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 The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq


The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq

The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: 14 February 2003 Update by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. February 14, 2003. Source: UN News Center. New York, New York (E-S Photo).

My report to the Council today is an update on the status of the IAEA's nuclear verification activities in Iraq pursuant to Security Council resolution 1441 and other relevant resolutions. Less than three weeks have passed since my last update to the Council, on 27 January - a relatively short period in the overall inspection process. However, I believe it is important for the Council to remain actively engaged and fully informed at this crucial time.

  • Current Inspection Activities: Still Building Capacity

The focus of the IAEA's inspections has now moved from the "reconnaissance phase" into the "investigative phase". The "reconnaissance phase" was aimed at re-establishing rapidly our knowledge base of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, ensuring that nuclear activities at known key facilities had not been resumed, verifying the location of nuclear material and relevant non-nuclear material and equipment, and identifying the current workplaces of former key Iraqi personnel. The focus of the "investigative phase" is achieving an understanding of Iraq's activities over the last four years, in particular in areas identified by States as being of concern and those identified by the IAEA on the basis of its own analysis.

  • Inspections

Since our 27 January report, the IAEA has conducted an additional 38 inspections at 19 locations, for a total of 177 inspections at 125 locations. Iraq has continued to provide immediate access to all locations. In the course of the inspections, we have identified certain facilities at which we will be re-establishing containment and surveillance systems in order to monitor, on a continuous basis, activities associated with critical dual-use equipment. At this time, we are using recurrent inspections to ensure that this equipment is not being used for prohibited purposes.

  • Technical Methods

As I mentioned in my last report to the Council, we have a number of wide-area and location-specific measures for detecting indications of undeclared past or ongoing nuclear activities in Iraq, including environmental sampling and radiation detection surveys.

In this regard, we have been collecting a broad variety of samples, including water, sediment and vegetation, at inspected facilities and at other locations across Iraq, and analysing them for signatures of nuclear activities.

We have also resumed air sampling at key locations in Iraq. Three of the four air samplers that were removed in December 2002 for refurbishing have been returned to Iraq. One of these has been installed at a fixed location, and the other two are being operated from mobile platforms. We are intending to increase their number to make optimum use of this technique.

We are also continuing to expand the use of hand-held and car-borne gamma surveys in Iraq. The gamma survey vehicle has been used en route to inspection sites and within sites, as well as in urban and industrial areas. We will start helicopter-borne gamma surveys as soon as the relevant equipment receives its final certification for use on the helicopter model provided to us for use in Iraq.

  • Conduct of Interviews

The IAEA has continued to interview key Iraqi personnel. We have recently been able to conduct four interviews in private - that is, without the presence of an Iraqi observer. The interviewees, however, have tape recorded their interviews. In addition, discussions have continued to be conducted with Iraqi technicians and officials as part of inspection activities and technical meetings. I should note that, during our recent meeting in Baghdad, Iraq reconfirmed its commitment to encourage its citizens to accept interviews in private, both inside and outside of Iraq.

In response to a request by the IAEA, Iraq has expanded the list of relevant Iraqi personnel to over 300, along with their current work locations. The list includes the higher-level key scientists known to the IAEA in the nuclear and nuclear related areas. We will continue, however, to ask for information about Iraqi personnel of lesser rank whose work may be of significance to our mandate.

  • Specific Issues

I would like now to provide an update on a number of specific issues that we are currently pursuing. I should mention that, shortly before our recent meeting in Baghdad, and based on out discussions with the Iraqi counterpart, Iraq provided documentation related to these issues: the reported attempt to import uranium, the attempted procurement of aluminium tubes, the procurement of magnets and magnet production capabilities, the use of HMX, and those questions and concerns that were outstanding in 1998. I will touch briefly on each of these issues.

  • Uranium Acquisition

Iraq continues to state that it has made no attempt to import uranium since the 1980s. The IAEA recently received some additional information relevant to this issue, which will be further pursued, hopefully with the assistance of the African country reported to have been involved.

  • Uranium Enrichment

The IAEA is continuing to follow up on acknowledged efforts by Iraq to import high strength aluminium tubes. As you will know, Iraq has declared these efforts to have been in connection with a programme to reverse engineer conventional rockets. The IAEA has verified that Iraq had indeed been manufacturing such rockets. However, we are still exploring whether the tubes were intended rather for the manufacture of centrifuges for uranium enrichment. In connection with this investigation, Iraq has been asked to explain the reasons for the tight tolerance specifications that it had requested from various suppliers. Iraq has provided documentation related to the project for reverse engineering and has committed itself to providing samples of tubes received from prospective suppliers. We will continue to investigate the matter further.

In response to IAEA inquiries about Iraq's attempts to procure a facility for the manufacture of magnets, and the possible link with the resumption of a nuclear programme, Iraq recently provided additional documentation, which we are presently examining.

In the course of an inspection conducted in connection with the aluminium tube investigation, IAEA inspectors found a number of documents relevant to transactions aimed at the procurement of carbon fibre, a dual-use material used by Iraq in its past clandestine uranium enrichment programme for the manufacture of gas centrifuge rotors. Our review of these documents suggests that the carbon fibre sought by Iraq was not intended for enrichment purposes, as the specifications of the material appear not to be consistent with those needed for manufacturing rotor tubes. In addition, we have carried out follow-up inspections, during which we have been able to observe the use of such carbon fibre in non-nuclear-related applications and to take samples. The IAEA will nevertheless continue to pursue this matter.

