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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Nuclear capabilities of Iraq

A Chronology of Events

April 3, 1991 Resolution 687 was adopted setting out terms for a formal cease-fire in the Gulf conflict, including provisions calling on Iraq "unconditionally not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material or any subsystems, components or any research, development, support or manufacturing facilities." Iraq was to declare all locations, amounts and types of such items; place all nuclear-weapons-usable materials under the "exclusive control" of the IAEA for custody and subsequent removal; and accept "urgent on-site inspection" and "destruction, removal, or rendering harmless" of all such items. The IAEA, assisted by the Special Commission on Iraq set up under the resolution, was to carry out inspections of the nuclear facilities listed in Iraq's declarations, as well as additional locations designated by the Special Commission.
April 18 Iraq submitted its first declaration and denied having undeclared nuclear-weapons-usable material.
April 27 Following pressure from the IAEA, Iraq submitted a second declaration and admits for the first time to having some nuclear material and facilities in addition to those known to the Agency.
May 14-22 The first IAEA inspection covered the main Iraqi nuclear research facility at Al Tuwaitha and one additional site in the Baghdad area which had been designated by the Special Commission. The principal purpose of this inspection was to verify the quantities and conditions of nuclear materials existing at the Al Tuwaitha site as declared by Iraq in its letter of 27 April. At Al Tuwaitha, the IAEA took custody, as required by Resolution 687, from Iraq of nuclear-weapons-usable material (the fuel for their former research reactors) and applied Agency verification, containment and surveillance measures.
June 22-July 3 During the second IAEA inspection, Iraqi military authorities denied or restricted access to an IAEA inspection team at various sites designated for inspection by the Special Commission of the UN Security Council pursuant to Part C of UN Security Council Resolution 687. After protests, full access was granted on Wednesday, 26 June 1991, at which time activities which had been observed from a distance during the first visit had ceased and objects that had been seen had been removed.
July 4 A high-level mission including IAEA Director General Dr. Hans Blix, Mr. Rolf Ekeus, Chairman of the UN Special Commission and Mr. Yasushi Akashi, UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs arrived in Baghdad. The mission was to discuss with senior officials of the Iraqi government the visit by the inspection team to different locations near Baghdad which encountered refusal of access to designated sites and witnessed removal by Iraqi personnel of equipment and materials from such locations to unknown sites. The mission requested the Iraqi authorities to provide to the IAEA inspection team prompt and unimpeded access to any location and to present for inspection equipment and materials removed from two military sites near Baghdad.
July 7-18 Third IAEA inspection of Iraqi facilities
July 7 Iraq submitted its third declaration on its nuclear programme in a letter to the Security Council stating that Iraq had complied with its obligations under the NPT and IAEA Safeguards agreement. The letter disclosed three methods of uranium enrichment - centrifuge, chemical, electromagnetic.
July 10 Pursuant to findings of inspection teams, high-level mission talks in Baghdad and contacts were undertaken by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Government of Iraq disclosed to the Secretary-General and to the IAEA details of an extensive nuclear programme, an important part of which had not been declared earlier. A detailed list of nuclear material and equipment was provided by Iraq. An initial examination by the IAEA indicated the existence of three parallel programmes for uranium enrichment and related equipment and facilities. According to the list provided by Iraq, half a kilogram of slightly enriched material had been produced during testing. The next IAEA inspection team sent to Iraq began to inspect sites and items on the list.

IAEA requested assistance from Member States known to possess appropriate facilities to recover the nuclear fuel elements in Iraq. A positive joint response to this request came from the French and British nuclear industries. The IAEA nuclear inspection team included French and British experts who assessed the various practical questions relating to such a recovery and removal operation. It wet agreed that a commercial contract would be drawn up for this purpose purpose and that it would be signed upon availability of the necessary funds. It was further agreed that the recovered materials would be subject to IAEA safeguards in accordance with the provisions of the agreements concluded by the UK and France with the IAEA and Euratom.

July 14 Iraq submitted additional clarification of its third declaration and provided list of manufacturing facilities related to its nuclear programme.
July 18 The IAEA Board of Governors formally declared that Iraq had violated its safeguards agreement with the IAEA by not submitting nuclear material and relevant facilities in its uranium enrichment programme to the Agency's inspection.

