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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Survey of Structures at Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center


This report presents the findings of an Iraq Survey Group (ISG) survey mission between 20-22 November 2003, designed to clear all buildings at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Complex prior to their use by Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) personnel. The survey investigated the buildings’ probable research functionality, looked for any nuclear relevant or UN-labelled equipment, exploited documentation/electronic media, and determined the buildings physical status. The mission was one of the larger activities undertaken by ISG and the largest undertaken by ISG’s nuclear team. This site was the most important to Iraq’s nuclear research program and was one of hundreds of sites examined by ISG. The comments cited under the Team sections are from team notes taken on site and should not be considered authoritative, but indicative of the type of information


  • The status of all buildings and structures at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, known at 22 November 2003, has been determined (see Conclusions and Annex B).
  • Certain structures pose hazards from a radiological and unexploded ordnance point of view. These structures were not entered, and the precise hazards were not determined (see Annex D).
  • A quantity of UN-labeled equipment was identified as well as other dual-use equipment including Anderson Samplers (see Results section and Annex E).
  • Some 66 boxes of documentation and a large quantity of electronic media were collected and subsequently handed over to ISG for translation and exploitation (see Main Survey Procedure section and Results).
  • The mission completed its objectives and at present ISG has no plans for further exploitation at the complex. However, it is possible that, if further information comes to light, ISG may need to revisit Tuwaitha.


Tuwaitha is located on the east bank of the Tigris River, 18 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, 2 kilometers southwest of Zaafaraniyah, and approximately 1 kilometer west-southwest from a two-lane improved highway. The facility is protected by large berms that surround and divide it into four distinct areas: the former Soviet Reactor Complex and Administration/The Agricultural and Biological Research Center (TABRC) area in the northern quadrant, the former French Reactor Complex area in the eastern quadrant, the Research and Development area in the western quadrant, and the former Italian Laboratory area in the southern quadrant. For the purposes of this survey, the area within the berms was divided into five zones, A to E; the area immediately outside the berms was zone F; and the wider area surrounding the complex was zone G. A workshop facility near the site entrance was zone H, (see Figure 36).

ISG representatives were asked to produce a series of maps from imagery to support the mission as there had been a number of differing building numbering schemes; these were rationalized into the existing building numbering system used as a reference standard for the mission. The comprehensive nature of the products assisted greatly in accomplishing the mission.

The mission was conducted in a number of stages. Initially, a series of consultative meetings were held. These accumulated available knowledge of the Tuwaitha site. They were followed by a two-day video reconnaissance (VR) of the site with the aims of identifying any unknown hazards and to assist in the planning of a final document exploitation (DOCEX) mission as well as the main survey (MS) .

The initial stage of the main mission was also assisted by a meeting with Black List #99, Dr. Fadil Muslim Abd Al-Janabi, current head of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), which had its headquarters at Tuwaitha. Dr. Fadil was asked about the location and functionality of various assets at Tuwaitha, and his information was assimilated into the list of targeted buildings for Tuwaitha. He was also asked, and he agreed, to accompany the author to the Tuwaitha site and provide information that was of significant assistance to the planning of the mission.

Prior to the VR, a target list of buildings was compiled, and those facilities (surface and subsurface), where it was safe to do so, were visited during the VR. The finalized target list was used as a database to record the mission progress.

The video reconnaissance (VR) of a number of buildings at the site was undertaken on 5-6 November 2003 using four multidisciplinary teams to cover the site quickly on a zone-by-zone basis. Analysis of the videotapes and commentary produced is included at Annex C, which was instrumental in the detailed planning of the main mission.

During the VR, an optical spectrometer and Andersen samplers were identified, and a one-day mission was mounted to recover that equipment and to carry out a DOCEX on three target buildings on 11 November 2003. The one-day mission also provided the facility to test some of the procedures planned for the main survey. Following analysis of the VR results, the buildings’ target list was revised, and relevant discipline subject matter experts (SMEs) lead teams were tasked to review those buildings in the main survey (MS).

