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Iraq's calutrons: 1991 - 2001

by André A. Gsponer, ISRI, P.O. Box 30, CH-1211 Geneva-12, Switzerland

31 July 2001


In July 1991, shortly after the Gulf War, news from Iraq confirmed what I had concluded twelve years earlier: That Iraq had decided to use the calutron electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) process to produce highly enriched uranium, i.e., the very same process that was actually used to produce the uranium-235 that was fissioned in the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima in August 1945.

At that time I was still recovering from a cancer treatment, and I had to wait until 1995 to find the energy to write a report on my discovery in 1979 of Iraq's intention to use the calutron technology, and my discomfort with the official thesis, namely that nobody knew before the Gulf War that Iraq had built a gigantic calutron enrichment plant and was very close to assemble its first atomic bomb.

For a number of reasons the report I wrote in collaboration with Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni is still not published. In particular, I had great hopes that I would get additional information from the IAEA that would help putting the report into a final form. But that did not happen with the unfortunate death of Dr. Maurizio Zifferero, late head of the UNSC 687 Action Team from 1991 to 1997, and his replacement by Mr. Garry Dillon who may have decided to cut off contact with me and not to keep Dr. Zifferero's commitments.

Only thirty copies of the draft report, ISRI-95-03, were printed, and only a few additional photocopies were made. Now, ten years after the Gulf War, the time has come for this document to be made publically available. It is a matter of truth and justice that the facts I discovered in 1979 while working at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland) are published. At the least, this report should help professional historians and political analysts to review what happened in Iraq before and during the Gulf War, e.g., in order to better understand the origin and the spectacular growth of the Iraqi nuclear weapon program, independently of the official statements made by the U.N. and the Allies, or by the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Moreover, the correspondence related to this report with the IAEA and the reviewers, as well as the additional information on calutrons, EMIS, accelerator technology, CERN, and the origin of Iraq's calutron program collected between 1995 and 2001, should be a useful complement to the web pages opened by the IAEA Iraq Action Team on the Agency's WorldAtom web site in June/July 2001: [ActionTeam]

Although the 1995 report could have been rewritten and a number of improvements made, I have decided to leave it exactly in its original form, apart from a few minor modifications such as a few spelling or typographical mistakes. In the same spirit, the written commentaries from various sources are presented in their original form as copies of the letters I have received. Of particular interest is the correspondence with Dr. Maurizio Zifferero of the IAEA, who was as much interested in knowning the truth about the origin of the Iraqi calutron program, than in making sure that whatever would be published would not contribute to the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Consequently, the form of the following presentation of the documents on EMIS technology and Iraq's calutrons is that of a chronology, interleaved with some personal comments that I hope will be useful to the reader. It begins with Suren Erkman's paper in Le Journal de Genève of April 1995 and the reviewing of the main report, ISRI-95-03, that started in October 1995. There are then two sections on two attempts, one to present at a conference, the other to publish in an academic journal, some of the material contained in the report ISRI-95-03. This is followed by a section presenting some more recent documents that would have been mentioned in an updated version of the report, as well as links to related web sites. Finally, I added two sections providing independent confirmation of my 1979 findings at CERN, as well as a conclusion emphasizing some lessons I learned from this more than twenty years long experience.

Suren Erkman's article in "[Le Journal de Genève]" of 22/23 April 1995

When I returned to Geneva in January 1995 I met with a number of friends and former colleagues who encouraged me to publish what I knew about the origin of Iraq's calutron program. In particular, Suren Erkman, a science journalist at Le Journal de Genève (which from an intellectual and political standpoint was considered as the "best" newspaper in Geneva, and the only one with an international audience) wrote a long article based on a careful inquiry comprising a number of interviews including the two main CERN witnesses, i.e., myself, and Dr. Klaus Freudenreich who was repeatedly approached by Iraqi engineers in early 1979. This article was announced on a full size poster [Doc.01] and published in the weekend edition of 22/23 April 1995 [Doc.02a, Doc.02b] of [Le Journal de Genève].