The third inspection team concluded its work. The mission inspected and placed under Agency seals a considerable amount of nuclear material and a number of equipment items related to the Iraq uranium enrichment programme. While the team was able to obtain substantial information regarding this extensive programme, much work and analysis nevertheless remained before any conclusion could be made as to the full extent, scope and capabilities of the Iraq programme and as to the completeness of the Iraqi declarations. New information was made available by Iraq to the inspection team as late as its last inspection day in Iraq on 18 July.

July 27- Aug. 10 The fourth IAEA inspection was conducted. The inspection team reported that it had inspected nuclear material and facilities which formed part of the enrichment programme which was declared by Iraq on 7 July. It received supplementary information and explanations regarding this programme. Nevertheless, the team felt that there may be more that should be declared and that it was premature to draw conclusions as to the full extent of the Iraqi programme. Further sites to be inspected had been identified by the Special Commission as well as a number of follow-up actions to be performed during subsequent inspection missions. In particular, the extent of the programme in the area of centrifuge enrichment needed to be clarified. It also needed be investigated whether more locations existed where sensitive equipment or material might be installed, used or stored. In addition, industrial and technological infrastructure which was built in connection with the nuclear programme had to be assessed.
July 28 Iraq submitted additional list of nuclear material.
August 6 Additional information given by Iraq to the fourth IAEA inspection team in Baghdad, concerned details of experimental activities that involved the fabrication of natural uranium oxide fuel, its irradiation in one of Iraq's research reactors (IRT-5000) at Al Tuwaitha, and, thereafter, the separation of minute quantities (3 grams) of plutonium. The ability to separate small quantities of plutonium from irradiated fuel had already been admitted to the IAEA by Iraq and reported in a first inspection report of 4 June 1991 in which separation of 2.26 grams of plutonium was noted.

Although these activities were on a very limited scale and the reactor used would only have been capable of producing insignificant quantities of plutonium, the interest of Iraq in the separation of plutonium was noteworthy. The failure to declare them to the IAEA in timely fashion under Iraq's safeguards agreement constituted clear non-compliance with that agreement.

August 15 UNSC Resolution 707 adopted obliging Iraq to "halt all nuclear activities of any kind, except for use of isotopes for medical, agricultural, or industrial purposes."
Sept.14-20 Fifth IAEA inspection of Iraqi facilities with an emphasis on verification of nuclear material and removal of the produced plutonium and investigation of laboratory enrichment of uranium by chemical means.
Sept.23-30 The sixth inspection was carried out at a facility in the Baghdad area which contained extensive documentation of the Iraqi nuclear programme. This documentation was of two types:

  • the first related broadly to the Iraqi nuclear programme in all of its aspects, and

  • the second specifically related to fissile material production and Iraq's hitherto undisclosed nuclear weapons development.

The Iraqi authorities objected to the loading of the documents onto UN vehicles. Once loaded, the vehicles were thereafter refused exit from the premises. The documents were subsequently forcibly removed from the vehicles.

This action by Iraq contravened Security Council resolutions 687 and 707 and the agreement between the Secretary-General of the United Nations with the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs in accordance with which the Agency has the right "to request, receive, examine and copy any record, data or information or examine, move or photograph, including videotape" any item relevant to the activities of the IAEA in Iraq.

The Director General of the IAEA, Dr. Hans Blix lodged a verbal protest with the Iraqi Ambassador in Vienna. A formal written protest was sent to the Iraqi Foreign Minister in Baghdad.

September 24 At 06:00 hours Baghdad time, the sixth inspection team began an inspection of a building in Baghdad where administrative records of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission were stored. The inspection proceeded without incident until approximately 11:00 Baghdad time, when Iraqi authorities prevented the team, over strong protest of the chief inspector, from copying documents which the team was reviewing. Iraqi security surrounded the premises and the inspection was terminated. The team left the building with the copies they had been able to make, and entered the UN vehicle awaiting them. The inspection team was told by the Iraqi authorities that they would be detained until they underwent personal search and surrendered all photographs, films and videotapes and all copies of Iraqi documents.

