Weapons Design: Unresolved Issues

Unresolved Issue

IAEA October 1997 Consolidated Report

Subsequent IAEA Reports

External assistance to nuclear weapons program

October 1997 report, p. 7, 16: Iraqi counterpart "unable to recall any offers of significant assistance..."

December 1997 report, 10-14: Description of October 1990 incident in which foreign national offered nuclear weapon design information to Iraq; Iraqi counterpart says offer was declined because they feared it was a sting. IAEA report on December 1997 inspections says they have no information for further investigation. (January 1998 report, 9, 10, 27) But in March 1998, Iraq provides further information to assist in identification of foreign principals involved (April 1998 report, 19-20), and IAEA contacts the foreign government in question (April 1998 report, 23)

An Iraqi AEC official recently admitted to numerous unsolicited offers of fissile material, and claims it turned down all of them, fearing stings. Iraqi AEC claims all samples offered in these deals turned out to be fake. (Mark Hibbs reporting) Why are these offers not specifically mentioned in any IAEA reports? Have they all been investigated by the Agency?

Missing weapons program and bomb design documentation

October 1997 report, p. 7, 18: "...the Iraqi counterpart also agree to provide further modifications to the text of FFCD-F and also undertook to make a serious attempt to locate and make available: the equipment formerly assigned to departments 40B and 40G of PC-3 Group 4 (weaponisation); PC-3 reports relating to indigenously produced uranium melting furnaces and the study on the feasibility of falsely representing the Al Atheer weapons plant as a materials characterization centre; facility-specific inventories of materials and equipment handed over to and recovered from military authorities in connection with concealment and unilateral destruction activities; and data indicating the stage of development of weapons components at the time the program was abandoned."

Iraq claimed "lack of success" in locating PC-3 reports. (October 1997 report, p. 8, 22) In December 1997, Iraq said it would attempt to locate reports on the Iraqi nuclear teams interaction with IAEA inspectors. (April 1998 report, 19) In March 1998, Iraq informed the IAEA that it was unable to find these reports. (April 1998 report, 21)

Missing weapons design documents and drawings

October 1997 report, p. 9, 25: "The Iraqi counterpart stated that it had been unable to locate any additional documentation that might have indicated the extent of development of the nuclear weapon and associated technologies at the time of programme abandonment. The counterpart volunteered an explanation of the sequence of drawings of moulds for the casting of explosive lens components, but was unable to provide a verifiable explanation of the missing drawings. Attempts made by the counterpart, during the visit of the technical team, to locate the drawing register, which should have recorded the title of each drawing, were also declared to be unsuccessful."

October 1997 report, p. 21, 77: "No documentation or other evidence is available to show the actual status of the weapon design when the programme was interrupted."

October 1997 report, p. 61, sec. 2.5: "Missing documentation affecting the completeness of information of Iraq's weaponisation capabilities include:

Al Qa Qaa: progress reports, production process records, experimental set-ups and results, communications with bodies outside the Dhafer project, such as Al Qa Qaa commercial department, PC-3 or contractors.

Al Atheer: design drawings for any of the nuclear weapon components (even in a preliminary stage), drawings for the integration of the weapon with the delivery system, additional documentation on the planning and results of experiments carried out after mid-1990, description of either the buildings at Al Atheer or the equipment installed or planned to be installed at the end of 1990.

Documents related to the collaboration between Group Four and the other parts of the IAEC [Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission], in critical areas such as tritium production or neutron generators, as well as between Group Four and its missile counterparts.

Documents providing precise lens dimensions for a specific nuclear weapon design---the lack of lens drawings is problematic, since the shape of the lens mould does not adequately indicate the final shape of the lens."

October 1997 report, p. 61, sec. 2.6: "Iraq's insistence that it had not finalised a nuclear weapon design option at the time of the Gulf War complicates the task of evaluating Iraq's weaponisation capabilities at that time."

From the IAEAs report on December 1997 inspections:

January 1998 report, 19: "The Iraqi counterpart continues to maintain that, despite the increased urgency imposed by the so-called crash programme, it had not yet identified design options beyond those preliminary concepts described in the last version of the PC-3 Group Four report entitled Basic design report of the implosion device, dated 14 July 1990. It further maintains that no experimental programme has been established through which to validate possible options identified by computation."

