at the way we have done things and assume that everyone will do it that way. There was a lot of mirror imaging in the intelligence communities about what was going on. This process is continuing as the US national laboratories are trying to rapidly become nonproliferation institutes, and a lot of strategic Soviet analysts are trying to retool themselves as proliferation specialists. 

People are taking the skills that they acquired during a lifetime looking at a Soviet program, or an American program, and trying to apply them. There is a tendency to think that what you knew was necessary there, will be necessary here. Watch out. 

The second, and far more dangerous, intelligence problem is that we know from the Iraqi program that they had learned to defeat national technical means (NTM), i.e., signal and satellite intelligence. There had been two major routes. There was a major leakage from the US intelligence program on key satellite data. It had been passed to the Soviets by Christopher Boyce. For one reason or another, the information had been passed to the Iraqis, and they had learned with great sophistication how to conceal their activities from US satellite detection. Also, during the Iran-Iraq War, the US shared strategic intelligence information with the Iraqis. The Iraqis were able to look at US data, and they could tell from the data how it was obtained. They were smart enough, with the help of East Germans and others, to devise ways of beating the system. The intelligence community has invested billions of dollars in NTM and doesn't like to hear this. Unfortunately, though, it really is true that NTM is relatively easy to defeat if you can spend the money and you have the skills. At the time the war broke out, there was very low-grade human intelligence that there was a possible nuclear site at Tarmiya, which in fact was a major site where Iraq's calutron program was going to be assembled. The photo interpreters had looked at it and didn't believe that it was a major site because it had no security fences around it, no anti-aircraft around it, and no electrical power going into it. It looked like another one of the industrial complexes you find a lot around Baghdad. The site was put on secondary target list. After it got hit by a pilot who had some leftover ordnance, it was 48 hours before they did a photo post-strike recon of the site. The pictures were just amazing. There were five huge cranes on the site and something that looked like giant frisbees being pulled out of the damage and over 100 identifiable Iraqis on the site. Another good rule of the US military is when something goes on during combat that you don't understand, wipe it out because then you can worry about it afterwards. So they did, and then they sent the inspectors in after the war. Among other things, it turned out the Iraqis had run 150 megawatts of power 25 km underground, because someone had told them that one of the rules a photo interpreter uses is power. There was no guard fence there because there had been a military exclusion zone 50 km around the site. The lesson that we can draw from this is that we should not count on intelligence by itself to give us warning. This is one of the most disturbing lessons of the Iraqi experience. 

Another reason proliferation is possible by more means is that a significant leakage of expertise and material across borders is a reality. Centrifuge technology, very advanced centrifuge technology, came out because someone was willing to pay money to someone who was willing to take money. Before we start pointing fingers at Germans, or even worse, at Russians, or Kazakhs, or whoever, let's remember we are in the midst of downsizing our own nuclear weapons program in the US. People do not have to get on a plane and fly to point A. All they have to do is plug a Macintosh in with a modem and they can work any place in the world. A lot of the data exchange on the centrifuge program into Iraq did not come from people going to Iraq. It was done in other places. This also makes it much harder to track and identify, since people aren't necessarily flying into countries where they shouldn't be. 

There is another problem with material. One of the critical components for the Iraqi centrifuge program was maraging steel. I often tried to convince the Iraqis to tell us who their supplier was. Once I tried the argument - "Don't tell me you can't rat on people who have been your friends. They charge you, you pay a risk premium, and everyone knows that you pay a risk premium because there's a risk that the supplier will be exposed. Go ahead and tell us." Instead, Jaffar pulled out the invoice (without the supplier's name on it) and, sure enough, they had only paid a couple of cents per pound over the world market price for maraging steel. That tells you that for a lot of commodities there is, in fact, not much of a risk. And, maraging steel is one of the more strictly controlled. That is something you have really got to worry about. Material does get out and will continue to get out. 

Managing Change

Things are changing in a way that we have to worry about because the changes are making the situation worse. One problem is the break-up of the former Soviet Union. In talking to one of Gorbachev's advisers, who is now a senior academician, I had gone through the reasons I am concerned about the break-up of the former Soviet Union, which include the lack of export controls and problems with expertise. We are talking about dismantling 15,000 weapons, which is a process that at the rate of 1,000 to 2,000 weapons a year will take at least 15-20 years. It isn't really the scientists you have to worry about, it's the guy doing guard duty at night who is getting paid virtually nothing. I went through all the standard sets of arguments. The official came up later and he said "You know, it is really worse than you thought it was. I thought I would never bemoan the passing of the control of the KGB. But crime and corruption is much worse today than ever before. I've got plutonium in my lab that I'm not sure will be there when I return." I took that with a grain of salt, because there might be other reasons for those statements. The fact of the matter is that we have a long-term issue there. 