  • Use of HMX

The IAEA has continued to investigate the relocation and consumption of the high explosive HMX. As I reported earlier, Iraq has declared that 32 tonnes of the HMX previously under IAEA seal had been transferred for use in the production of industrial explosives, primarily to cement plants as a booster for explosives used in quarrying.

Iraq has provided us with additional information, including documentation on the movement and use of this material, and inspections have been conducted at locations where the material is said to have been used. However, given the nature of the use of high explosives, it may well be that the IAEA will be unable to reach a final conclusion on the end use of this material. While we have no indication that this material was used for any application other than that declared by Iraq, we have no technical method of verifying, quantitatively, the declared use of the material in explosions. We will continue to follow this issue through a review of civilian mining practices in Iraq and through interviews of key Iraqi personnel involved in former relevant research and development activities.

  • Laser-related Documents

The IAEA has completed a more detailed review of the 2000 pages of documents found on 16 January at the private residence of an Iraqi scientist. The documents relate predominantly to lasers, including the use of laser technology to enrich uranium. They consist of technical reports; minutes of meetings (including those of the Standing Committee for Laser Applications); personal notes; copies of publications and student research project theses; and a number of administrative documents, some of which were marked as classified. While the documents have provided some additional details about Iraq's laser enrichment development efforts, they refer to activities or sites already known to the IAEA and appear to be the personal files of the scientist in whose home they were found. Nothing contained in the documents alters the conclusions previously drawn by the IAEA concerning the extent of Iraq's laser enrichment programme. We nevertheless continue to emphasize to Iraq that it should search for and provide all documents, personal or otherwise, that might be relevant to our mandate.

  • Remaining Questions and Concerns

Last week, Iraq also provided the IAEA with documentation related to questions and concerns that, since 1998, have been in need of further clarification, particularly as regards weapon and centrifuge design. However, no new information was contained in this documentation.

It is to be hoped that the new Iraqi commissions established by Iraq to look for any additional documents and hardware relevant to its programmes for weapons of mass destruction will be able to uncover documents and other evidence that could assist in clarifying these remaining questions and concerns as well as other areas of current concern.

Finally, I was informed this morning by the Director General of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate that national legislation prohibiting proscribed activities was adopted today. The resolution of this long-standing legal matter was a step in the right direction for Iraq to demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the Security Council's resolutions.

  • Looking Ahead

In the coming weeks, the IAEA will continue to expand its inspection capabilities in a number of ways, including its already extensive use of unannounced inspections at all relevant sites in Iraq. To strengthen and accelerate our ability to investigate matters of concern, and to reinstate and reinforce our ongoing monitoring and verification system that came to a halt in 1998, we intend to increase the number of inspectors and support staff. We will also be adding more analysts and translators to support analysis of documents and other inspection findings. We intend to augment the number of customs and procurement experts for the monitoring of imports by Iraq. We will also intensify and expand the range of technical meetings and private interviews with Iraqi personnel, in accordance with our preferred modalities and locations, both inside and outside Iraq.

In addition, we intend to expand our capabilities for near-real-time monitoring of dual-use equipment and related activities, and implement several additional components of wide area environmental monitoring aimed at identifying fingerprints left by nuclear material and nuclear related activities.

We hope to continue to receive from States actionable information relevant to our mandate. Now that Iraq has accepted the use of all of the platforms for aerial surveillance proposed by supporting States to UNMOVIC and the IAEA, including U2s, Mirage IVs, Antonovs and drones, we plan to make use of them to support our inspection activities, in particular with a view to monitoring movements in and around sites to be inspected.

The Government of Iraq reiterated last week its commitment to comply with its Security Council obligations and to provide full and active co-operation with the inspecting organizations. Subject to Iraq making good on this commitment, the above measures will contribute to the effectiveness of the inspection process.

  • Conclusion

As I have reported on numerous occasions, the IAEA concluded, by December 1998, that it had neutralized Iraq's past nuclear programme and that, therefore, there were no unresolved disarmament issues left at that time. Hence, our focus since the resumption of our inspections in Iraq, two and a half months ago, has been verifying whether Iraq revived its nuclear programme in the intervening years.

We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq. However, as I have just indicated, a number of issues are still under investigation and we are not yet in a position to reach a conclusion about them, although we are moving forward with regard to some of them. To that end, we intend to make full use of the authority granted to us under all relevant Security Council resolutions to build as much capacity into the inspection process as necessary.

In that context, I would underline the importance of information that States may be able to provide to help us in assessing the accuracy and completeness of the information provided by Iraq.

The IAEA's experience in nuclear verification shows that it is possible, particularly with an intrusive verification system, to assess the presence or absence of a nuclear weapons programme in a State even without the full co-operation of the inspected state. However, prompt, full and active co-operation by Iraq, as required under resolution 1441, will speed up the process. More importantly, it will enable us to reach the high degree of assurance required by the Security Council. It is my hope that the commitments made recently in Baghdad will continue to translate into concrete and sustained action.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).