Sunday, July 27, 2008

Have Your Yellowcake and Eat It Too
Christopher Merola
Friday, July 11, 2008
On July 5, 2008, the Associated Press (AP) released a story titled:
Secret U.S. mission hauls uranium from Iraq. The opening paragraph is
as follows:
Bull shit Bull shit Bull shit

From a reliable source:
The vast Tuwaitha site has been bombed repeatedly since 1981, when Israeli warplanes destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor there before it could be used to make weapons-grade uranium. American warplanes bombed the site in 1991 during the first gulf war.

After the American invasion in 2003, Tuwaitha was looted. Barrels used to store the yellowcake were stolen and sold to local people, who used them to store water and food and to wash clothes, according to a report by the atomic energy agency.

From The New York Times, U.S. Helps Remove Uranium From Iraq

In the original AP report, there was a thorough discussion of the origins of the shipped material.

I forget that I read sources not in the news media, particularly in the science journals, which fills in background information.

Here are excerpts from a brief item in a recent Science magazine issue: (Science 11 July 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5886, p. 188)

Iraq Embarks on Demolition of Saddam-Era Nuclear Labs
Richard Stone

When Ronald Chesser arrived by military helicopter at the Al-Tuwaitha Nuclear Center south of Baghdad on 2 July, the radioecologist from Texas Tech University in Lubbock was thrilled by what he saw. Few would consider it a pretty sight: dozens of buildings riddled with radioactivity, some reduced to rubble by Coalition bombs. What filled Chesser with hope was a clutch of trailers, including one for decontamination showers, freshly installed for an urgent task: the dismantlement of a sprawling facility where physicists in the 1970s and 1980s tried in vain to build an atomic bomb for Saddam Hussein. "I thought, 'Wow, this is really going to work,' " Chesser says.

The dismantlement of Saddam's main nuclear weapons complex comes after years of painstaking preparation. A big challenge lies in its chaotic state. Tuwaitha's two research reactors and other key buildings, including facilities for fuel fabrication and plutonium separation, were bombed in 1981 and 1991. During the Iraq war in April 2003, Tuwaitha staff fled and the center was looted. Unaware of the health risk, people hauled off scores of drums of uranium oxide extract--dumping some of the "yellowcake" on the grounds of Tuwaitha--to use the barrels for catching rain or washing clothes. By June, nuclear inspectors had accounted for virtually all the missing drums and uranium. Two years later, Chesser, Phillips, and Brenda Rodgers of Texas Tech, with Iraq's science ministry, surveyed schools in villages near Tuwaitha. "To our relief, we found they were not contaminated," says Phillips. In a secret operation described earlier this week by the Associated Press, U.S. forces last April removed 550 tons of yellowcake from Tuwaitha. Iraq sold the uranium to a Canadian company for processing into fuel for civilian power reactors.

To pinpoint where looters had dumped yellowcake and where bombs had dispersed radioactive materials, Phillips and Chesser, with colleagues from Iraq and Ukraine, in 2005 analyzed more than 400 soil samples, compiling a rough map of radioactivity at the 9300-hectare Tuwaitha compound. The contamination map laid the groundwork for a U.K.-funded "Train and Engage" program that the Texas Tech duo ran last month for 27 Iraqi scientists, including several former weaponeers.

A major part of the project is the decontamination of the Active Metallurgy Testing Laboratory (LAMA) designed to extract enriched uranium from fuel rods and handle radioisotopes. As it turned out, the LAMA was only used for a single experiment, and is only lightly contaminated. Still the effort will take a crew of 50 a year and a half to finish work on the rubble filled 62,000 square meters complex, (equal to six football fields).

The AP article was also clear regarding the aging and deteriorated condition of many of the containers that were used to store the tons of yellowcake already in Iraq in the 1980s. When the current Bush administration was insisting that there was an active nuclear weapon program, and that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium "yellowcake" ore, they knew fully well that there were already many tons of unprocessed material in Iraq and that Iraq had no possible means to process what they already had.

Sadam Hussain was a secular, and even anti-relegious sect dictator installed and supported by the Raygun and early Bush administration. What religious afiliation Sadam Hussain and his political machine had were opposed to the Shia (think Northern Ireland Catholics and Protestants). The Shia, and especially the Saudi Wahhabi are the major supporters of al-Qaeda.

None of this matters in regard to the Bush regime lying about Sadam Hussain trying to buy uranium ore, and exposing an undercover CIA agent for political gain. Iraq was not trying to buy what they already had. Iraq could not process what they already had because the labs had been blown to crap by the Israelis and then us- 1981 (Israel) and from 1991 until 2000 the US.

Processing details that were "Top Secret" in the 1960 were public knowledge in the 1970s because it was realized that the "cat was out of the bag" generally, and that the engineering details were more difficult than the theory anyway.

So there are just a few problems:

*We knew that there was radioactive material already located there.

Right, and we knew that they couldn't process it, and didn't need any more than they had.

*We knew there was the ambition to generate weapons with it because they tried in the past.

I have the ambition to be a billionare and live forever- ambition is meaningless without the means to achive your goals.

*We knew there were bunkers but didn't know where they fully were or what was going on inside them

We had been bombing the bunkers regularly for years, and knew fully well that nothing was going on in them.