The material presents another risk. Somewhere in the order of 4 kg to 12 kg of plutonium is sufficient for a nuclear device. That is an amount that is smaller than an American softball, if it were in a single source. If you look at how drugs are moved around the world, you realize the problem of preventing the transfer of small amounts of material. There are ways to smuggle this material that are not technically difficult. 

One of the failings of the last administration, which the current administration better get on quick, is that for over six months the South Africans have been willing to sell their entire HEU supply to the US. We should have bought it. The US ought to get that HEU out of there, every last gram - and, as a purchaser of the entire supply, you can demand rights of inspection to be sure you have every last gram. It is going to be very irresponsible if we go many more months without having gotten it because we may lose the opportunity to buy the entire supply. I should emphasize that the South African Government has been completely forthcoming on this matter. The delay has been entirely on the side of the US government. 

In addition to material, there is also the problem of the transfer of technological skill and expertise. In many ways, because of the nature of the Soviet and American programs, you don't have to worry about the top scientists. They've been working on the most advanced weapons design. If you asked the Edward Tellers of these programs, the Livermore senior weapons designers, to do a gun assembly design, which is an easy design that almost anyone could do with a little thought and reading, they wouldn't have designed such a weapon in years, if ever. The technicians, on the other hand - who know that when you are shaping plutonium there are certain properties that are not described entirely accurately in the open literature - are the people you do have to worry about. This is where the expertise is leaking out. 

Another problem is the political status given to those possessing nuclear weapons. Every time I hear a British politician saying that they have to keep their nuclear weapons, not because they have any reason for them, but in order to maintain their seat on the UN Security Council, I cringe at the implications such a statement can have. The same thing is true of Secretary of State James Baker's rush to offer the Russians large amounts of money without making a similar offer to Ukraine; this is part of the problem we are now having with the Ukrainians. By giving status, or appearing to give status, to countries that have nuclear weapons for that reason alone, we are in great danger of leading others to conclude that they should either not give up the nuclear weapons that they have or think of acquiring them. 

During most of the regime of security known as insecurity, i.e., the "Cold War," we had a system that was extremely intolerant of movements across borders. With the exception of a handful of crises like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall Crisis in 1959-60, it was a regime of remarkable stability. We are seeing that regime being disassembled at a rate that is without parallel, at least in the last 50 years. If Iraq had not invaded Kuwait when it did in 1990, but if it had waited until 1994, not only would Iraq have had a nuclear weapon, but we would not have had the troops or the ordnance that came to the aid of Kuwait deployed forward in Europe. Those forces are being pulled back. 

States today see the US disassembling its military might at a rate that is unparalleled since the end of World War II. They see a lack of an articulated US defense policy that explains why it is developing the force structure that it is, and they ask, where are we? What sort of world are we moving toward? And they start to raise questions. There was a parallel to this in the '50s, up through the early '60s. For example, Sweden and Switzerland had nuclear research programs, and the Swedish one was more than just a group of academics sitting around. I'm afraid that unless steps are taken in 1995 at the NPT Review Conference, and unless other steps are taken soon, we will see a number of states start exploring the nuclear weapon option again, and this time it is going to be different. They can do all the non-nuclear work essentially out in the open. And they only have to worry about the acquisition of special nuclear material at the very last stage and that, for a series of technical reasons, is not going to be very difficult to do. Those things working together, in addition to what Iraq already taught us, mean that for proliferation we are entering a period far more dangerous than anything we have seen before, at least in the last thirty years. And that is really an optimistic view to conclude all of this. 