The following Monday there were a number of emotional reactions in Geneva and especially at CERN, and six people made the effort to write down their reaction to Suren Erkman's paper:

  1. - 24 April 1995 : Dr. Med. Denis Dupont, Geneva
  2. - 24 April 1995 : Dr. Reinhard Budde, CERN staff member
  3. - 25 April 1995 : Prof. C.H. Llewellyn Smith, Director General of CERN
  4. - 27 April 1995 : Prof. Jack Steinberger, Nobel laureate and CERN staff member
  5. - 28 April 1995 : Dr. Gerd Harigel, CERN staff member and GIPRI board member
  6. - 28 April 1995 : Dr. Jean-Pierre Stroot, CERN staff member and GIPRI board president

The only positive reaction was by Dr. Denis Dupont, M.D., who asked to receive a copy of my forthcoming report (entitled at the time "Calutrons: 1945-1995") that was announced in Suren Erkman's paper.

The other five reactions were negative, and very emotional except for that by Prof. C.H. Llewellyn Smith, Director General of CERN. This official reaction, which is basically an attempt to dismiss CERN's responsibility, is reproduced for the record as [Doc.03a, Doc.03b]. Since the Journal de Genève article was written in French, all these reactions were in French, except for the one by Prof. Jack Steinberger, a member of Pugwash who co-edited with Joseph Rotblat the book "A nuclear-free world: Desirable? Feasible?" (Westview Press, Boulder Colorado, 1996).

The four reactions by current or former CERN staff members are all in the same vein and it is fortunate that the one by Nobel laureate Jack Steinberger [Doc.04a, Doc.04b] is a good summary of the other three. In particular, it is claimed that "Gsponer has become psychopathic on the issue of alleged military involvements of CERN [...] His stories of military use of CERN are pure invention," whereas a number of positive details are given on Jafar Dhia Jafar, who after working at Imperial College spent a four-year period at CERN before becoming the head of Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

For example, it is said in Prof. Steinberger's letter "that at this time Jafar had no Iraqi military motives or connections." This is wrong since it was well known to all members of the CERN collaboration in which Jafar Dhia Jafar worked in the early 1970s that there were two high-ranking military officers in that collaboration: one Israeli and on Iraqi! Moreover, it is now abundantly confirmed that Dr. Jafar was actively involved in Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapon program since its very beginning, which includes all the time he had spent at CERN.

Otherwise, in agreement with all recollections by CERN staff members that I have spoken to and who have personally known Jafar Dhia Jafar, it seems that he was very good at building lasting relationships, and was much appreciated as a colleague and friend. For instance, senior CERN staff member Douglas R.O. Morrison remembered him very well as a an excellent bridge player...

Strikingly, all five reactions by CERN staff members did not show any interest in knowning more about the facts: none of them asked to receive the announced report "Calutrons: 1945-1995." On the contrary, little concerning the substance or the facts is disputed: All criticisms are directed at me as a person, as if I was a traitor, and Jafar Dhia Jafar is presented as a loyal CERN user.

On the other hand, the IAEA was immediately interested and quick to react: the head of UNSC 687 Action Team in Iraq, Dr. Maurizio Zifferero, called Suren Erkman at the beginning of May already [Doc.05]. Moreover, the joint IAEA/UNIDO library sent a purchase order for "Calutrons: 1945-1995" on 17 May 1995 [Doc.06].

"Iraq's Calutrons" report [ISRI-95-03] and its reviewing

Work on "Calutrons: 1945-1995" in collaboration with Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni spanned over the Summer and Autumn 1995. I wanted the document to be useful as much for understanding the past as for preventing further proliferation of particle accelerator-based nuclear technology such as electromagnetic isotope separators, plutonium or tritium breeders, antimatter production, particle beam weapons, missile defence, etc. A big effort was therefore made to be as pedagogical and comprehensive as possible, both from the technical and the political standpoints. The final document was larger than expected, and its final title became "Iraq's calutrons --- Electromagnetic isotope separation, beam technology, and nuclear weapon proliferation" in order to emphasize its broad focus on the nuclear weapon proliferation implications of particle beam technology.

Thirty copies of the report were printed [Doc.07] and the reviewing started by sending copies to the IAEA/UNIDO library and to the Action Team [Doc.08]. Dr. Zifferero answered by asking permission to copy it to two experts [Doc.09], one in LLNL (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, U.S.A.) the other in ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S.A.). I replied by sending two extra copies of the report [Doc.10].

The reviewing took place between 8 November 1995 and 18 June 1996 and consisted of inviting commentaries from 22 people: 3 science journalists, 1 international lawyer, and 18 physicists.

