AP article: US Removed Uranium From Iraq

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by ZB9, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. ZB9

    ZB9 Active Member

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    thought id reset this article. It's probably a suprise to most folks since most of the mainstream media has suppressed coverage of stuff like this

    Im not saying that WMD programs were the reason why the coalition invaded Iraq. I would bet that was way down the list of reasons. It was probably just the best way to spin it to the American public without having to get too nuanced, but they werent spinning as much as some people might think.

    anyway, here is the article

    AP Exclusive: U.S. Removes Uranium From Iraq
    Saturday, July 5, 2008 2:30 PM

    -- The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program _ a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium _ reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

    The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" _ the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment _ was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

    What's now left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad _ using teams that include Iraqi experts recently trained in the Chernobyl fallout zone in Ukraine.

    "Everyone is very happy to have this safely out of Iraq," said a senior U.S. official who outlined the nearly three-month operation to The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

    While yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a so-called "dirty bomb" _ a conventional explosive that disperses radioactive material _ it could stir widespread panic if incorporated in a blast. Yellowcake also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, nuclear weapons using sophisticated equipment.

    The Iraqi government sold the yellowcake to a Canadian uranium producer, Cameco Corp., in a transaction the official described as worth "tens of millions of dollars." A Cameco spokesman, Lyle Krahn, declined to discuss the price, but said the yellowcake will be processed at facilities in Ontario for use in energy-producing reactors.

    "We are pleased ... that we have taken (the yellowcake) from a volatile region into a stable area to produce clean electricity," he said.

    The deal culminated more than a year of intense diplomatic and military initiatives _ kept hushed in fear of ambushes or attacks once the convoys were under way: first carrying 3,500 barrels by road to Baghdad, then on 37 military flights to the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia and finally aboard a U.S.-flagged ship for a 8,500-mile trip to Montreal.

    And, in a symbolic way, the mission linked the current attempts to stabilize Iraq with some of the high-profile claims about Saddam's weapons capabilities in the buildup to the 2003 invasion.

    Accusations that Saddam had tried to purchase more yellowcake from the African nation of Niger _ and an article by a former U.S. ambassador refuting the claims _ led to a wide-ranging probe into Washington leaks that reached high into the Bush administration.

    Tuwaitha and an adjacent research facility were well known for decades as the centerpiece of Saddam's nuclear efforts.

    Israeli warplanes bombed a reactor project at the site in 1981. Later, U.N. inspectors documented and safeguarded the yellowcake, which had been stored in aging drums and containers since before the 1991 Gulf War. There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991, the official said.

    U.S. and Iraqi forces have guarded the 23,000-acre site _ surrounded by huge sand berms _ following a wave of looting after Saddam's fall that included villagers toting away yellowcake storage barrels for use as drinking water cisterns.

    Yellowcake is obtained by using various solutions to leach out uranium from raw ore and can have a corn meal-like color and consistency. It poses no severe risk if stored and sealed properly. But exposure carries well-documented health concerns associated with heavy metals such as damage to internal organs, experts say.

    "The big problem comes with any inhalation of any of the yellowcake dust," said Doug Brugge, a professor of public health issues at the Tufts University School of Medicine.

    Moving the yellowcake faced numerous hurdles.

    Diplomats and military leaders first weighed the idea of shipping the yellowcake overland to Kuwait's port on the Persian Gulf. Such a route, however, would pass through Iraq's *beep* heartland and within easy range of extremist factions, including some that Washington claims are aided by Iran. The ship also would need to clear the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, where U.S. and Iranian ships often come in close contact.

    Kuwaiti authorities, too, were reluctant to open their borders to the shipment despite top-level lobbying from Washington.

    An alternative plan took shape: shipping out the yellowcake on cargo planes.

    But the yellowcake still needed a final destination. Iraqi government officials sought buyers on the commercial market, where uranium prices spiked at about $120 per pound last year. It's currently selling for about half that. The Cameco deal was reached earlier this year, the official said.