The IAEA Director General notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations and requested that the matter be brought to the urgent attention of the Security Council.

The Director General once again, lodged a verbal protest with the Iraqi Ambassador in Vienna. The Director General also sent again formal protest to the Iraqi Foreign Minister in Baghdad, insisting that measures be taken immediately to secure the unconditional and immediate exit of the inspectors from the premises.

September 27 At 23.00 hours Vienna time, Iraqi authorities in Baghdad notified the IAEA inspection team that they agreed to the terms of the United Nations Security Council on the team's release.

A compilation of an inventory of the documents obtained and reviewed by the inspectors took a matter of hours and the IAEA inspection team was thereafter released from the site and allowed to take all materials with them. The team remained in Iraq to continue inspection activities as planned, having been detained by Iraqi authorities in Baghdad for four days. The team conducted inspections at six sites during its mission and uncovered important information about previously undisclosed activities related to the development of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme.

October 4 Dr. Blix reported that the sixth IAEA inspection team had obtained conclusive documentary evidence that the Government of Iraq had a programme for developing nuclear weapons.

The IAEA inspection team obtained this information from classified Iraqi papers, some of which had already been translated and analysed. These documents revealed that Iraq's nuclear weapons programme was supported by a broad-based international procurement effort.

October 11 UNSC Resolution 715 adopted, approving IAEA plan for on-going monitoring of Iraq's compliance with resolutions 687 and 707.
Oct. 11-21 Seventh IAEA inspection of Iraqi facilities and the start of destruction of enrichment and reprocessing-related equipment.
October 14 Iraq acknowledged that research and studies had been underway in nuclear weaponization.
October 21 Iraq admitted that the Al Atheer site was built to serve the weaponization programme in addition to its use as a material production site.

Speaking before the 46th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Director General Blix said, "Effective verification of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is becoming increasingly important for regional and global confidence and for nuclear disarmament." In any new international order, he said, a much strengthened IAEA' safeguards system is required to give assurance that non-proliferation pledges are respected. In a world moving toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, a verification system "with more teeth" would have a deterrent effect on potential violators, he said.

There are several lessons to be learned from recent IAEA inspections in Iraq, he said, including the crucial importance of intelligence information. The safeguards system is expected to discover diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in installations under safeguards, but no inspectorate can comb through the territory of a State in search of undeclared nuclear installations and material that should have been placed under safeguards, he explained. If a State fails to declare nuclear installations - as Iraq did - the inspectorate must learn through other sources where to look. Other lessons, he said, include the importance of an "unequivocal right" of inspectors to go anywhere unimpeded and the value of "powerful support," such as that provided by the Security Council in the case of Iraq, should this right of access not be respected.

Nov. 11-18 The eighth IAEA inspection determined that the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission had, in support of its uranium enrichment and planned weaponization efforts, established a large, secure and highly successful procurement network.

Among procurement strategies employed were the use of other Iraqi establishments as buyers and contractors; the placing of orders for equipment directly with manufacturers or indirectly through foreign intermediaries; and the use of indigenous capabilities to complete the manufacture of some items.

Iraqi authorities went to great lengths to prevent the discovery of procurement data. Most procurement related information had been removed and presumably destroyed, the IAEA eighth inspection team reported. Even so, examination of data collected by the inspection teams firmly identified the manufacturers of most equipment used or intended for use in Iraqi efforts to establish a centrifuge production and operation capability.

While much of the equipment was multi-purpose in the sense of being useful in a number of manufacturing processes, the presence of application-specific fixtures removed most doubt as to the intended use. Identification of the manufacturer of a piece of equipment does not necessarily mean that the manufacturer produced the application specific fixtures or that it supplied any of the equipment directly to Iraq (intermediaries were often used). Some of the more important items included:

  • A flow forming machine with application specific mandrel, expanding mandrel and rollers

  • An electron beam welder with a special fixture for holding the rotor tube during welding

  • Three large computer numerical controlled machines, two with application-specific fixtures

  • A large oxidation furnace with special temperature control features

  • High frequency converters capable of operating a large number of centrifuges

  • Horizontal and vertical balancing machines

  • Hand operated, pneumatic and electrically controlled bellows valves

  • Quantities of Krytox, a nuclear grade fluorinated vacuum pump oil.