  1. - Mr. Suren Erkman, Journal de Genève, Geneva
  2. - Mr. William Broad, New York Times, New York
  3. - Mr. Mark Hibbs, Nucleonics Week, Bonn
  4. - DDr. Stephan Klement, MCIS, Southampton
  5. - Dr. Jafar D. Jafar, IAEC, Baghdad
  6. - Dr. Maurizio Zifferero, IAEA, Vienna
  7. - Prof. Jack Steinberger, CERN, Geneva
  8. - Dr. Klaus Freudenreich, CERN, Geneva
  9. - Dr. Douglas R.O. Morrison, CERN, Geneva
  10. - Dr. Richard L. Garwin, IBM, Yorktown
  11. - Dr. Christopher C. Paine, NRDC, Washington
  12. - Dr. Harry Bernas, CSNSM, Orsay
  13. - Dr. Martin Kalinowski, INESAP, Darmstadt
  14. - Dr. Wolfgang Liebert, IANUS, Darmstadt
  15. - Dr. Annette Schaper, PRIF, Frankfurt
  16. - Dr. David Albright, ISIS, Washington
  17. - Prof. Robert F. Mozley, CISAC, Stanford
  18. - Dr. Bhupendra Jasani, Kings College, London
  19. - Dr. Frank Barnaby, SIPRI, Stockholm
  20. - Dr. Richard Kokoski, SIPRI, Stockholm
  21. - Dr. Paul J. Persiani, ANL, Argonne
  22. - Dr. Isaac Chavet, SOREQ NRC, Yavne, Israel

The only person who was invited to make commentaries after the 18 June 1996 was Dr. Isaac Chavet, a leading member of Israel's electromagnetic separation program, who wrote to me spontaneously.

As will be seen, only four people supplied substantial comments: Dr. Maurizio Zifferero, Prof. Robert F. Mozley, DDr. Stephan Klement, and Dr. Isaac Chavet.

Trying to correspond with Dr. Jafar was a special case because of the sanctions imposed on Iraq. I had first to write to the Iraqi permanent mission in Geneva [Doc.11] which answered that I had to send any correspondence for Dr. Jafar to the IAEA who would decide if the mail could be forwarded, and whether he could be allowed to comment or not upon ISRI's report [Doc.12].

I therefore wrote to Dr. Zifferero [Doc.13] with a long letter to Dr. Jafar [Doc.14a, Doc.14b, Doc.14c]. The answer of Dr. Zifferero came very soon [Doc.15]. It was negative, but at the same time appreciative of the quality of the questions I had raised since some of them were to be added to the list of questions the Action Team had about Iraq's calutron program. Moreover, the answer was also very encouraging since Dr. Zifferero suggested a compromise: that I should be given access to at least part of the "Full, Final and Complete Declaration" (FFCD) of the activities carried out under the clandestine nuclear program when this declaration would be completed.

Another encouraging event happened a few months later: I received a phone call from Iraq's permanent mission in Geneva and a secretary told that "Jafar Dhia Jafar sends you his regards and encouragements for your efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament."

Meanwhile, I received the first substantial comment, that of Prof. Robert F. Mozley [Doc.16] who had written a report that I did not know at the time I wrote my report with Jean-Pierre Hurni:

In his letter, Prof. Mozley referred to a paper by Dr. Paul J. Persiani of the Argonne National Laboratory that I had also missed in my literature search with Jean-Pierre Hurni:

As the University of Geneva library was not able to get hold of this paper, I wrote to Dr. Persiani [Doc.17] who was kind enough to send me a copy of his paper.

The report of Prof. Mozley, and even more specifically the paper of Dr. Persiani, emphasize that unpublished studies made in the U.S.A. in the late 1970s (i.e., precisely at the time when Iraq started to be actively interested in the calutron technology) had concluded that: "a potential proliferation path, using calutrons for isotopic enrichment of low-enriched uranium, LEU, to highly enriched uranium, HEU, could be developed with mature technology by countries pursuing a clandestine weapons program."

Therefore, since the documents of Prof. Mozley and Dr. Persiani have been published after the Gulf War, its seem that I was the only one to have consistently tried to warn publically about this proliferation path during the 1980s. In this respect, as a complement to what is explained in the report ISRI-95-03, I should add that on 13 July 1982 I submitted with Bhupendra Jasani to Frank Blackaby, then Director of SIPRI, a research proposal entitled "Military applications of high energy beams" that included a chapter on "Enrichment of uranium and plutonium using accelerators and lasers" in which we planed to discuss the proliferation potential of the calutron technology.

