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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Uranium EnrichmentEMIS

ISG judges that the Iraqi Regime did not attempt to reconstitute the EMIS program after 1991, although many of the former EMIS engineers and scientists still worked for either the IAEC or MIC in roles that could preserve their technical skills. These technical skills, if maintained, would have helped build the foundation for a future nuclear weapons program and would have allowed scientists to reenter a nuclear program further up the learning curve. 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. There are no indications that the Iraqi Regime attempted to preserve the EMIS technology either through former EMIS scientists and researchers or by retaining technical documents and historical files on the former EMIS program, although one scientist associated with this pre-1991 program appears to have unilaterally kept relevant records and some parts that would have been useful to restarting such an effort.

Electromagnetic Isotope Separation (EMIS)

The electromagnetic isotope separation process (EMIS) was the primary technology used by the Iraqis for uranium enrichment in their pre-1991 nuclear program. This process was chosen because of the availability of this technology in open literature and the technical capabilities of the Iraqis. In EMIS, a source containing solid uranium tetrachloride (UCl4) is electrically heated to produce U+ ions. The ions are accelerated by an electrical potential to high speed. These charged particles follow a circular trajectory in a magnetic field as shown in Figure 18. The diameter of the circle depends upon the strength of the magnetic field, the velocity of the ion, and the mass of the ion. The ions accumulate after passing through slit apertures at the collector.

An EMIS system includes the following processes:

  • Isotope separation—electromagnetic equipment used to separate the uranium isotopes (see Figure 19).
  • Chemical recovery—chemical processes used to remove uranium from separator collectors (see Figure 20 for type of collector used in Iraqi program).
  • Uranium conversion—used to convert the uranium removed from the separator collectors to a form that is usable either in further enrichment equipment or other downstream processes.

A flow diagram of the pre-1991 Iraqi EMIS process, shown in Figure 21, demonstrates the various steps. Iraq conducted its research and development into the EMIS process at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center and was outfitting a production-scale uranium enrichment facility at Tarmiya, a duplicate site under development at Ash Sharqat, and a feed material production plant near Mosul called Al-Jazira.

A schematic of the Iraqi EMIS separators setup is shown in Figure 22.


The pre-1991 EMIS project consisted of three primary production sites. These sites included the Al Safa’a EMIS Plant uranium enrichment facility at Tarmiya (isotope separation and uranium recovery), the Al Fajr EMIS Plant uranium enrichment facility at Ash Sharqat (isotope separation and uranium recovery), and the Al-Jazira feed material production plant near Mosul. Ash-Sharqat was being built as a backup facility to Tarmiya. Also, several sites were utilized for fabrication of equipment needed for EMIS, including the Zaafaraniya Mechanical Workshop, the Zaafaraniya Power Supply Production Facility, and Al-Radwan (Batra Military Production Feed Plant).

Al Safa’a EMIS Plant at Tarmiya

The Al Safa’a EMIS Plant uranium enrichment facility at Tarmiya was designed to produce enriched uranium for the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, using the EMIS process. It was externally complete by January 1991 but was not fully operational. The plant had two types of EMIS buildings: alpha units (R120s) for primary uranium enrichment and beta units (R60s) for enriching material produced by the alpha units to weapons-grade.

In 1991, the Al Safa’a EMIS Plant uranium enrichment facility at Tarmiya was in the process of bringing online R-120 separation units, with eight units completed and functioning. An Iraqi mechanical engineer, working at the site, estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the equipment in the building was destroyed by the 1991 Gulf war. IAEA inspectors also supervised the destruction of EMIS equipment beginning in mid-1991.

The EMIS facilities occupied most of the central portion of the Tarmiya site. The shell of the large alpha-enrichment building is located near the northern entrance of the facility (see Figure 23). The damaged shell of the smaller beta enrichment building is in the south-central portion of the facility.

Most of the major buildings at Tarmiya were extensively damaged by coalition air strikes during Desert Storm. In late 1992, it was rendered inoperable under the UN-mandated destruction. Since 1991, the plant engaged ostensibly in chemical pilot plant construction, design, and low-volume production of a number of specialty chemicals for Iraq’s weapons programs (see Figure 24).

In late October 2003, a senior Iraqi researcher at Ibn Sina stated to an ISG team that, from 1993 to 1994, he had created a small processing line consisting of 15 mixer-settlers in which he produced “very pure” phosphoric acid. After 1995, he claimed to have designed a second phosphoric acid purification line using packed columns instead of mixer/settlers (see Figure 25). According to the researcher, the purification line was dismantled in 1997, and the equipment (the mixer-settlers) was placed in storage (see Figure 26). The researcher claimed that any extracted uranium was treated as an impurity and disposed of as part of the waste generated by the processes.

There were no indications of any renewed uranium enrichment operations at Tarmiya. ISG did learn, however, of a phosphoric acid purification study conducted in the mid-1990s at the site that recovered what Iraqi staff described as an “insignificant” amount of uranium that was diluted and discharged downstream as waste.