The MS was conducted by moving 61 ISG personnel, SMEs, and force protection staff to create 5 teams with delegated responsibility for a set of buildings. The teams lived on site for 3 days in order to avoid force protection risks of daily travel.

The teams were tasked to pretriage any documents in their buildings and the team leaders were asked to sign preprinted sheets to confirm the status of each building for ISG purposes. Over the 3 days of the MS duration, an up-to-date list of building status was compiled, which is presented as Annex D to this document.

Factors Affecting the Survey

All buildings identified at the Tuwaitha complex whose status was uncertain were included in the target list as pending survey. Buildings that were hazardous in respect of their structural status from bomb damage, radiological, or other reasons were not entered and were marked as a hazard on the target list. Areas or underground facilities (UGFs) flooded with water possibly contaminated with coolant from the damaged reactors were also not visited. Where possible, visual inspection was made using a video camera. Sealed containers were examined by drilling small holes and inserting optical fiber-viewing aids into the container to examine the contents and, if necessary, the provision of larger holes to enable SME access.

Main Survey Procedure

DOCEX Procedures for Combined
Media-Processing Center, Baghdad (CMPC-B)

It was important to use the limited linguist resource effectively in the triage of documents and to minimise the duration of this process. Consequently, a new list of mission-relevant keywords was produced and procedures introduced to locate precisely any media identified as sensitive. The teams were told to collect any form of electronic media and personnel files if seen. Blueprints and management diagrams were also targeted.

Mission planning allowed one CMPC batch number per building; document boxes were identified by: batch number, building number, and serial number of box. Separators were used to link documents to room numbers. The boxes were assigned a starting batch number of 3326 – 2, which would increment with building number so, for example, the Nth building would be 3326 – (N + 1).

A US Army Major was given the responsibility of monitoring and, if necessary, driving the DOCEX part of the mission. A US Air force LTC was asked to run the Command Post (CP) and to issue building targets to the teams as required.

The mission was conducted by fielding five survey teams, all of which were led by a nuclear technology discipline SME. Four of the teams contained a linguist, a second discipline SME, a document gatherer, and a force protection person. On arrival on site, each of the teams was allocated a large DOCEX task and a caution task. Following the clearing of those buildings, the teams were allocated buildings on a team-availability basis designed to work around the outstanding buildings of the Tuwaitha inner zones on a clockwise basis. The mission was controlled via the CP and the target list updated as the building status survey proceeded. A mission log of all significant events was maintained by the CP.

Four teams were deployed in zones A to E; a fifth team, led by the Author, surveyed zones F, G, and H with the aim of dealing with the more difficult building targets, until such time as it could be supported by other teams on an availability basis.

Using the given definitions (found in Annex A), building status was updated from pending or caution to either clear or triaged, and the presence of any mission-relevant equipment similarly recorded.


It is quite possible that some sensitive information will be forthcoming once all exploitation is completed. However, the primary results of the mission are:

  • Some 66 boxes of documentation and a quantity of electronic media were found, which were handed over to CMPC-B for exploitation post mission.
  • Three Andersen Sampler bases and two tops were recovered.
  • A quantity of UN-labeled equipment was identified. The information obtained was included in and used to update the “Summary of Known UN Tagged Equipment” presented at Annex E.
  • All personnel completed the mission safely and free from any radiological contamination.

[ISG Note: Further exploitation produced no additional information to contradict these results.]


A group of unknown Iraqis were spotted by Team Bravo loading documents and equipment onto a vehicle on the morning of 22 November. Detail is provided under Team Bravo comments in Annex B.

The initial planning commenced with a list of approximately 206 structures; 58 of these had been previously surveyed and cleared by ISG video reconnaissance and/or previous missions. Furthermore, 28 structures had been previously destroyed, 8 deemed hazardous, and a number were not applicable for exploitation, such as air defense sites, and areas outside the Tuwaitha complex region. As such, 93 structures remained pending for exploitation. During the main mission, these 93 structures were surveyed. ISG members also returned to a number of previously surveyed and unidentified structures. In all, the main three-day mission surveyed 106 structures, all but two were certified as either clear or triaged.