To end the reviewing process I sent on 18 June 1996 a letter with Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni to all the above mentioned people [Doc.18], but we did not receive any further comments.

Attempt to present a paper at the EMIS-13 conference and spontaneous contribution of Dr. I. Chavet

The reviewing being essentially terminated, I thought it would be a good idea to present a summary of the report ISRI-95-03 at the forthcoming international conference of world experts of electromagnetic isotope separation, EMIS-13, that was to take place on September 23-27, 1996, at Bad Dürkheim in Germany. I therefore wrote to Prof. G. Münzenberg, Chairman of EMIS-13, [Doc.19a] and submitted the abstract of a contribution [Doc.19b].

A few days later I had the good surprise to receive a letter from Dr. Isaac Chavet who had been mainly active in Israel's mass separation systems [Doc.20]. (See section 1.10 of ISRI-95-03: "EMIS in Israel.") In my answer I asked him to send his comments on our report and on Israel's EMIS facilities [Doc.21]. I also took this opportunity to write to Dr. Zifferero to remind him about our interest in receiving the information he had promised and about the possibility to meet some members of his Team at EMIS-13 [Doc.22].

In his answer [Doc.23] Dr. Zifferero confirmed his commitment to send us a copy of the EMIS part of the FFCD as soon as possible. However, concerning EMIS-13, he explained that nobody of his team would have the time to attend the conference.

In any event, I still had no reaction from EMIS-13 and time was running out to write the paper for this conference. I therefore decided to call Prof. Münzenberg on the telephone in order to ask him whether our contribution had been accepted or not. He told me "that our abstract had been discussed, but that it was felt to deal mostly with old technologies while EMIS conferences are discussing concepts that are on the frontier in the field." The answer was a polite "no."

As a consolation, I received a few days later Dr. Chavet's commentary in the form of a letter of three pages with many interesting details, as well as a positive introductory remark on my efforts at trying to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons [Doc.24a, Doc.24b, Doc.24c].

Attempt to publish a paper [ISRI-96-06] on the legal implications of the UNSC resolutions related to Iraq

In June 1996 I had the good fortune to meet with DDr. Stephan Klement, a physicist and international lawyer working at the Mountbatten Center for International Studies at University of Southampton. Discussing the question of the legal implications of the U.N. Security Council resolutions related to Iraq's nuclear weapon program we reached the conclusion that it would be a good idea to write a specific paper expanding the ideas sketched in section 3.3 of ISRI-95-03 and submitting it to a journal of international law. This required adding a legal assessment to the essentially technical assessment done by Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni and myself.

The draft of the paper was circulate for review to a few experts in international law (i.e., Alyn Ware and members of the board of the Lawyer's Committee for Nuclear Policy, LCNP) and then sent to The International and Comparative Law Quarterly which did not accept the paper for publication [Doc.25].

Before sending the paper to another journal, I wanted to inquire at the IAEA about the fate of the FFCD, because it could have contained information affecting our paper with DDr. Stephan Klement. The pretext came in the form of the discovery of a very interesting recent paper by R. Meunier, a French EMIS specialist who with others built the "Sidonie" electromagnetic separator of Orsay in the 1960-70s (see section 1.7 of ISRI-95-03: "EMIS in France"):

As I mentioned in my letter of 30 December 1996 to Dr. Zifferero [Doc.26], this document describes an industrial scale electromagnetic separation system which could handle 4.3*238/135 = 7.6 tons of natural uranium per year. It is a very detailed study by somebody who has spent his life building high-current electromagnetic separators. The study is especially interesting because it gives precise estimates for the construction and operating costs of an industrial scale EMIS plant.

Unfortunately, this letter may have never reached Dr. Zifferero because I later learned that he died rather suddenly from a cancer.

I therefore decided with Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni and DDr. Stephan Klement to finalize our paper and to send it on 12 February 1997 to Security Dialogue, which rejected it on 20 May 1997 [Doc.27]. In his letter of rejection, the editor stressed the facts that the resolutions in question were quite old at the time (i.e., more than five years) and that they actually had little legal weight. While both of these facts are true, it turns out that these Security Council resolutions were nevertheless providing the only legal basis for what UNSCOM was doing in Iraq. If international lawyer agree that they have little or no value, then what about the legal status of the ongoing U.N. and other coercive operations in Iraq?

