Monday, July 07, 2008

Nothing to See Here, Just Keep Moving

From the AP: US removes uranium from Iraq.

And not trace amounts either; according to the story, more than 500 tons of yellowcake was evacuated from Iraq during a secret operation that lasted more than three months.

Obviously, it takes more than yellowcake to make a nuclear weapon. And the stockpile discovered in Iraq apparently dated from the first Gulf War. But someone in Saddam's regime apparently felt it was important enough to keep the stuff around.

And didn't we learn--after Operation Iraqi Freedom--that Saddam had been shopping for centrifuges? Again, not enough to build a bomb, but another key element in that process.

Back to you, Ambassador Wilson.


James Skylar Gerrond said...


Actually, your title is more or less correct.

While it is certainly a good thing that this material is no longer in Iraq, we have known about this location (and the yellowcake) since after the Gulf War.

{lifted from Wikipedia}

...The irony is that the Tuwaitha facility south of Baghdad already possessed yellow cake uranium. Between 1980 and 1982, Iraq procured more than 400 tons of yellowcake from Portugal and Niger which remained in a storage complex close to Tuwaitha. [16] [17] The facility and its yellowcake were monitored and frequently inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency after the 1991 Gulf War. About 1.8 metric tons of "yellow cake" and 500 tons of unrefined uranium went missing as the Iraqis left Tuwaitha unattended during the war.[18]When the facility was first encountered by U.S. Marines, they thought they had stumbled upon an illegal weapons cache; according to nuclear experts, however, they actually wound up breaking the IAEA seals that are "designed to ensure the materials aren't diverted for weapons use or end up in the wrong hands."[19] The Pentagon dispatched a team to survey the site "after a month of official indecision", finding it heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing.[20]

In July of 2008, what was believed to be the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program, the United States government shipped 550 metric tonnes of concentrated natural uranium or yellowcake to Montreal, Canada. The Iraqi government sold the yellowcake to a Canadian uranium producer, Cameco Corp.[21]

Contra1 said...

Uh the seals used by the IAEA can stop bad guys from acquiring WMD precursors? We need to put them seals on Irans stuff pronto ... I'll bet you have a trigger lock on your weapon you keep at home for self defense ... Scratch that you probably don't own a gun and believe that guns laws prevent criminals from obtaining weapons ... The material is out of the region ... sure can't end up in the "wrong hands" now.

James Skylar Gerrond said...

@Contra1: In this particular instance, the "bad guys" (Iraq) had already acquired the yellowcake, so the IAEA seals weren't designed to stop that from occuring. The seals were designed to keep the material from being removed and shipped to a different facility where it could potentially be used for weapons (after a long refinement process).

Since Iran has been cooperating with the IAEA lately, there are a number of checks and balances in place to assure that there is no weaponization of Iran's nuke material. So, the 'seals' are already in place. Obviously, if their status towards the IAEA changes then that would drive a policy change toward Iran.

I'm not really sure what my position on gun control has to do with this particular issue, but since you brought it up, I do believe that properly designed policies can keep guns (and nukes) out of the "wrong hands"...just like my lockbox keeps the .45 out of my son's hands.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Clearly, those weren't the droids Ambassador Wilson was looking for...

Contra1 said...

Goggle "Iran breaks IAEA seals"
Think they broke them two plus years ago. Without digging it up I believe sanctions were placed on high level Iranian individuals. I think I hear the additional centrifuges spinning up now ...

The problem I had with your post was the obvious slant in the facts
as posted on Wikipedia. The post effuses a great disdain for the US Marines and the military in general by portraying them as bumbling idiots that ruined a perfectly acceptable plan for world peace developed by the highly effective IAEA and it's most sophisticated, and creative intellectuals. The same people that had no prior knowledge of the AQ Khan network.

I really do not believe Iran is cooperating with the IAEA. Stalling is probably a more accurate description. The Marines needed to verify the facility was not a weapons cache. That trumps seals. If the IAEA seals were doing such a damn good job of securing the stuff how did the Marines get to it? If it was such an effective device why did it not continue surveillance of the area call for help or any of another dozen possibilities?

Seals are not the the end all be all to securing WMD or their precursors. The seals have not stopped Iran and will not stop North Korea. If you believe the Syrians-North Koreans have been honest ... How about the Al Kibar smoking hole?

Just as gun laws are not obeyed by criminals, the IAEA kabuki dance is as ineffective as it is meaningless and seals are not even a speedbump to the "bad guys" regimes, like the former Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

The pained analogy was that a seal on the trigger of a weapon intended for self defense actually impairs self defense.

James Skylar Gerrond said...

@Contra1: It seems to me that this is only going to degrade further and further the longer this goes on, so I am done. I believe that my initial comment stands on its own merit as does the excerpt from Wikipedia (considering it contains at least 7 citations).

You responded with your opinion (and a mandate that I 'google' something). Obviously, you are entitled to your opinion, but it seems that there is nothing to be gained from us continuing this exchange.

The only point from your last post I will address is that I did not find that the Wikipedia post "effuses a great disdain for the US Marines and the military in general by portraying them as bumbling idiots". It was certainly not my intention to disparage any member of the USMC or the broader military.

PCSSEPA said...

Let's just bury our heads in the sand and hope that all these trustworthy individuals do the "right" thing when it comes to obeying the almighty seal. These seals are as effective as a court issued restraining order - and we are all well aware of how well they work. Going a little Curtis LeMay on one or two of these actors would greatly increase the credibility of deterence. We could then put a seal on their coffins.

Contra1 said...

Mandates would not come from me

comment should have read:

'Goggled "Iran breaks IAEA seals"'

... meaning that I performed a cursory search to determine simple facts.

Since Iran has been cooperating with the IAEA lately, there are a number of checks and balances in place to assure that there is no weaponization of Iran's nuke material. So, the 'seals' are already in place. Obviously, if their status towards the IAEA changes then that would drive a policy change toward Iran.

Seals were broken two years ago and nothing meaningful has come from Iran thumbing its nose at the IAEA. Given that, Does anyone seriously believe the IAEA safeguards are preventing the "weaponization of Iran's nuke material"?

Snake Oil Baron said...

I understand that yellow cake makes a darn good alternative to sand when dealing with icy sidewalks.

As a Canadian, I am outraged that the war has resulted in the transfer of this material from the responsible hands of Saddam Husein and the nearly competent UN weapons inspectors to our rogue state.

Unknown said...

There will never be a resolution when it concerns politics. There will always be something wrong to look out for and finding the fault of others which will then lead to something severe. Like the yellowcake situation, I believe the storage did not even contain that harmful of an amount, hence the keyword "traces". However, why was the issue still being emphasized terribly? Because of the scenario I mentioned above.