Iraq Survey Group Final Report
Results of ISG’s Investigation on Nuclear Issues
Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991.
ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era.
- In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Iraq had an aggressive program to acquire uranium. Iraq’s known inventory of safeguarded uranium has been accounted for by the IAEA and Coalition in June 2004. These issues are described in detail in the uranium pursuits section of this paper.
Iraq did not reconstitute its indigenous ability to produce yellowcake. As a result of Desert Storm and IAEA inspection efforts, Iraq’s indigenous yellowcake production capability appears to have been eliminated. Bomb damage in 1991 destroyed the uranium extraction facility at the Al Qaim Superphosphate Fertilizer Plant. During the years of intrusive inspections, the IAEA also closed and sealed the Abu Skhair mine to curtail Iraq’s secondary pilot plant production capability for acquiring uranium.
- ISG also investigated the former nuclear facility at Tarmiya but found no indicators that the processes being developed there had produced more than a few kilograms of uranium-bearing wastes as a byproduct of phosphoric acid purification.
- These issues also are further described in the uranium pursuits section of this paper.
Post-1991, Iraq had neither rebuilt any capability to convert uranium ore into a form suitable for enrichment nor reestablished other chemical processes related to handling fissile material for a weapons program. Prior to the 1991 war, Iraq had established uranium conversion and feed material capabilities at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center—Baghdad’s premier nuclear center—as well as a feed material plant near Mosul called Al-Jazira. Iraq also was establishing chemical processes at Tarmiya, and Al-Sharqat—its two primary sites for uranium enrichment using the electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) technique. Baghdad also planned to produce feed materials for its centrifuge program at its main centrifuge research site Rashidiyah and planned a pilot plant at Al Furat. Uranium metal production planned for the pre-1991 program was planned for the Al-Athir nuclear weapons assembly facility. These issues are described in the EMIS and uranium conversion sections of this paper.
Available evidence leads ISG to judge that Iraq’s development of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment essentially ended in 1991. Prior to 1991, gas centrifuge technology was one of the primary methods being pursued for uranium enrichment, with emphasis being placed on carbon-fiber composite centrifuge rotors.
According to Iraq’s disclosures to IAEA, ISG interviews and documentary evidence, Iraq’s centrifuge program by June 1990 had built—with foreign assistance—two magnetic-bearing centrifuges, one of which was tested with uranium hexafluoride (UF6) feed. Two oil-bearing centrifuges had also been built by the Iraqis as of June 1989.
- ISG believes a reconstituted program for the purpose of producing material for nuclear weapons would have required redevelopment and testing of centrifuge manufacturing technology, the manufacture of thousands of machines required for a production plant, effort to gain experience in enrichment operations, and production of metric-ton quantities of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) feed. However, the initial research and development stages might use only a single centrifuge.
- Former Presidential Scientific Advisor Amir Hamudi Hasan al-Sadi stated that he neither received nor issued orders to resume any centrifuge-related work and could not have done so because the war had destroyed the equipment and facilities.
- The head of design implementation in the former centrifuge program, Faris ‘Abd Al ‘Aziz Al Samarra’i, did not believe that there was a reconstituted nuclear weapons program in Iraq after 1991. He stated that he did not believe that the universities had the resources or ability to undertake weapon-related research. Since 1992, Dr. Faris had worked for MIC, in Studies and Planning, and as Director General of the Al-Shaheen Company since 1996 and of the al Samud State Company since 2002.
- Jamal Ja’far, the designer of the pre-1991 magnetic centrifuge program, stated in an interview that he also did not believe that it was possible, given the conditions in Iraq in 2002, to reconstitute such a complicated and serious effort.
- Additional details on ISG’s investigation into centrifuge-related issues can be found in sections dealing with aluminum tubes, carbon fiber, flow forming, magnet production, potential centrifuge-related facilities, and rotating machinery.
ISG also judges that Iraq continued work on none of the many other uranium enrichment programs explored or developed prior to 1991, such as EMIS or lasers. However, many of the former EMIS engineers and scientists continued to work for either the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) or the Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) in roles that could preserve their technical skills.
Since Operation Iraqi Freedom, significant looting and damage have occurred at most of the dual-use manufacturing facilities that supported the pre-1991 EMIS program. ISG has not been able to confirm that the Iraqi Regime attempted to preserve the EMIS technology, although one scientist with this pre-1991 program kept documents and components that would have been useful to restarting such an effort.
Additional details can be found in the EMIS and Laser Research sections of this report.
It does not appear that Iraq took steps to advance its pre-1991 work in nuclear weapons design and development. ISG has not identified a materials research and fissile component manufacturing capability that would be required to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program. Working with molten highly enriched uranium requires special consideration for criticality during the melting and solidification process. ISG found no evidence that Iraq had acquired or developed the technology dealing with casting and machining issues of highly enriched uranium.
While ISG has not identified any explosive lens development effort in Iraq that was associated with a renewed nuclear weapons program, we do believe that the Al Quds Company—a MIC establishment created in 2002—had a technical department, which built a facility capable of conducting research. Such a facility appears well suited for types of explosives research that could be applicable to conventional military and nuclear weapons research.
ISG obtained evidence from recovered documents and from debriefings of Iraqi scientists that Iraq utilized high-speed switches—like those of potential interest for nuclear weapons development—in support of rail-gun projects that we believe were intended for air defense. ISG has found no links between Iraq’s interest in special high-speed switches after 1991 and a nuclear weapons program.
ISG also was not able uncover indications that Iraq had resumed any work related to neutron initiators/generators for a renewed weapons program. The only neutron generation capability found by ISG pertained to known non-weapons-related research under way at the IAEC at Tuwaitha.
- These activities are described in further detail in Potential Weapons Development Issues, IAEC Modernization, and Rail Gun portions of this report.
ISG has uncovered two instances in which scientists linked to Iraq’s pre-1991 uranium enrichment programs kept documentation and technology in anticipation of renewing these efforts—actions that they contend were officially sanctioned.
- A former engineer in the pre-1991 EMIS program claimed he was told by the head of MIC in 1997 to continue his work with ion implantation at his Al Tahaddi lab as a way to preserve EMIS technology.
- The former head of Iraq’s pre-1991 centrifuge program also retained prohibited documents and components in apparent violation of the Regime’s directives. Though this activity was isolated, it also had the potential to contribute to a possible restart of Iraq’s uranium enrichment programs.
- Additional details on the disclosures of these two former enrichment officials can be found in the section of the report concerning Hidden Enrichment Technology.
Furthermore, although all of the officials interviewed by ISG indicated Iraq had ended its pursuit of nuclear weapons in 1991, some suggested Saddam remained interested in reconstitution of the nuclear program after sanctions were lifted. Specific details concerning Saddam’s continued intent to develop weapons of mass destruction can be found in the section of this report concerning Regime Strategic Intent.
Consistent with Saddam’s nuclear ambitions, starting around 1992, Iraq directed scientific expertise to several Iraqi establishments. This action would be consistent with either preserving knowledge for the eventual reestablishment of the nuclear weapon program or with simply utilizing Iraq’s technical expertise in areas where it was most needed. In either case, some of the work performed by these former PC-3 scientists inherently preserved some capabilities that would be needed for a reconstituted nuclear weapon program. Details on these activities can be found in the sections of the report concerning IAEC Modernization, University Programs, and Migration of PC-3 Capabilities.
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