The loss of contact with the IAEA

While the death of Dr. Zifferero in 1997 was an unfortunate incident of life, the whole political situation concerning Iraq, UNSCOM, and the sanctions regime changed very dramatically in the first half of 1997 as a consequence of the implementation by the U.S. of new policies against Iraq.

Concerning UNSCOM, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced on 1st May 1997 that the chairman will be replaced by the Australian Richard Butler, who was soon to assume a much more anti-Iraq position than his predecessor, the Swede Rolf Ekeus. Similarly, the successor of Dr. Zifferero, Mr. Garry Dillon, was apparently chosen as much more for his political correctness than for his professional credentials. (Mr. Garry Dillon was the chief inspector of most inspection campaigns in Iraq since 1993 until they were interrupted in 1997.) Consequently, my hopes of positive collaboration with the IAEA and UNSCOM faded out.

What I had been promised by Dr. Zifferero was access to part of the "Full, Final and Complete Declaration." The first version of this FFCD had been supplied to UNSCOM on 12 March 1992, and a 1019 pages long revised version on 1 March 1995. In 1996, the only part of the FFCD that was publically available was the table of content of a draft version attached to document S/1996/261. This table of content indicated that EMIS technology was as expected a substantial part of the FFCD and that the information it contained was certainly much more detailed than what I needed to answer the questions I had raised in my letter of 22 January 1996 to Dr. Jafar. In fact, according to the more recent IAEA documents S/1988/312 and S/1999/127, the final version of the FFCD (dated 25 March 1998) is essentially a consolidated version of the text dated 7 September 1996 supplemented by written revisions and additions. Therefore, by early 1997, Dr. Zifferero, his deputy, or later his successor, could have fulfilled the promise made in the letters I had received in 1995 and 1996.

Since I was not receiving any response from UNSCOM, I made a last attempt when I learned that Dr. Richard Hooper (the director of IAEA's Department of Safeguards who had also been involved in UNSCOM inspections) was going to give a lecture on 1st December 1997 at a conference of nuclear weapon proliferation experts to which I had been invited. I wrote him a letter [Doc.28] that he did not see because he was not in Vienna before the conference. However, after reading my letter, he told me that I should not write to the successor of Dr. Zifferero since he would personally transmit my letter to Mr. Garry Dillon. Unfortunately, I never received any answer from him.

Additional technical papers and sources of information

Since 1995 I have become aware of a number of technical reports and books that would have been included in the bibliography of an updated version of the 1995 report on Iraq's calutrons. Three of those (by R. Mozley, P. Persiani and R. Meunier) have already been mentioned but I repeat them below for completeness. As can be seen, the first one is dated October 1945: it should have been included in the 1995 version of the report already because it contains the first open technical discussion of the wartime EMIS effort in the U.S.A.

Of course, there is also a lot of new published technical information related to calutron technology and electromagnetic isotope separation. In particular, such information can be found in the proceedings of the last EMIS conference (EMIS-13), or the next one (EMIS-14, May 6-10, 2002, in Canada) [EMIS-14], as well as of the latest magnet technology conferences, the next one of which (MT-17) taking place at CERN on 24-28 September 2001, see [MT-17].

Moreover, there are a number of web sites which collect information on Iraq's former nuclear weapons program and related disarmament questions:

The availability of the latest documents, reports, and activities of IAEA's Iraq Action Team on the Agency's WorldAtom web site was announced by the IAEA in March 2001. Possibly the most useful document of general interest on this site is the fourth consolidated report S/1997/779 which provides an overview of the activities undertaken by the IAEA since it began the implementation of its obligations to carry out on-site inspection of Iraq's nuclear capabilities. However, this and the other documents give only little information on the origin of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, on how they acquired information on nuclear technology and nuclear weapons, and on other aspects that are essential for devising and implementing truly effective disarmament and preventive arms control policies. In particular, the "Action Team Fact Sheet" of 13 July 2001 [FactSheet] is purely descriptive and totally neutral on these matters, as if the IAEA which had been created to promote atomic energy had no responsibility in the proliferation of nuclear technology.