Questions and Answers:

Q: What was the level of free intellectual exchange between the Iraqi scientific community and the West during the last 20 years? The perception is that Saddam Hussein is still paranoid about foreign influences undermining his regime. Did he have any problems with his scientists going to Paris and Bonn and London?.
A: Some of the documents we seized were the Iraqi documents about all their defectors. Eight-five percent of those defectors never turned themselves in to the West. The reason they didn't, and the reason he didn't have any problem with his scientists going to the West studying or attending conferences, is because if you were seen as defecting and reporting, punishment was not only swift for you, but it went down to your cousins. The first Iraqi defector after the war came out and gave us some of the basic information on the calutron process. He had staged his own death on the highway to Mosul, and he thought they would not find out that he was still alive and had defected. He had been out for less than two months when a journalist printed the story. His entire family down to second cousins were killed. If you have enough terror in your regime, you don't worry about people crossing over. Also, I must say, working the atomic energy program had some of the best fringe benefits around. For example, you were automatically deferred from the Iraqi military, and this was during the time of the Iran-Iraq War when millions were killed. They also paid the staff well. He had virtually no problem there. There were 20,000 people involved in the program, and we have the entire payroll ledger of how much they were making.
The remarkable thing, and this is a serious point, is that the normal rule of the intelligence community is that if a country has a program with 20,000 employees and vast physical facilities all over the country, we ought to know about the program. Covert programs are only supposed to be effective when there are small numbers. These weren't small numbers, and yet we didn't learn fully about the program. This is all the more frightening because Iraq is at the extreme end of the scale. Their program was very large; in fact, it was slowed down because it was so large. If Saddam Hussein had been after only three to five weapons, and not twenty weapons a year, he would have had them when he invaded Kuwait. His mistake was to go, thank goodness, for a maxi-program. The next one is not likely to do that. It's likely to shoot for three to five weapons. And so that increases concerns about detection.
Q: How do you change the political clout of nuclear weapons? You said that one of the problems is that countries see status in nuclear weapons, but doesn't the actual nature of a nuclear weapon bring you status.
A: How much of it can you change? Because obviously there are some things you can't change; the vision of a 15kt mushroom cloud over your town is pretty significant. The first step should be to give Germany and Japan permanent status on the UN Security Council immediately, because they are important states, and they don't have nuclear weapons. This would put a lie to the British argument that the only reason that they are on the council (although it may still be true) is that they have nuclear weapons. When you talk about assisting states, think about, for example, how the Brazilians and the Argentines must feel when you are talking about paying large sums of money for weapons in the former Soviet Union, or even HEU from the South Africans, when in fact the Brazilians and Argentines have large economic problems. They think, "My God, if we'd only continued our program we could have sold it off." We have to be careful about providing that kind of money, and do it in ways that make it clear what we are doing and what the security implications are. It's a rule in diplomacy that you try not to treat the weapon as the thing that gets you to the table. I realize that is hard to do. Israel has a certain clout because it has 200 or so weapons, but it has clout for other reasons too. We should try to deal with the India-Pakistan crisis, not just based on the fact that there are nuclear weapons there, but based on the fact that security in the South Asian region depends on a stable Indian-Pakistani relationship. We want to avoid dealing with the nuclear weapon problem in India and Pakistan as if there is nothing else about India and Pakistan that is of interest to us, particularly with the end of the Cold War.
Q: When you are talking about buying up South African enriched uranium, and also there have been a lot of discussions about importing Russian uranium, how do US uranium producers feel about that, and will that cause problems for the plans to buy it?
A: Uranium production today is largely centered in Australia, Canada, Niger and Namibia; there are a few European producers, and there is some US production.
The US can buy up the uranium without using it. We've spent hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars on defense. If five years ago, Ronald Reagan had been able to walk into the US Congress and say, "For an expenditure of 2 billion dollars, I can give you all the Soviet warhead material on a silver plate and lock it in Fort Knox," and if he could have done it for South Africa as well, that would have been the best expenditure. Who would have thought about the money? Just because you buy the uranium, you don't have to use it. Plutonium's a little bit different, but uranium can be used in a way that is largely market neutral. There are two ways to do that. The first way is to blend down the highly-enriched uranium. The HEU is 90% enriched, but it can be blended down with new production to 3-4%, which is reactor-grade fuel. It's not the cheapest way to do it, but it's not that expensive either, when uranium's at $8 a pound. So it can be done in a way that is market-neutral, for the miners, and that's a doable project.
