Use of Radioactive Material in SCUD Warhead (S)
[ (b)(2) ][ (b)(6) ]
19 Feb 91
Background Paper for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
SUBJECT: Use of Radioactive Material in SCUD Warhead (S)
1. PURPOSE: To provide an assessment of the likelihood and
effect of Iraqi use of radioactive material in SCUD warhead.
2. POINTS OF MAJOR INTEREST:
a. Likelihood of Use: Iraq has the potential to develop and
use a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) based on placing
radioactive material in a SCUD warhead. There is no [ (b)(1)
sec 1.3(a)(4) ] that this is being done, but Iraq has made many
claims about having surprise weapons. Iraq's leadership almost
certainly intends to use all available weaponry at its disposal if
the viability of the Saddam-led Baath regime is threatened. This
situation would pertain if Saddam were to be removed and succeeded
by other members of the Revolutionary Command Council, as well.
DIA also considers it likely that if Iraq's borders are breached
by coalition ground forces that this event too, would cross Iraq's
threshold for employing nonconventional weapons. Iraq's leaders
are reasonably well-informed on U.S. nuclear and chemical
capabilities. A U.S. threat of retaliation is unlikely to deter
Iraq. Inside the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO), Iraq would
probably employ nonconventional weapons, like the RDD, if its
forces were about to suffer a significant and serious defeat.
b. Availability of Radioactive Material: Iraq has four
sources of radioactive materials: spent reactor fuel, commercially
produced and purchased radioisotopes (i.e., Cobalt 60 for medical
uses), Iraqi made radioisotopes, and low level radioactive waste
from laboratory and medical procedures. Little is known about the
total inventory of Iraqi radioactive material, but the last two
sources would probably be very low activity or short lived
medical/experimental isotopes, and the overall inventory is
assessed to be quite small.
c. Area Contaminated: Area of contamination is a complex
question that varies with:
(l) Weight of warhead (and therefore range of SCUD):
Determines amount of material spread.
(2) Ratio of explosive weight to radioactive material
weight: More explosive means wider dispersion pattern, but less
active material carried.
(3) Height of burst: The higher the burst, the wider the
(4) Particle size of contaminant: Larger particles
travel farther (in the absence of wind effects), but are easier to
find and remove. If the goal is to produce a heavy concentration
to greatly restrict access, then the area of contamination will
necessarily be smaller than if the goal is to spread material out
as much as possible as a weapon of psychological terror (if not
actual danger) against civilian populations.
d. Delivery Scenarios: Iraq could deliver its radioactive
material in three forms: liquid solution, mechanically chopped
(pre-loading) small pellets, and large, crude chunks. Iraq has
not demonstrated nor is assessed to have either a liquid filled
warhead or an airburst fuse, however, there are three potential
delivery scenarios: maximum pellet/chunk dispersion using largest
possible high explosive warhead (short range, less than 300 km);
pellet/chunk dispersion using less energetic warhead (longer
range, 300-600 km);'and low airburst liquid or powder wind driven
dispersion in the manner of chemical agents Pellet (or chunk)
dispersion would be very uneven, with discrete pieces scattered or
imbedded throughout the area. Ground burst could scatter pieces
to approximately the same maximum distances as airburst, but far
more fragments would be contained much closer (several hundred
meters) to the point of impact. Liquid or powder dispersion
provides more uniform, difficult to remove coverage. Processing
of material into liquid, powder, or pellet form could be difficult
and dangerous to operators. High activity warheads could be very
dangerous to handling and launch crews. Airburst could be caused
by SCUD intercept.
(l) Maximum dispersal is only available at short ranges
due to weight of high explosive required and could contaminate ; 3
mile diameter circle [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ], but at a fairly
low level of contamination.
(2) Liquid dispersal in the same manner as for chemical
agents could result in a contaminated area of several square
miles, with hazard dropping off rapidly with distance from
(3) Less energetic pellet/chunk dispersion for longer
range warhead, would most likely result in a contaminated area
about 900 feet in diameter. Some larger pieces could be thrown
several thousand feet.
(4) Ground burst would produce contamination over several
hundred meter radius, although some larger pieces may be thrown
several thousand feet.
3. EXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS:
a. In no case is an RDD expected to be militarily
significant. U.S. forces in the theater have equipment and
training for operations in a nuclear environment, an environment
that an RDD does not even approach. U.S. NBC protective clothing
cannot prevent soldiers from receiving radiation doses in a
contaminated environment, but does shield against some radiation
prevents direct skin and lung contact. This, coupled with proper
radiation monitoring and exposure time limitations, provides
excellent practical protection.
b. Without a detailed knowledge of the Iraqi radioisotope
inventory, the degree of possible contamination is impossible to
predict. Any dispersal pattern will produce small areas of
relatively high contamination, and large areas much less so. In
no circumstance is an RDD expected to produce an area of immediate
lethality hazard. Washdown and scrapedown of contaminated
surfaces is very effective in dose reduction. Proper monitoring
and detection is important to preclude long term exposure in high
activity areas. Residual low activity may result in exposure in
excess of the guidelines for long term (months or years) civilian
residence in contaminated areas.
PREPARED BY: [ (b)(2) ][ (b)(6) ] APPROVED BY:
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