The buildings that were not cleared were the library (Building 42) and the fire station (Building 151). In the case of the former, the quantity of documents is vast, and all survey teams as they completed their normal task list, were dispatched to the library to facilitate the process. The teams were specifically instructed to target Ph.D. theses and to search for unusual document positioning or storage. Using this process, a best endeavors attempt was made to clear the library.

Building 151 is the fire station, which is operational. During the VR, a room full of binders was identified, and a team was dispatched on the last day of the MS to triage the binders. Initially, there was some difficulty in identifying the location of the room, and the fire station personnel denied the existence of any such room. The team withdrew to check their facts and then returned and identified the room, which was secured by a locked glass paneled door. Staff claimed that the material was commercial, belonged to the MOST, and that they did not have a key. They offered to contact MOST to ask for a representative to appear and give access.

After some discussion it was decided to approach MOST via ISG in order to gain access to the room as the team had no wish to force entry to an operational facility or indeed to damage one of the few undamaged buildings at Tuwaitha.

Postmission Activity

A mission was set up to go to Tuwaitha on 2 December 2003 with the aim of gaining access to the room of documents (Building 151). The party arrived at approximately 0815 and asked for MOST to be contacted for a keyholder to attend and open the door. After some discussion it was agreed to gain access to the room, and a full triage of the documents was undertaken. Prior to entry, a series of photographs was taken to verify the status of the room, and this was repeated after the door was secured to demonstrate that no damage had been caused to the room or its fittings.

The records were drawings relating to the Tammuz reactor with little more recent than 1988. Nothing of significance to ISG was found, although a few documents were taken for further exploitation.

Another locked room containing documents was also entered and a full triage undertaken, using the procedures mentioned above. Again, nothing of significance to ISG was found although a few documents were taken for further exploitation. In view of the physical condition of the documents, covered with dust and vermin droppings, it was evident that the documents had been undisturbed for some time and no attempt had been made to introduce other documents into their content. Building 151 complex was considered clear.

Postmission action was also required on a number of issues, specifically:

  • UN-labeled equipment.
  • Unidentified equipment.
  • Testing of samples collected.
  • Use of the iridium pellets.
  • Document referencing “heavy water.”

Note: These issues have since been resolved and found to be of no concern.

In view of the physical hazards at the Tuwaitha site, the planning detail, terminology, and methodology required to minimize risk to ISG personnel may be used as a template for future ISG missions to complexes of this nature.

The mission has demonstrated that ISG is capable of planning and undertaking the most complex of technical missions. The ability to mount a mission of this nature in such a hazardous area as the Tuwaitha Nuclear complex, without casualties and with the achievement demonstrated, is seen as a contribution to ISG’s reputation.


Following the three-day mission to Tuwaitha and a postmission visit on 2 December, the status of all buildings and structures known on 22 November 2003 has been determined, and it is suggested that the complex may be accepted as clear on the basis of best endeavours.

Best endeavours implies the best that could be achieved with available resources and equipment. The Tuwaitha site occupies some 20 km2, and there are plenty of places; e.g., under radioactive water in basements or damaged buildings where documents, electronic media, or equipment could be hidden by those determined and where some risk to personnel would be involved in order to retrieve them. Without sound supporting HUMINT, missions surveying hazardous locations would be speculative and difficult to justify.

Future Work

This mission has attempted to incorporate HUMINT support suggesting the presence of hidden documents and equipment. The strongest hints were regarding a Building 6, which has not been found, and in the basement of Building 42/43, which has been burned. If additional HUMINT is forthcoming, then a ground radar survey may be appropriate for the future or the use of other high-tech equipment in order to examine all the flooded basements and water tanks.


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