There is another way the uranium could be used, and this is the option I actually prefer. There are areas of the world that are short on energy, where people are making very bad environmental choices becuase they have to have electricity. One of the most stable correlations of the 20th century is the correlation between democracy and availability of electricity. I would much prefer to see special reactors built in China, Asia, even parts of Russia, if we can get rid of RBMK's, burn up the uranium there and produce electricity. If we can stop or reduce the amount of coal-burning in China or India, where it's being burned without all the environmental controls that allow us to burn coal - they also have much worse coal - I think it'd be a good bargain. There are a lot of ways to do it. It's not really very difficult if you're creative. And we've been creative about making weapons for over 50 years. That same talent can be turned for peaceful purposes and environmental betterment without any great trick. I don't see that as a problem.
Q: What about the anti-dumping suit filed by US companies over uranium imports from the former Soviet Union?
A: That's an issue that we're facing with regard to exports from the CIS in aluminum and every other area. If you don't know what your costs are, you'll sell it for anything, particularly if it's paid in currency other than rubles, so you'll get people doing that. That's a trade issue; I think it's a short-lived issue, largely because of what is happening in the industry. You're going to find western producers making all sorts of arrangements and it'll smooth out - ultimately to the benefit (I still believe in free trade) of the world. There are certainly going to be complaints, but it's not really terribly significant.
Q: I believe the IAEA decided to release the names of some firms involved in the Iraqi program, but only to governments, not publicly. If so, then how is there going to be any sort of action taken against this kind of activity in the future? What's going to happen to these firms, which will keep cranking out maraging steel, endcaps and other items?
A: Actually, they have released a number of the names to the public, not just to governments. The issue of whether you release the others is a complicated one because even if you know the name of the producer, it doesn't necessarily prove that you know the producer was the one responsible for it getting to Iraq. Consequently, there's a difficult issue of legal responsibility, and really severe corporate damage that could be done if you make a mistake. Also, the only one who has legal standing to bring any sort of action against a company is its national government. Take a real case, a case in Switzerland, where they decided the companies had not violated Swiss law, because there was no Swiss law covering this activity. The question then is whether you then go ahead and produce the name because you can't possibly be doing any damage, since they can't complain about being identified for doing something that wasn't illegal. I hope it will become public, and I think it ultimately will become public. However, governments are looking at both sides of that issue - Sweden, Germany, and even the US have been urging caution on this. The largest list of US suppliers is currently held by the US government, and they could release it anytime they want to. It'll be a good test of this administration to see whether they make available that list. But I think most of them will come out. That doesn't guarantee that anything will be done about it.
A lot of people have false expectations about export controls. Export controls can only do three things if they work well. First, they can delay a program, forcing a country either to reverse- engineer the item or find a different route. Second, they can make it expensive, although I think the idea that you have to pay a risk premium or go through some other secret method of getting an item has been overdone. Often you don't have to do that. But it does make it somewhat more expensive. The third and most important advantage of an export control regime is that information is shared among countries, making pattern recognition possible. Now in the case of Iraq that failed, because not only was the information not shared among governments, the information was not shared within governments. The classic case is one in the US, when the Department of Commerce decided to license a shipment to Iraq without a referral to the Department of Defense (DoD), because - and this is in the written record - Commerce decided that DoD would object, and so it would not be licensed. So not only did they not refer it for approval, they consequently didn't tell DOD that they were doing it, so of course the intelligence communities couldn't share the information because they didn't have it. The same stories exist in the UK.
There are two things that we need to concentrate on for export controls: sharing of information, so pattern recognition really works, and, for a limited group of commodities, for a limited group of states, post-sale inspections of use. End-use certificates are not worth the Macintosh time it takes to counterfeit them. You can do them too easily - you can pay for them or you can counterfeit them. It's only by inspection after sales that you have any real possibility of determining the actual end use, and even that is not flawless. So we need to share information, and to make this manageable, you focus only on certain target countries, and certain key target areas, and understanding what those key areas should be is not always easy. And then you insist on some items being subject to post-sale inspection.
Q: When foreign nationals come to western countries to study nuclear physics, etc., do they go through any security clearance?