January 1998 report, 29: "29. Although it is difficult to understand the apparent lack of focus at such a critical stage in Iraq's weaponization development, IAEA has no information that contradicts Iraq's statement that it had never identified nuclear weapon design options beyond those preliminary concepts described in its report: entitled "Basic design report of the implosion device" dated 14 July 1990. Nonetheless, the IAEA ongoing monitoring and verification plan is predicated on the assumption that Iraq retains the technical capability to exploit, for nuclear weapons purposes, any relevant material to which it might gain access."

In late March, Iraq said it was unable to locate these documents. IAEA responded that some portions of these reports were on word-processing disks already turned over by Iraq. Iraq said it would attempt to identify these documents. (April 1998 report, 21)

Iraqi research on advanced weapons design

October 1997 report, p. 59, sec. 2.3: "Although the available Iraqi documentation indicates that Iraq's primary focus was a basic implosion fission design, fuelled by HEU, the same documentation also indicates that Iraq was aware of more advanced weapon design concepts, including thermonuclear weapons. Group Four also invested significant efforts in understanding the various options for neutron initiators."

October 1997 report, p. 62, sec. 2.6: "While PC-3 has stated itself to be well aware of the fundamental basis of boosted fission weapons and thermo-nuclear weapons and Iraq was already investigating methods for the isolation of the Lithium-6 isotope, there are no indications of its imminent intention to exploit either technology."

Not mentioned in April 1998 report.

R&D on explosive lenses

October 1997 report, p. 59, sec. 2.3: "Iraq acknowledges testing single pressed lenses but states that no cast lenses had been produced by January 1991 and thus none had been tested. Iraq claims not to have conducted four-pi tests or any test of multiple lens arrays. There is no means available to the IAEA to verify this claim."

October 1997 report, p. 61, sec. 2.5: "The [Haider House] cache contains an almost complete set of drawings of lens moulds, dated 13 October to 24 December 1990, but there are gaps in the series at potentially critical points."

January 1998 report, 17: "2. Nuclear weapon design options in January 1991

17. As mentioned in paragraph 29 of document October 1997 report, the Iraqi counterpart had given IAEA documents indicating the status of Iraq's ability to produce explosive lenses at the beginning of 1991, the most significant of which wore the minutes of a meeting of 12 January 1991. In discussing the documents, IAEA observed that the minutes in question indicated that a significant decision had been taken regarding the dimensions of the explosive lens of choice. IAEA suggested that this decision strongly indicated that similar decisions had been taken regarding the design of the weapon internals.

18. The Iraqi counterpart agreed that the size of the explosive lenses had been fixed at the meeting of 12 January 1991. It asserted, however, that the decision had been reached empirically and had been most strongly influenced by the restriction on the external diameter of the nuclear weapon imposed by the most appropriate missile delivery vehicle available at that time. The Iraqi counterpart insisted that no decision had been made with respect to the design of the weapon internals and, as supported by other information it had earlier provided to IAEA, that no practical experiments had been made to support any particular design concept."

In March 1998, Iraq provided three pages of minutes from the 1/12/91 meeting to IAEA. IAEA observed that the pages apparently had been removed from a larger document, which they requested and subsequently received from the Iraqis. No description of this document is provided in the April 1998 IAEA report. (April 1998 report, 22)

How to resolve outstanding issues about explosive lens design, fabrication, and testing?

October 1997 report (S/1997/779): IAEA, Fourth consolidated report of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency under Paragraph 16 of Security Council resolution 1051 (1996), October 8, 1997.

December 1997 report (S/1997/950): IAEA, Notes of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefing to the Security Council on 24 November 1997, December 3, 1997.

January 1998 report (S/1998/38): IAEA, Report on the International Atomic Energy Agency technical team visit to Iraq, 19 to 21 December 1997, January 23, 1998.

April 1998 report (S/1998/312): IAEA, Fifth consolidated report of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency under paragraph 16 of Security Council resolution 1051 (1996), April 9, 1998.