Finally, there is certainly some insight to be gained from a study of the differences and similarities between the 1991 Gulf War, and the 1999 intervention in Kosovo and previous events in former Yugoslavia. For instance, during the war over Kosovo, two Serb scientists were asked to leave CERN, a decision which followed a couple of years old controversy about what CERN should do with the scientists from ex-Yugoslavia [See, Tribune de Genève (7 février 1993, page 5; 8 février 1993, page 13).] The facts (related to the present subject) are that a cyclotron was under construction at the Vinca Institute for Nuclear Research, and that Serbia has a long standing expertise in calutron technology [see, B. Dunjic, "Multi-ion source electromagnetic isotopic separator," Nucl. Inst. and Methods, /38/ (1965) 109--122)].

Independent confirmation of Iraq's early interest in EMIS technology

In Autumn 1997 I met a retired Algerian professor living in Paris named Mohamed Larbi Bouguerra. He told me that he had met a CERN physicist named Wilson who knew Jafar Dhia Jafar personally, and who knew a number of things about Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Since Wilson is quite a common name (there are eight "Wilsons" just in the CERN telephone directory), it was rather difficult to find out which Wilson it was, especially since Prof. Bouguerra himself was not too sure about his recollections.

Fortunately, Jean-Pierre Hurni finally discovered an article by Richard Wilson, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University, who had published an article entitled "Iraq's uranium separation: The huge surprise" in the Middle East monthly New Outlook, Vol.34, No.5 (Tel Aviv, September/October 1991) pages 36-40. On page 38, Prof. Wilson writes:

"The scientific world is international. Scientists are inquisitive. In the 1970s Iraqi scientists collaborated with Russians, who automatically kept an eye on them. In 1981 the Iraqi wanted Western collaboration. In 1982 I made a personal visit myself that they were not making bombs with their publically known facilities. Their best scientist, Dr Jafaar, wanted to study inelastic neutron scattering on the ellipsoidal nuclei of the rare earths using separated isotopes which were known to be available from Oak Ridge. I carried to U.S. DoE a request for a loan of the isotopes, a loan which could have been accompanied by a scientific collaborator reporting to any intelligence agency he wished. Although these isotopes were of no conceivable use in a bomb program, no U.S. government official wanted to appear to help the Iraqis, and the request was denied."

With hindsight, we can interpret this initiative of Dr. Jafar as an attempt to establish a scientific link with Oak Ridge, the laboratory where the World War II calutron plant was built, and where a couple of wartime calutrons were still in daily operation, despite the fact that they were nearly forty years old.

Independent confirmation of Iraq's use of CERN as a source of information

David Albright and Kevin O'Neill of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington posted on the ISIS web site a document entitled "Iraq's Efforts to Acquire Information about Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear-Related Technologies from the United States" dated November 12, 1999 [InfoGather]. This document, based on a report and interviews of Khidhir Hamza, a senior Iraqi nuclear scientist who held several high-level positions in Iraq's pre-Gulf War nuclear weapons program, shows how Iraq obtained information from various sources including CERN. In particular, in the section entitled "Observation: Magnet designs were obtained from abroad" one reads:

In one interview, Hamza discussed how Iraq sought computer programs in the 1970s to design magnets for the EMIS program. Many of the programs obtained by Iraq were of U.S.-origin. According to Hamza:

"We tried to get some standard U.S. magnet design programs. We found two or three at CERN. These were originally American programs, but CERN used them to design their own magnets. Jaffar brought with him the entire CERN library when he came back to Iraq in 1974. We also sent some people back to CERN and they also brought back some tapes.

Another source of programs was a library at Belfast, in Northern Ireland. There is a library there, which has an international repository of [computer] programs. You can join in and gain access for a couple of thousand dollars a year, so we joined that library -- I was the corresponding member ... we [also] purchased a professional package from some companies that designed magnets for CERN. One of them was a Swedish company. I forget the name. The other was German. I don't remember its name, either. According to Jaffar, these two contracts would result in an EMIS magnet, but each, by itself, would not" (May 27, 1999 interview of Khidhir Hamza).

Iraq had difficulty in finding programs compatible to its computer systems. According to Hamza, "the only problem [with the CERN magnets] is that they were installed on CDC computers in Geneva and we had to install them on IBM. We had to do a lot of changes in the command systems in the program, which we did" (May 27, 1999 interview of Khidhir Hamza).