A: No. There is a visa procedure which is done, but no security clearance. There are certain countries - Libya is one - whose students are not currently admitted to the US. I can only speak about the US process, but I think it's roughly the same in other countries. Then there are the usual exceptions - the usual immigration controls - but no other special controls. In fact, it's surprisingly difficult to get a complete list of who has studied where. One of the chief nuclear officials in Iraq, Sami al-Araji, has a bachelor's degree from Michigan State, a master's degree from Connecticut, and a PhD from Michigan State. He also worked at a US nuclear power plant for a couple of years. We spent some unpleasant hours with al-Araji. We wanted to learn more about him and were trying to get some help from our security people on various ways to question his parentage. It turned out that the security people could not even find a picture of him, or fingerprints, or any records. We had to go to the Michigan alumni association. It's surprisingly bad. Of course, he was here in the 60s, and one hopes it's gotten better, but I'm not sure that it has.
I don't believe we should try to keep foreign students out of the U.S. for a couple of reasons. One is a reason of principle; I believe in a free flow of information. The other reason is that most of our graduate programs in the sciences would collapse if we did. We'd bankrupt departments, and I'm not in favor of that. I think, though, that we should try to keep track of them and understand what they're doing. It's pattern recognition again. And there may be a group of so-called outlaw states, such as Libya and North Korea, whose students we simply decide not to admit. But that's a relatively narrow group.
Q: In addition to how these threats affect American security policy, what do you think the role of international organizations could be, or should be, in this issue, and also, what do you think about the dual role of the IAEA in promoting nuclear energy and nonproliferation?
A: I do not think the dual-role issue in and of itself has been a significant factor in affecting the way the IAEA safeguards regime has evolved. The more significant factor has been the necessity of keeping broad political support for that regime, and that would have been true whether the IAEA had a peaceful side or not. I do think there may well be an argument for saying that the so-called regulatory functions, and I would include safety as well as nuclear safeguards, ought to be spun off, for budgetary and political support reasons. But I think one has to be cautious about this kind of suggestion, because of the political difficulty.
With regard to international organizations in the future, I would say that as in all areas of security that we're facing, the US can't do it alone. It can't, because it doesn't have the resources, and it won't be acceptable, for a whole host of reasons, so international collaborative action is necessary. But I think the real thing that international organizations have to learn is that no one buys the franchise forever. You get support only to the extent that you're effective. If you're Jack in the Box and you don't cook the hamburgers long enough, there's always someplace else that people will buy their hamburgers. Rolf Ekeus and the UN Special Commission is a case of another supplier of "hamburgers." That's an important lesson that the IAEA - and I would argue the same thing is true with the World Health Organization - has to learn. The problem with international organizations is that they're monopolies, and not only monopolies, they're unaccountable monopolies. It's a relationship that is incestuous, and not healthy. I think the answer to the question is that international collaborative action is necessary.
Let me be clear on this issue, because I know I have not always been clear in the past. I am not, in the end, pointing the finger at the failure of the Secretariat. The Secretariat is a creature of governments. But creatures also have a certain degree of independence. I think it's a shared failure. I think there has been a tremendous failure of US diplomacy for the last 15 years or so with regard to safeguards. On the other hand, I think that it doesn't make sense for a Director General to say, no one told me that there might be anything else in Iraq, so I didn't look. In fact, as you know, there was a lot out there. There was a lot in the public press about Iraq's program; you didn't have to go to the intelligence community. It's true, I think the US was derelict in not directly telling the IAEA what it knew was going on. But this was a situation where the IAEA went twice a year to Tuwaitha nuclear research center, inspected three sites there, all within 100 meters of each other, and didn't even ask if they could go in one of the other buildings. I should say that there were 80 more buildings on that site. They never asked to go in any of the other ones. Now, if the Iraqis had said no, that would have been a significant data point. We would know that they wouldn't let the IAEA in. I think most international lawyers now agree that the IAEA did have the right to inspect those buildings. But even if the IAEA did not have the right, it would have been valuable for them to ask. The fact that they did not even ask is a tremendous failure. The IAEA's problem is that now they have got to reestablish their credibility so that people believe they can operate effectively. What the IAEA does in North Korea, Iran, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and other states will be a terribly important part of renewing that credibility. You can't get by without international organizations. International organizations do have to learn, however, that you don't buy the franchise forever.
Q: Within the past four or five months, you've said that there may still be an undiscovered plutonium production reactor at an underground site in Iraq, but Maurizio Zifferero at the IAEA is saying, "no, we found everything, we don't have to worry about it anymore." What is your opinion?
