Wednesday, January 12, 2000 202-822-8444
IAEA INSPECTION OF IRAQS URANIUM IS WELCOME,
BUT WONT ANSWER URGENT QUESTIONS
ABOUT SADDAMS NUCLEAR-BOMB PROGRAM
WASHINGTON---Todays announcement that Iraq will issue visas to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors is a welcome development, but the routine inspection that will take place is no substitute for the comprehensive, intrusive inspections that are needed, according to the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI).
The Agency will be permitted to verify the location of Iraqs declared nuclear materials, said NCI President Paul Leventhal, but there should be no confusion: Iraq is not granting the IAEA total access. Many crucial issues about Saddams bomb program will remain unresolved---including the whereabouts of three complete sets of nuclear-bomb components, lacking only the fissile material to make them operational. Iraq must be required to permit inspectors to look anywhere, anytime, and must answer all unresolved questions.
An IAEA spokesman in Vienna characterized the upcoming inspection, scheduled to begin next week, as having a limited objective, driven by the old traditional safeguards system. These are safeguards inspectors, conducting an annual check.
Leventhal underscored that point. Prior to the Gulf War, the traditional safeguards system failed completely to detect Saddam Husseins multi-billion-dollar Manhattan Project, he said. This visit will be essentially a bookkeeping exercise, not an intrusive inspection. Iraq will not permit the IAEA inspectors to see anything that might be remotely incriminating.
IAEA inspectors will attempt to verify that Iraq has not diverted some 1.7 metric tons of uranium enriched to 2.6% U-235 (so-called low enriched uranium, or LEU). According to officials involved in the decisions, the IAEA decided in late 1991 or early 1992 to permit Iraq to keep this LEU, as well as some 13 metric tons of natural uranium, for possible future use in a peaceful nuclear program.
Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, estimated that Iraqs low-enriched uranium stocks would be sufficient to produce over 45 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium, enough for two nuclear weapons. Only about 260 small gas centrifuges would be required to enrich this material to bomb-grade in one year. Iraqs known stocks of natural uranium could be converted into an additional 70 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium over a somewhat greater length of time.
The IAEA will be permitted to conduct limited, routine inspections under the terms of Iraqs safeguards agreement with the Agency. This agreement predates, and is separate from, the disarmament regime established in 1991 under the terms of UN Resolution 687, the Gulf War ceasefire, and the new inspection system adopted by the UN Security Council in December. Iraq refused to accept the new inspection regime, stating firmly that no weapons inspections will be permitted until sanctions are lifted. Weapons inspectors have not visited Iraq since December 1998.
For more information on Iraqs nuclear weapons program, including a full report on unresolved issues, visit NCIs website Saddam and the Bomb at http://www.nci.org/sadb.htm