Marlowe's Shade

Friday, October 08, 2004

Saddam's Uranium Stockpile

Is it really true that Saddam Hussein had no "stockpiles" of weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invaded in March 2003?

Not exactly - at least not if one counts the 500 tons of uranium that the Iraqi dictator kept stored at his al Tuwaitha nuclear weapons development plant.

It gets better:

"You have a warehouse containing 500 tons of natural uranium; you need 25 kilograms of U235 to build one weapon. How many nuclear weapons can you build? The answer is 142."

Fortunately for the world, Saddam didn't have the nuclear enrichment technology to convert his 500-ton uranium stockpile into weapons-grade bombmaking material.

Or did he?

After he was captured by U.S. forces in Baghdad last year, Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, who ran Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program until 1997, had some disturbing news for coalition debriefers.

He kept blueprints for a nuclear centrifuge, along with some actual centrifuge components, stored at his home - buried in the front yard - awaiting orders from Baghdad to proceed.

"I had to maintain the program to the bitter end," Obeidi said recently. His only other choice was death.

In his new book, "The Bomb in My Garden," the Iraqi physicist explains that his nuclear stash was the key that could have unlocked and restarted Saddam's bombmaking program.

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

Last week Dr. Obeidi warned in a New York Times op-ed piece that Saddam could have restarted his nuclear program "with a snap of his fingers."

Perhaps the 500-ton stockpile of nuclear fuel that Saddam kept at al Tuwaitha wasn't quite as benign as our media like to pretend.
papijoe 2:47 PM