Other application-specific equipment discovered at Al Atheer, the site planned for weaponization work, included large isostatic press and very high temperature furnaces. Two high-speed video cameras, with speed and resolution suitable for weapons development, were removed from Iraq by the eighth inspection team. These cameras were located at the Technical University of Baghdad at the time of their removal.

Additional procurement-related data are in the possession of the IAEA but are treated as confidential at present so as not to compromise ongoing investigation

November 15 The first removal of highly enriched uranium from Iraq in compliance with resolution 687 took place. A UN cargo flight loaded with 42 fresh fuel elements from the IRT-5000 research reactor a Al Tuwaitha, containing a total of 6.6 kilograms of uranium-235. Baghdad for Moscow. An IAEA team supervised the shipment.

The airlift of the remaining quantities of non-irradiated highly enriched uranium was completed 17 November 1991. These materials had been under IAEA safeguards from the time they were imported by Iraq. The operation was arranged through a contract between the Ministry of Atomic Power and Industry of the former USSR and the IAEA. The highly enriched uranium will be processed at a facility in the former USSR and placed under IAEA custody after isotopic dilution.

January 12-15 1992 The ninth inspection team visited Iraq. The main objective was to verify recent information received from Governments of Member States concerning Iraqi procurement of large quantities of raw materials and components required for the manufacture of centrifuges to produce enriched uranium.

The main items discussed with the Iraqi authorities were:

  • special aluminium alloy extrusions for the manufacture of centrifuge vacuum housings;

  • ferrite magnets and other components used in the stator of centrifuge motors; and

  • special equipment needed to fix the stator components in place

The Iraqi authorities acknowledged the procurement of these materials and, in addition, stated that they had obtained:

  • 100 tons of special high strength steel (maraging steel) for centrifuge rotors and rotor fittings; and

  • several thousand aluminum forgings for vacuum housing flanges.

They also stated that the above raw materials and components had been destroyed or "rendered harmless" by melting or crushing before the Agency's inspections began last year. The quantities involved would have sufficed for the manufacture of several thousand centrifuges.

The team was shown the melted maraging steel stockpile and powder resulting from the crushing of the ferrite magnets at a site south of Baghdad. Samples were taken for verification purposes. A rough estimate made on-site was consistent with the quantities procured. Full verification must await the results of sample analyses. Verification of the remaining material will be carried out on a future inspection visit.

The results of the inspection removed a number of inconsistencies remaining from previous inspections. In the opinion of the experts who took part in the inspection, the Iraqi's centrifuge enrichment programme had not progressed to a point where they could have started a sizeable production of centrifuges, although given time, they would have been successful.

The programme had developed to a point, however, where the material necessary for certain key components had been identified. This enabled the procurement of materials as opportunities became available even though the centrifuge design had not been completely finalized nor the manufacturing process fully implemented. The operation of a production scale uranium-enrichment centrifuge cascade, given the state of Iraqi centrifuge technology when work stopped, would have required the foreign procurement of large numbers of finished components. Inspections found no evidence of this.

February 5-13 The tenth IAEA inspection focused on a number of sites identified by the UN Special Commission on Iraq based on information provide by Member States. Most of the sites examined were located in northern Iraq near the city of Mosul, close to the site of Al Jrezira, where Iraq had built facilities to produce uranium oxide and uranium tetrachloride feedstocks and which was planned to be the site of future production facility for uranium hexafluoride. Undeclared nuclear facilities were not identified. Information supplied to the team indicated that a particular site might be a heavy water production facility, but no evidence was found of the existence of such a plant.
April 7-15 The eleventh IAEA inspection focused on the destruction of key technical installations comprised of buildings and equipment at the Al Atheer/Al Hateen site. Eight buildings covering a surface of approximately 35,000 square meters of buildings and 29 equipment items were designated for destruction. The eleventh inspection team completed the destruction of approximately 24,000 square meters of buildings and most of the equipment. The team also transfered irradiated fuel into new storage tanks located above ground to avoid deterioration from ground water.
Spring 1992 Inspections continue.

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