Another publication of ISIS by David Albright, Corey Gay and Khidhir Hamza entitled "Development of the Al-Tuwaitha site: What if the public or the IAEA had overhead imagery?" [Al-Tuwaitha] is to my knowledge the only document apart from ISRI-95-03 which is highlighting the contradiction between the huge Iraqi nuclear weapon program, the fantastic information gathering capabilities available to the intelligence agencies of the great powers, and the claim that Iraq's effort was discovered only AFTER the Gulf War.


Over the twenty-two years that began in 1979 with my analysis of the reasons why Iraqi engineers could be interested by the constructions details of a large magnet such as the one of the NA10 experiment at CERN, everything that I had concluded has been confirmed.

Today, I can even claim that if I would have been successful in carrying out the research program that I had drafted for the Geneva International Peace Research Institute (GIPRI) which I created at the end of 1979, and been able to publish its conclusions, history might have been different: Without the prospect of soon being a nuclear power, Iraq might have been less tempted to invade Kuwait, a major war would have been avoided, and the Middle East situation would be very different now.

However, since I was not alone in these efforts to avoid further nuclear proliferation and to eliminate nuclear weapons, and since many of these efforts were made by scientists much more competent, famous, or influential than me, the main unanswered question is why so little progress has been made so far.

I think that the main elements of an answer to this question are illustrated by the documents presented in these web pages, which is why I feel it was so important to post them. These elements fall in two main categories: political and scientific.

First, if I may start with the political elements, I think that the shift from a non-proliferation to a counter-proliferation policy which I suspected in my 1995 report with Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni is now confirmed, and that this shift is the natural consequence of the nuclear weapon States's policies of the past fifty years. For instance, the current drive towards the abolition of the ABM treaty and the development of a full-fledged missile defense system is the direct consequence of these policies, which are based on the premise that the original nuclear weapon States's will never renounce nuclear weapons --- which give them a major military edge over all other nations. It is therefore unavoidable that all efforts towards genuine nuclear disarmament, and in particular all professional-level research efforts of the kind I tried to make in the past twenty years, were and still are doomed to fail: Nuclear disarmament is simply not a priority of any scientific funding agency in any country...

Second, concerning the reasons why it has not been possible to interest and associate the scientific community to the efforts of the kind I made, a major reason is certainly the tremendous feeling of guilt which drives the majority of scientists to avoid working, reading, and even thinking about the military (and other negative) implications of their work.

In this respect, it is symptomatic that the only organizations which have some influence, e.g., Pugwash, do not do any real professional-level work (either scientific or political) on the issues they talk about. Their role is apparently to express concerns and to reassure the scientific community by suggesting that scientists in either military or civilian institutions have no fundamental responsibility for the consequences of their work and blindness. This attitude explains to a large extent the very emotional reactions of CERN staff members to the 22/23 April 1995 article in Le Journal de Genève, and why these same people show no interest in knowing more about the facts.

In contrast, people working in organizations having a direct contact with the military implications of nuclear science and technology generally show a very different and much more rational attitude. After twenty years of relations with both "academic scientists" and "nuclear weaponeers," there is no real surprise that most encouragements for my efforts come from people like Maurizio Zifferero, Jafar Dhia Jafar, or Isaac Chavet, rather than from my peers.

Finally, a few words about my personal experience as a "whistle-blower." Doing what I did was unavoidable in order to preserve my intellectual and moral integrity. However, the personal and professional consequencies were disastrous: becoming a "whistle-blower" means leaving the herd, and there is no reward for breaking the rule --- the awkward silence about science and warfare.

Acknowledgements and invitations for comments

I am indebted to Dr. Jean-Pierre Hurni and Prof. Gilles Falquet for their help in assembling these web pages, and to Carey Sublette for providing space on The High Energy Weapons Archive web site.

I would greatly appreciate any comments, suggestions or criticism, as well as any additional information, material, or personal recollection regarding the facts and questions raised in these web pages. Please address these contributions by mail to ISRI, P.O. Box 30, CH-1211 Geneva-12, Switzerland, or by e-mail to gsponer@vtx.ch.


Abstract of ISRI-95-03

The past and present status of high-current electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) technology for uranium and plutonium enrichment (i.e. calutrons) is reviewed in the five nuclear weapons states and in four critical states: Japan, India, Israel and Iraq.

