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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Issues Related to Nuclear Weapons Design and Development

ISG judges that Iraq has not worked on nuclear weapons design since 1991. ISG investigated Iraq’s nuclear weapon design and component manufacture capabilities through interviews with scientists and other government employees, site visits of historically-associated Iraq nuclear weapon facilities, and exploitation of captured documents.

Casting Technology

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 of dealing with casting and machining issues of highly enriched uranium.

  • Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear programs experimented with crucibles and with vacuum induction furnaces, both imported and indigenously constructed, to varying degrees of success, to produce components in molds. Several types of crucibles and crucible materials were used in casting experiments with metallic uranium.
  • An Iraqi scientist provided information to ISG that is consistent with other sources that Iraqi nuclear program work at Al Atheer was just getting started in January 1991 and that uranium metal casting work was accomplished within the limitations of the equipment at hand. Iraqi scientists encountered difficulties in use of vacuum casting furnaces to melt uranium metals prior to pouring into molds and with the molds. According to inspections, several small spherical and cylindrical pieces were produced, but of relatively poor quality as pertaining to void and impurity inclusions.
  • According to Iraq’s CAFCD addendum in 2002, a new Ceramics and Alloys Section had been formed under the IAEC Physics and Materials Directorate in 2000 to investigate ceramic coating of metals. ISG was unable to determine if the investigations were directed toward solving pre-1991 problems that Iraqis encountered in pouring of uranium metal into molds during the casting process.
  • An ISG inspection team visited the South Taji industrial complex and searched for evidence of uranium metal production capabilities and nuclear-weapon-related component production. As a result of building damage, looting, and prior removal of equipment, ISG was not able to accurately assess the prewar functions of the facility.
  • An ISG inspection team visited the south Taji industrial complex and searched for evidence of uranium metal production capabilities and nuclear-weapon-related component production. As a result of building damage, looting, and prior removal of equipment, ISG was not able to accurately assess the prewar functions of the facility.

Explosive and Lens Fabrication Capabilities

ISG has not identified any explosive lens development effort in Iraq that was associated with a renewed nuclear weapons program. ISG has found, however, that the Al Quds Company—a new MIC establishment created in 2002—had a technical department, which built an explosive test facility capable of conducting research. Such a facility appears well suited for types of explosive research that could be applicable to conventional military and nuclear weapons research.

  • According to a captured letter, the General Manager of the IAEC Technical Research Branch sent a three-person group to the new Al Quds Company to “conduct tests and checks” in December 2002.

Iraq has maintained explosive development activities supporting conventional military weapons systems. This could be considered a dual-use activity, and although not as exacting in tolerance requirements, the technology could be reapplied to explosive lenses for nuclear applications.

  • ISG has not resolved the issue of missing explosive lens mold drawings of concern to IAEA inspections in March, 2003. A letter from Maj. Gen. Eng. Hussam M. Amin, Director General, National Monitoring Directorate, from February 2003, and acquired by ISG, indicated continued concern with missing explosive lens mold drawings that supposedly contained critical information.

High-Speed Switches

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 its rail gun projects. ISG has found no direct evidence that the interest in special high-speed switches after 1991 was in support of a nuclear weapons program.

  • In July 2003, ISG obtained information that in 2002 a graduate student at the Mustanseriya University was working on an electrothermal accelerator using the rail gun under development at al Tahadi. This igniter could be considered a type of specialized, high-speed switch.
  • Iraqi documentation recovered by coalition forces describes prototype testing of a gas switch with breakdown times that are likely less than one microsecond. The gas switch experiments proceeded within the rail-gun project. An ISG subject matter expert determined that the described switch was probably in violation of the Annex 3 guidelines of prohibited items.

ISG has found other indirect and fragmentary evidence of interest in specialized switches. However, ISG has not found this information to be connected to research into nuclear weapons.

  • The Military Industrial Commission in 2000-2001 was interested in electromagnetic pulse generation that was described as a box containing a laser-controlled thyristor, a type of specialized switch.
  • A CD-ROM recovered in 2003 from the Religious University in Baghdad contained files regarding spark-gap switches and electrothermal accelerators.

Fireset Development and Testing

ISG obtained limited corroboration of previously reported, pre-1991 fireset development status.No new information regarding fireset development was found. ISG found no evidence that Iraq continued fireset development or testing after 1991.

  • An Iraqi scientist reported to ISG that development of one complete 32-point fireset directly applicable to nuclear weapon detonation initiation was completed prior to February 1990. A second fireset was being assembled and environmentally hardened in 1990 but was never completed. Work on both firesets was ceased in April 1991, and the firesets were evacuated to a safehouse and later returned to Al Atheer. One fireset was reported to be exhumed from rubble at Al Atheer in 1996 or 1997 and was turned over to inspectors. ISG confirmed that this information is consistent with that previously reported by Iraq. ISG has not been able to independently confirm the disposition of the second fireset reported to have been assembled in the pre-1991 nuclear program.

Neutron Generators

ISG was not able to find 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 a previously known capability used for non-weapons-related research under way at the IAEC at Tuwaitha. This project is described in more detail in the IAEC Issues portion of this report.

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