Iraq’s Bomb — an Update

New York Times
April 26, 1993, p. A17

Soon, possibly this week, the U.N. will report that its inspectors in Iraq have found yet another cache of strategic equipment for making nuclear weapons. Their chief inspector at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Maurizio Zifferero, should be embarrassed. He announced in September that President Saddam Hussein’s atomic weapons program was “neutralized” and “at zero.” He even said that Iraq had “decided at the higher political level to stop these activities.”

Saddam Hussein never told the I.A.E.A. about the newly discovered equipment, as required by UN resolutions. And he continues to rain down threats and intimidation on the inspectors, indicating that he has more to hide. In March 1992, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, told inspectors that Iraq had not relinquished the right to build weapons of mass destruction.

Before his army marched into Kuwait in August 1990, Saddam Hussein had a workable bomb design, many key components, a multi-billion dollar nuclear manufacturing base and a global supply network able to exploit lax Western export controls, especially those in Germany. His Western-trained scientists had produced small amounts of plutonium and enriched uranium: the fuels in the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They even did clandestine research in laboratories the I.A.E.A. inspected regularly.

If Saddam Hussein had left Kuwait alone, he might have had his first bomb by now. He still has his scientists on the payroll and has protected the identities of many of his global suppliers. He has even started to get European and American inquiries on future oil sales: petro-dollars for a renewed bomb effort.

Here is a summary of nuclear-related equipment in Iraq today. It draws on export records and reports by inspection teams. The names of manufacturers, who may not have supplied their products directly to Iraq, are given where known. Iraq claimed the equipment was for civilian use The U.S. Government wants most of the material destroyed; the IAEA may let Iraq use it under the agency’s monitoring. It was just such “monitoring,” however, that failed to detect Iraq’s bomb program in the first place.

Found but Not Destroyed or Removed

These items have been tagged for possible destruction, monitoring by the I.A.E.A. or unconditional release to Iraq.

  • 580 tons of natural uranium (Brazil, Niger and Portugal).
  • 1.7 tons of enriched uranium (Italy).
  • 255 tons of HMX, a high explosive for detonating atomic bombs.
  • 60 machines that shape metal into centrifuge parts, by Dorries, H&H Metalform, Kieserling & Albrecht, Leifeld and Magdeburg (Germany), Matrix Churchill (Britain) and Schaublin (Switzerland).
  • Mass spectrometers to monitor bomb-fuel production, by Finnegan-MAT (US, Germany).
  • Two electric frequency converters to power atomic bomb fuel production, by Acomel (Switzerland).
  • More than 700 valves that can process atomic bomb fuel, by Balzers, VAT (Switzerland) and Nupro (US).
  • Two coordinate-measuring machines to monitor centrifuge production, by DEA (Italy).
  • 70 mixer-settler units to extract plutonium, some by Metallextraktion AB (Sweden).
  • Machines for milling metal, by Maho, Schiess, SHW and Wotan (Germany), Innocenti (Italy) and Zayer (Spain).
  • Two assembly presses and two balancing machines to make centrifuges.
  • One resin-mixing and discharge machine to support electromagnetic uranium enrichment, by Millitorr (Britain).
  • One jet-molding machine to make centrifuge motors, by Arburg (Germany).
  • One 63-ton hydraulic press to shape explosive atomic bomb parts.
  • One mainframe computer used to process nuclear atomic bomb codes, by NEC (Japan).
  • Two oxidation furnaces for making centrifuge parts, by Degussa (Germany).
  • One electron-beam welder to assemble centrifuges, by Sciaky (France).
  • Tantalum metal sheets for making crucibles to cast atomic bomb cores.

Still Missing

These items are suspected or known to be in Iraq, but have not been found or accounted for:

  • More than $1 million worth of computers, electronic testing machines, computer graphics equipment and frequency synthesizers licensed for shipping to atomic bomb builders, by Hewlett Packard (US).
  • More than $7 million worth of computers, licensed for shipping to atomic bomb builders, by International Computer Systems (US).
  • Nuclear reactor control panels, instruments and computers salvaged from a damaged reactor, by the consortium Cerbag (France).
  • Computers and instruments capable of analyzing metals and powders for atomic bomb manufacture, licensed for shipping to an atomic bomb builder by Siemens (Germany, US).
  • $43,000 worth of computers for a nuclear weapon testing site, licensed for shipping by EZ Logic Data (US).
  • $30,000 worth of electronic and computing equipment lo measure neutrons and gamma rays, licensed for shipping by Canberra Industries and Canberra Elektronik (US, Germany).
  • Five frequency converters capable of powering centrifuges, by Acomel (Switzerland).
  • Parts that collected enriched uranium in electromagnetic enrichment machines.
  • One jet-molding machine to make centrifuge motors, by Arburg (Germany).
  • One powder press suitable for compacting nuclear fuels, by XYZ Options (US).
  • $15 million worth of cylindrical presses, by Leifeld (Germany).
  • $2.2 million worth of computers, licensed to be shipped to an atomic bomb builder by Unisys (US).
  • $280,000 worth of computers and electronic and photographic equipment for nuclear weapons laboratories, licensed to be shipped by Perkin Elmer (US).
  • $367,000 worth of computers licensed for shipping to an atomic bomb builder to run its machine tools, by Gerber Systems (US).
  • Design plans for a $5.6 million plant to process uranium, by Natron (Brazil).
  • More than 100 mixer-settler units to extract plutonium, by Metallextraktion AB (Sweden).
  • Centrifuge cascade to enrich uranium.
  • Underground reactor and heavy water to produce plutonium.
  • Records of Iraq’s foreign sources of expertise on uranium enrichment, foreign equipment suppliers and explosive tests of atomic bomb components.
  • Records containing identities and current activities of Iraqi nuclear personnel, including those trained by H&H Metalform, Interatom, Leybold, Lurgi and ZSI (Germany), Balzers (Switzerland), Chemadex (Poland), CNEN (Brazil) and Matrix Churchill (Britain).
  • Computer database showing status and extent of the entire nuclear weapon program.