    At that point, U.S.-led crews began removing the yellowcake from the Saddam-era containers _ some leaking or weakened by corrosion _ and reloading the material into about 3,500 secure barrels.

    In April, truck convoys started moving the yellowcake from Tuwaitha to Baghdad's international airport, the official said. Then, for two weeks in May, it was ferried in 37 flights to Diego Garcia, a speck of British territory in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. military maintains a base.

    On June 3, an American ship left the island for Montreal, said the official, who declined to give further details about the operation.

    The yellowcake wasn't the only dangerous item removed from Tuwaitha.

    Earlier this year, the military withdrew four devices for controlled radiation exposure from the former nuclear complex. The lead-enclosed irradiation units, used to decontaminate food and other items, contain elements of high radioactivity that could potentially be used in a weapon, according to the official. Their Ottawa-based manufacturer, MDS Nordion, took them back for free, the official said.

    The yellowcake was the last major stockpile from Saddam's nuclear efforts, but years of final cleanup is ahead for Tuwaitha and other smaller sites.

    The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency plans to offer technical expertise.

    Last month, a team of Iraqi nuclear experts completed training in the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, which once housed the Chernobyl workers before the deadly meltdown in 1986, said an IAEA official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decontamination plan has not yet been publicly announced.

    But the job ahead is enormous, complicated by digging out radioactive "hot zones" entombed in concrete during Saddam's rule, said the IAEA official. Last year, an IAEA safety expert, Dennis Reisenweaver, predicted the cleanup could take "many years."

    The yellowcake issue also is one of the many troubling footnotes of the war for Washington.

    © 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  2. ZB9

    ZB9 Active Member

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    another article

    Sunday, July 17, 2005 5:08 p.m. EDT
    The Uranium Joe Wilson Didn't Mention

    By April 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had stockpiled 500 tons of yellowcake uranium at his al Tuwaitha nuclear weapons development plant south of Baghdad.

    That intriguing little detail is almost never mentioned by the big media, who prefer to chant the mantra "Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction" while echoing Joseph Wilson's claim that "Bush lied" about Iraq seeking more of the nuclear material in Niger.

    The media's decision to put the Wilson-Plame affair back on the front burner, however, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for President Bush - giving his administration a chance to resurrect an important debate they conceded far too easily about the weapons of mass destruction threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

    First, the facts - from a reliable critic of the White House, the New York Times, which covered the story long after the paper announced it was tightening its standards on WMD news out of Iraq.

    "The United States has informed an international agency that oversees nuclear materials that it intends to move hundreds of tons of uranium from a sealed repository south of Baghdad to a more secure place outside Iraq," the paper announced in a little-noticed May 2004 report.

    "The repository, at Tuwaitha, a centerpiece of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program until it was largely shut down after the first Persian Gulf war in 1991, holds more than 500 tons of uranium," the paper revealed, before insisting: "None of it [is] enriched enough to be used directly in a nuclear weapon."

    Well, almost none.

    The Times went on to report that amidst Saddam's yellowcake stockpile, U.S. weapons inspectors found "some 1.8 tons" that they "classified as low-enriched uranium."

    The paper conceded that while Saddam's nearly 2 tons of partially enriched uranium was "a more potent form" of the nuclear fuel, it was "still not sufficient for a weapon."

    Consulted about the low-enriched uranium discovery, however, Ivan Oelrich, a physicist at the Federation of American Scientists, told the Associated Press that if it was of the 3 percent to 5 percent level of enrichment common in fuel for commercial power reactors, the 1.8 tons could be used to produce enough highly enriched uranium to make a single nuclear bomb.

    And Thomas B. Cochran, director of the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Times that the low-enriched uranium could be useful to a nation with nuclear ambitions.

    "A country like Iran could convert that into weapons-grade material with a lot fewer centrifuges than would be required with natural uranium," he explained.