The circumstances and significance of the 1979 discovery at CERN, the European center for nuclear research in Geneva, of Iraq's definite interest in calutron technology, is discussed in detail, together with the problem of publishing independent opinions on the nuclear proliferation implications of particle accelerator and fusion technologies.

The conclusion stresses the potential of "old" beam technologies such as calutrons, e.g., for the transformation of reactor-grade into weapons-grade plutonium, and of particle accelerators for the efficient production of plutonium or tritium. UN Security Council Resolutions 687 and 707, obliging Iraq to all proliferating nuclear activities, are shown to provide a legal precedent for the unambiguous definition of strictly peaceful nuclear activities. The "failure" of Western intelligence in detecting Iraq's gigantic calutron program is questioned, and the relation of this "failure" to the justification of past and possible future coercive counter-proliferation actions is investigated.

Table of content of ISRI-95-03



List of figures


1. Principle and state of the art in calutron technology

1.1 Enrichment technologies in perspective

1.2 Basic principle and main characteristics of EMIS

1.3 Sources of information on EMIS and calutrons

1.4 EMIS in the United States

1.5 EMIS in the Soviet Union

1.6 EMIS in the United Kingdom

1.7 EMIS in France

1.8 EMIS in China

1.9 EMIS in India

1.10 EMIS in Israel

1.11 EMIS in Japan

1.12 EMIS in other countries and at CERN

2. Iraq's calutron program

2.1 Spring 1979 at CERN

2.2 Jafar Dhia Jafar and the origin of Iraq's calutron program

2.3 The NA10 magnet as a calutron magnet

2.4 Iraq's calutron design

2.5 The difficulties of publishing

3. Implications for the proliferation of nuclear weapons

3.1 Beam technologies and nuclear weapon proliferation

3.2 EMIS for plutonium purification

3.3 UN resolutions 687 and 707 and their implications for a halt of all proliferation prone nuclear activities

3.4 Intelligence failure or staging for counter-proliferation?



Annex 1 of UN Security Council document S/22872/Rev.1


Fig.1a --- Trajectories of U-235 and U-238 ions in a 180-degrees calutron.

Fig.1b --- Trajectories of ions of the same mass leaving the source at different angles in a 180-degrees calutron.

Fig.2 --- Spectrometer of experiment NA10. The outer diameter of the magnet is 410 cm.

Fig.3a --- Front page of reference 49.

Fig.3b --- Front page of reference 50.

Fig.4 --- Section through the Risoe spectrometer. The outer diameter of the magnet is 50 cm.

Fig.5a --- Cross section of Iraq's calutron magnet cores: Pre-machined iron core for the 120 cm beam radius magnets.

Fig.5b --- Cross section of Iraq's calutron magnet cores: Final dimensions of 120 cm beam radius magnet cores.

Fig.6 --- Schematic of Iraq's alpha calutron track. Only two adjacent magnets and only one separation chamber is shown.

Fig.7a --- Photographs of Iraqi alpha and beta calutron chambers: Alpha calutron chamber on its side.

Fig.7b --- Photographs of Iraqi alpha and beta calutron chambers: Crushed beta calutron chamber.

Additional key words of ISRI-95-03 and ISRI-96-06

TOPICS: Arms Control Today, Atoms for Peace, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, counter-proliferation, counterproliferation, non-proliferation, nonproliferation, nuclear weapon free zone, London guidelines, particle beam weapon, radiological weapon, Warsaw guidelines, Wassenaar arrangement, Zangger list.

PEOPLE: J.E. Alvarez, L.A. Artsimovitch, R. Bernas, G. Bush, L. Dance, J. Grinevald, L. Hanouz, R. Higgins, Saddam Hussein, Jafaar, Jafar, Jaffar, J. Jennekens, F.L. Kirgis, O. Kofoed-Hansen, E.O. Lawrence, P. Lehmann, M. Morpurgo, A.O. Nier, R. Preiswerk, C. Rubbia, H. Serdar, K. Siegbahn, N. Svartholm, M.C. Wood, C.J. Zilverschoon.

COUNTRIES AND LOCATIONS: Los Alamos, Arzamas, Bagdhad, Denmark, Germany, Harwell, Iran, Kuwait, Osirak, Osiraq, Pakistan, Pelindaba, Sendai, Sverdlovsk, Tammouz, Tarmyia, Tuwaitha.


Copyright (c) 2001 by André A. Gsponer. All rights reserved.