Al Fajr EMIS Plant at Ash Sharqat

The Al Fajr EMIS Plant uranium enrichment facility at Ash Sharqat was constructed to be a replica of the Tarmiya site. The Iraqi’s decided late in 1987 to execute this project to serve two purposes: 1) to replace Tarmiya if the latter is rendered completely nonoperative for whatever reason, or 2) to serve as a backup to enhance production when required. The Al Fajr EMIS Plant main production buildings were destroyed during Desert Storm and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 687 in 1991. According to Iraq’s declarations, initial installation of EMIS separators at Ash Sharqat was to begin only after Tarmiya separators had been installed. The site has not been rebuilt as of March 2003.

Al-Jazira (Mosul Feed Materials Production Facility)

Al-Jazira (a.k.a. Mosul Feed Materials Production Facility) was established to produce nuclear feed materials for the EMIS program, namely UO2 and UCl4. The facility was built in the 1980s and put into operation in 1989.

In 1992, the MIC took control of this facility, and it was subordinated to the General Establishment for Extraction Operations. The primary purpose for this facility was to extract raw iron from the iron-rich ores around the area of Mosul. We know from IAEA inspections that the facility had also been converted since 1991 to make pigments for paint. In October 1996, control of the plant was transferred from the State Establishment for Extraction and Mining Operations (SEEMO) to Al-Kindi State Establishment in Mosul. In 1997, the name of this facility was changed to the Center for Extraction. The purpose of the facility continued to be the extraction of iron oxide from scrap metal. Additionally, the facility engaged in the research for the production of hydrochloric acid. In 2003, this facility was renamed the Al-Ramia Factory.

As of late April 2003, the facility included buildings associated with administration, electricity generation, ammonia production, hydrochloric acid production, waste storage, and chemical laboratories. Extensive looting had occurred throughout the buildings and some structural components (such as piping) had been ripped out. Although portions of this site remained active, ISG has not uncovered any evidence that this site has been used for any fissile material processing since 1991.

Al-Zawra State Company

The Zaafaraniyah Power Supply Production Facility (also known in 1991 as Al-Dijjla and renamed Zawra Electronics Plant in 1992) was designed to produce electronic components for the Iraqi uranium enrichment program using the EMIS method. The factory became operational by June 1988. The facility was capable of manufacturing electronic switch gear and high-voltage power supplies for EMIS.

The Zawra facility was inspected by ISG in August 2003. It had been severely damaged by vandals and looters. Several industrial machines were found on site and there was a warehouse for parts. Most of the warehouses and machine shops were empty at the plant. The Zawra site does employ civilian workers and is trying to become productive again.

Al-Nida State Company (Zaafaraniya Mechanical Workshop Al-Rabiyah)

The Al-Nida State Company (Zaafaraniyah Mechanical Workshop Al-Rabiyah), also known in 1991 as Zaafaraniyah Nuclear Fabrication Facility Al-Rabiyah, produced vacuum chambers and components for Iraq’s EMIS program. The facility was capable of manufacturing major metal components for the EMIS process. The status of the facility as of March 2003 is shown in Figure 27.

An ISG team visited the Al-Nida State Company site in late August, 2003 and found that the entire plant had been systematically looted of all equipment, computers, and documents.

Al-Radwan (Batra Military Production Facility)

The Al-Radwan (Batra Military Production Facility) produced components for Iraq’s EMIS program. This facility was not damaged during Operation Iraqi Freedom; however, since early summer of 2003, the installation was subjected to massive looting, which destroyed or damaged the critical elements needed to restart production operations. At least 60 percent of the fabrication and production buildings had their roof material stripped and their internal components removed. The remaining buildings were lightly to moderately damaged during the looting.

Al-Nassr Al-Adhim State Company

Al-Nassr Al-Adhim State Company, known prior to 1997 as the State Enterprise for Heavy Engineering Equipment (SEHEE) and also known as Daura, is a large heavy equipment fabrication and metallurgical facility that was used to produce vacuum chambers for the pre-1991 600-mm and 1,200-mm separators. This facility was not damaged during Operation Iraqi Freedom. ISG exploitation teams visited the site in January 2004 and observed process equipment (tanks, piping, industrial materials, and chemicals) stored at the site but did not uncover any evidence of activities associated with a uranium enrichment program.

Disposition of EMIS-Related Equipment

Equipment and components from Iraq’s pre-1991 EMIS enrichment program remained in Iraq after 1991. ISG has not discovered any effort by the Iraqi Regime to use these items to reconstitute an EMIS enrichment program. The pre-1991 EMIS project required several types of components and equipment, such as power supplies, ion sources, control systems, magnet field coils, magnets, magnet poles, return iron, ovens (for vaporizing the UCl4), vacuum systems (pumps, liners, vacuum chambers, piping), and material collector assemblies. In the early 1990s, IAEA inspectors collected and either destroyed or had the equipment transferred from the various EMIS facilities (i.e., Tuwaitha, Tarmiya, Ash Sharqat, Al-Jazira) to Ash Shaykhili and Al-Nafad (open area adjacent to Ash Shaykili) for storage. In early 2000, the Iraqis transferred some of the EMIS components (ring-shaped coils; no disks) stored at Ash Shaykhili to the Al Shaheed State Company, a brass and copper products company. Most likely, this transfer was accomplished to salvage copper from the EMIS coils for other industrial needs. ISG found an Iraqi video that showed scrap material identified as copper and coils at Al-Shaheed State Company in April 2002 being collected and disposed of in a smelter.


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