    Luckily, Iraq didn't have even the small number of centrifuges necessary to get the job done.

    Or did it?

    The physicist tapped by Saddam to run his centrifuge program says that after the first Gulf War, the program was largely dismantled. But it wasn't destroyed.

    In fact, according to what he wrote in his 2004 book, "The Bomb in My Garden," Dr. Mahdi Obeidi told U.S. interrogators: "Saddam kept funding the IAEC [Iraq Atomic Energy Commission] from 1991 ... until the war in 2003."

    "I was developing the centrifuge for the weapons" right through 1997, he revealed.

    And after that, Dr. Obeidi said, Saddam ordered him under penalty of death to keep the technology available to resume Iraq's nuke program at a moment's notice.

    Dr. Obeidi said he buried "the full set of blueprints, designs - everything to restart the centrifuge program - along with some critical components of the centrifuge" under the garden of his Baghdad home.

    "I had to maintain the program to the bitter end," he explained. All the while the Iraqi physicist was aware that he held the key to Saddam's continuing nuclear ambitions.

    "The centrifuge is the single most dangerous piece of nuclear technology," Dr. Obeidi says in his book. "With advances in centrifuge technology, it is now possible to conceal a uranium enrichment program inside a single warehouse."

    Consider: 500 tons of yellowcake stored at Saddam's old nuclear weapons plant, where he'd managed to partially enrich 1.8 tons. And the equipment and blueprints that could enrich enough uranium to make a bomb stored away for safekeeping. And all of it at the Iraqi dictator's disposal.

    If the average American were aware of these undisputed facts, the debate over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would have been decided long ago - in President Bush's favor.

    One more detail that Mr. Wilson and his media backers don't like to discuss: There's a reason Niger was such a likely candidate for Saddam's uranium shopping spree.

    Responding to the firestorm that erupted after Wilson's July 2003 column, Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters:

    "In case people should think that the whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention, in the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased round about 270 tons of uranium from Niger."
  3. SuspectCorner

    SuspectCorner Bromo

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  4. Heisenberg

    Heisenberg That gum you like. Zone Supporter

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  5. ZB9

    ZB9 Active Member

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    lol "factcheck.org"? Talk about spinning

    that doesnt exactly disprove any of the quotes in the article from people like Tony Blair

    anyway, the main point is that you can enrich uranium to make bombs. 2 metric tons was enriched. The fact that people in the region would have wanted to get their hands on the stuff, it is probably a good thing that the US got to it first.

    but again, i doubt that is the main reason why Iraq was invaded. I imagine it was on the list of reasons though.
  6. ZB9

    ZB9 Active Member

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    meanwhile...overall the middle-east is more stable now than before the coalition deposed Saddam. Qhaddafi turned over his nuclear weapons program (to the US, btw, NOT the UN). Syria pulled out of Lebanon, etc...and, a lot of people now take us seriously who didn't in the past, including some of our "friends and allies."
  7. SuspectCorner

    SuspectCorner Bromo

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    I apologize for the terse response, ZeeBeeNine.

    But, in the past, this has been fronted as "the missing link" in the WMD rationale for the invasion of Iraq - and it just ain't so brother.

    Here's a link to the IAEA report - absent of any spin whatsoever. I leave the math up to you... :

  8. burmafrd

    burmafrd Benched

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    That is of course for those that think the IAEA has no agenda or political axes to grind......
  9. NinePointOh

    NinePointOh Well-Known Member Zone Supporter

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    You just copy-pasted an article from Newsmax, and you're ragging on FactCheck.org for spinning?

    FYI, FactCheck.org is run by apolitical experts with PhDs and decades of journalism experience and has almost unmatched credibility in the area of objectivity and even-handedness. So much so that Dick Cheney himself directed viewers of the 2004 VP debate to consult the website to rebut claims about him and Haliburton.

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