*We also knew that Saddam was not abiding by the rules set by the UN

Actually, Sudam's Iraq was obeying UN resolutions be
tter than the Bush White House obeys Congressional subpoenas, and the Constitution.

*Muslim terrorists displayed a willingness on their part to attack our country directly in New York by the virtue of the attack itself.

None of which had the slightest thing to do with Iraq. The Saudi Wahhabi are the major supporters of al-Qaeda, the Shia are the major opponents of Israel. Conservative Christian terrorists had displayed a willingness to attack in Oklahoma City- Should we begin a saturation bombing of Texas, or Montana? I don't think so. Moderate and Liberal Muslims are just as certain that the radicals are not "true Muslims" as you will probably view the Christians terrorists.

Uranium is highly soluble in water in the presence of oxygen forming "yellowcake" or U3O8. In of itself, yellowcake poses a minor radiological threat from short exposures, but the dust could be inhaled which could cause serious lung disease. Raw ore is ground to a fine mesh and then leeched with either acidic (most commonly), or a strong alkali water solution. The leeched fluid is neutralized and evaporated to yield the "yellowcake."

Reading popular press accounts, you might have the idea that yellowcake is weapon ready, which is nonsense. The uranium oxide must be further processed just to make it into a fissionable fuel. This is a long and difficult effort. Then, spent fuel must be reprocessed to produce highly enriched weapons grade uranium (around 85% U-235). The bulk of the US weapons material was produced with a gas centrifuge technology from spent fuel rods from the Savanna River Plant in Akin, South Carolina. The SRP is just across the Savanna River from Augusta Georgia. I have visited the plant to discuss nuclear chemistry projects, and was invited to give a talk to their staff on the scientific application of reactor produced thermal neutrons in archaeology and geochemistry.

U-235 is only about 0.7% of the uranium in naturally occurring ores, and weapon grade material must be at a bare minimum 20%, and will generally be closer to 85%. Since I didn't recall the numbers off hand, I did some checking. At 85% enrichment, you would need about 50 kilograms of fissionable material to make a bomb. At reasonable recovery efficiencies, a few tons of yellowcake should be enough raw material to make a single low yield weapon. But first you need to build a working gas centrifuge plant, a heavy water reactor, and a reprocessing plant.

This should ring a few alarms. The Iraqis had ~ 550 tons of yellowcake, and they had had them since the early 1980s. They had at that time nuclear ambitions which the Israelis had bombed into history. The bombing was repeated in 1991, and from then on any related construction was closely monitored. They had no processing facility, they never had any processing facility.

The article that was the opening post above claimed that
"Somehow, that
slogan loses its credibility now that 550 metric tons of Saddam's
yellowcake, used for nuclear weapon enrichment, has been discovered and
shipped to Canada for its new use as nuclear energy."

There are some obvious mistakes in that sentence. First, "yellowcake" is not a weapon, or even a reactor fuel. Second, it was not being used in Iraq for any purpose because Iraq had no facility capable of processing it. Third, any use of yellowcake peaceful or otherwise entails enrichment- yellowcake cannot be used to enrich anything itself. Finally, Bush and his minions did lie when they claimed that Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake- they already had tons of the stuff that they couldn't use anyway. Bush and his surrogates presented a nonexistant buy to pretend that this was a critical step forward in the Iraq nuclear program, when in fact they were fully aware that there had been tons of yellowcake in Iraq for decades. If any threat had been real, there was more than enough time for the Iraqis to have acted on it. Bush and his minions lied about the aluminum tubes Iraq wanted to import claiming that these were to build a gas centrifuge when they could not have been used in that manner. (Experts outside the political influence of the Bush gang identified the tubes as surface-to-air missile sleeves.)

As to the other nations with enrichment plants already in production, they are; Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Israel in collaboration with the old South African regime and North Korea were long believed to have enrichment programs, but only N Korea has recently admitted theirs. Belgium, Iran, Italy and Spain hold an investment interest in the French Eurodif enrichment plant, with Iran's holding entitling it to 10% of the enriched uranium output. Iran are also developing their own processing plant, but it is not operational. Australia has also announced their plans to develop a national enrichment capability.

(Regarding my expertise, I held a radioisotopes production license from 1973 to 1978, and I last renewed it in 1982. I have several publications on the application of Neutron Activation Analysis in archaeological and geochemical research, and have been invited to various universities and other groups to lecture on these topics).

PS: Google Maps has enough resolution to give all the details needed to establish that the Iraqi nuclear effort was wasted just by the Google satellite data.

I know for a fact that the US intelligence agencies had better data than Google. (I was offered the job of analyzing 1980's CIA satellite data on the campfire locations of Siberian nomads. No kidding! Funny story.)

"Bubuah" Bush has trashed every single job he ever had. He and his gang dupped you guys into a disgusting slaughter of Iraqis, and triggered the deaths of over 4,000 Americans. This was supposed to be revenge for the deaths of ~3000 Americans (lots of foreign nationals died that day in September). The actual perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are still at large (or dead with their victims). Gitmo torture victims are being freed, America's reputation is trashed and gas is $4.50 a gallon. Marine diesel is ~$5.59 in California this week. The Bush gang insisted that the Iraq war would be 'nearly' bloodless and pay for itself. We are in trillions of dollars of debt mostly owned by the Commmunist Chinese, and the British. The British is the most ironic- we fought a revolution only to be sold back, and by the "conservatives."