A: Let me comment on what I said, and not what Zifferero said. What I said is, there is a significant amount of evidence which leads one to suspect that there is a probability that a plutonium production faclility is under construction someplace.
The evidence is part physical and part conceptual. The Iraqi program is most notable because it does everything in parallel. They explored all known routes of uranium enrichment at the same time. They did design work at the same time that they poured billions of dollars into civil construction work. They were still designing the calutrons, still working out the dimensions for them, and at the same time they were building foundations for the calutrons that were still in the process of being designed. Now, this is highly dangerous, because, in fact, things may not fit if the size is wrong, and their initial calculations are not right. This type of high-risk parallel design and construction effort is what the US did in the Manhattan Project. So why would they not explore the easiest route to producing nuclear weapons, plutonium, as well? It has a lot of advantages, particularly if you're considering missile delivery systems.
Secondly, a piece of physical evidence. We found two separate cases of plutonium reprocessing by the Iraqis. The amount of plutonium found is not weapons significant. The IRT-5000 reactor Iraq had just doesn't have enough neutrons to make enough plutonium for a weapon. On the night that the air war started, the Iraqis were running their research reactor at full power at the time of the attack with two fuel elements being explicitly irradiated for plutonium separation. One of the hallmarks of a research reactor in developing countries is they virtually never run at night. One of my previous jobs in a technical cooperation program involved trying to get developing countries to use their research reactors. They just don't. There are not enough uses for research reactors, particulary small research reactors. So why were they doing plutonium reprocessing at all? They're running a tremendous risk of being caught. It the easiest to detect of all the activities they were engaged in. The wastes are characterized by a certain condition that makes it detectable that you are reprocessing plutonium. The Iraqis admit, in part, that they were prototyping a fuel- rod assembly. The fuel rods that they were prototyping just happened to match with a known Russian and American plutonium production reactor in terms of their total proportional dimensions. The chemistry of the fuel rods looks like a scaled down prototype of the Russian and American rods. They may have been doing the research at the same time that they were engaged in production or construction someplace else. Additionally, they had a large amount of nuclear-grade graphite, much larger than they needed for the calutron program, and a large graphite mill. Graphite is used to construct plutonium production reactors.
The Iraqis had negotiated with France, the Soviet Union and the PRC to buy an underground reactor. They negotiated for a while, got some design information, and then walked away from the negotiations. You can't prove that they did this to get the information so they could build it themselves, but we should consider this a possibility.
There's another reason I think it's possible that they have something we don't know about. After the first inspection, I met with with the Permanent 5 members of the UN Security Council, and after the presentation, at the end of the meeting, Roland Timerbaev, who was then the Soviet ambassador to the IAEA, said something to the effect of, "Don't you think it's possible the Iraqis have some extra material squirreled away somewhere?" At a meeting after the third inspection report, another Russian asked the same question, using almost exactly the same words. Sometimes people are unable to tell you things directly, but can give you a push in the right direction. Of course, it could be a coincidence. [Ambassador Timerbaev was present for Mr. Kay's talk. The ambassador acknowledged having made this comment to Kay, but remarked that "it was a coincidence" that the other Russian asked the same question.
Q: Was Jaffar the brains behind the whole program?
A: No, he clearly was the brains behind the calutron program, but not the centrifuge or weaponization programs. Incidentally, before 1986 or 1987, Iraq had set up its calutron program to produce 3-4 weapons a year. Then, either because there was a breakthrough on centrifuges, or because Saddam Hussein decided to make a change, they set a goal of 20-plus weapons a year and shifted the focus to centrifuges. It seems that after 1981 they gave priority to acquiring enriched uranium for a weapon, rather than plutonium, although maybe plutonium was expected to be used in the longer term.
Q: Do you think the Iraqi program has been stopped, or has it only been delayed?
A: Certainly this is just a delay. You have to say that Iraq is part of the nuclear club; they have the technical information they need to build a nuclear weapon. Also, we should remember that those 20,000 Iraqis who worked for the nuclear program are still getting paid. So what we need to address is the security issue that leads them to want weapons, not the issue of the weapons themselves. We also have to understand that the issue of deterrence may not exist for the Iraqis. We look at the US-Russian paradigm, and we think that we understand how deterrence works, but we just don't realize how many risks other countries are willing to take. Saddam was willing to take the risk. Also, he used the chemical weapons threat mainly as a distraction for Israeli intelligence, to draw them away from the nuclear program. So we need to be looking at the whole picture.


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