Iraqi Yellowcake Uranium Moved to Montreal

Saddam’s supply of yellowcake has been secretly sold to a Canadian energy firm and flown safely to Montreal.

In a Monday June 9, 2003 file photo, UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) work at the nuclear facility in Tuwaitha, Iraq, 50 kms east of Baghdad. The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein\'s nuclear program - a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium - reached a Canadian port Saturday, July 5, 2008, to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, file) 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.

[…]

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.

[…]

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.

Daniel De Groot notes that “this uranium a) was not weapons grade and b) was well known to the UN and IAEA and was being stored legally by Saddam’s government. It was legally in Iraq according to international law.” Barbara O’Brien adds, “The critical point is that Saddam Hussein couldn’t do anything with this uranium because he lacked the equipment and technology to enrich it. So it had been sitting around for years in drums sealed by the IAEA. No nuclear program.” Here’s an extensive listings of IAEA Key Findings on Iraq’s Nuclear Program, listing extensively the materials we knew about before the invasion.

I’d add that the key line from the AP report is, “There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991.” So, while Joe Wilson may have lied about many things, the movement of yellowcake from more than a decade before his infamous fact finding trip isn’t evidence of a new one.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Iraq War, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I’d add that the key line from the AP report is, “There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991.” So, while Joe Wilson may have lied about many things, the movement of yellowcake from more than a decade before his infamous fact finding trip isn’t evidence of a new one.

    Nor does it, (even assuming we take this at face value) negate the idea that Saddam tried.

  2. Davebo says:

    Nor does it, (even assuming we take this at face value) negate the idea that Saddam tried.

    True, but one would wonder why he would try if he was already sitting on 550 tons of the stuff.

  3. DL says:

    It wasn’t weapons grade. Then again a pea in a boy’s pocket isn’t a weapon until he inserts it into the peashooter. Without that eventual probablility there is no reason for the boy to carry hard little peas in his pocket is there?

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Ms. O’Brien’s comment is relevant as long as one presumes the sanctions regime would be preserved (that was my preference). Unfortunately for this view it was clear that support for the sanctions was breaking down and it’s not entirely clear to me how it could have been maintained.

    What is clear to me is that maintaining it would have been cost us significantly more than we had been spending.

  5. Ben says:

    It wasn’t weapons grade.

    That doesn’t negate the idea that he wished it had been weapons grade.

  6. Michael says:

    That doesn’t negate the idea that he wished it had been weapons grade.

    Yeah well wishing isn’t a very effective way to enrich Uranium. He probably wished he could turn some of that hydrogen in his water into a fusion bomb too. Minus magic ponies, neither one is a weapon.

  7. Hal says:

    That doesn’t negate the idea that he wished it had been weapons grade.

    Um, you guys know how one goes about making it weapons grade? That would be a zillion centrifuges. And they’re not easy to hide at all.

    Geebus. It’s not like turning on a light switch. It’s not a “pea” in his pocket waiting to come out at a moment’s notice.

    It’s like you guys live in a science fiction novel – a poorly written one.

  8. Ben says:

    Weekend is over, time to get those sarcasm detectors up and running. 🙂

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yeah well wishing isn’t a very effective way to enrich Uranium. He probably wished he could turn some of that hydrogen in his water into a fusion bomb too. Minus magic ponies, neither one is a weapon.

    lol you liberals should think this way when you go about trying to enact the social policies you dream up.

  10. M1EK says:

    So, while Joe Wilson may have lied about many things,

    Nice one. Cite? Of course, you could hide behind “may have”. I may have hit a home run in a major league baseball game last night too.

  11. anjin-san says:

    That doesn’t negate the idea that he wished it had been weapons grade.

    Yea, well he probably wished that bread sticks were laser weapons too…

    We have now seen the end game of the neocon WMD argument. He wished he had them.

  12. Hal says:

    Weekend is over, time to get those sarcasm detectors up and running. 🙂

    Yi… Sorry. Was the case of Guinness that we put away over the fourth.

  13. Bithead says:

    Yea, well he probably wished that bread sticks were laser weapons too…

    We have now seen the end game of the neocon WMD argument. He wished he had them.

    Re-examine the ’16 words”, Anjin.

    “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .”

    The issue was the desire to obtain WMD.

  14. Michael says:

    The issue was the desire to obtain WMD.

    No, the issue is the attempt to obtain, unless we have become the world’s thought police.

  15. Hal says:

    I have the Strong Desire to spend 16 sleepless nights in a passionate embrace with Angelina Jolie. I think I stand a better chance in my “strong desire” than Saddam ever did.

    You really are a card, Dr. B.

  16. anjin-san says:

    Here are some more words:

    Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

    Dick Cheney August 26, 2002

    Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

    George Bush March 18, 2003

    Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.

    Ari Fleisher March 21, 2003

    There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.

    Gen. Tommy Franks March 22, 2003

    We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.

    Donald Rumsfeld March 30, 2003

    Does not sound like they are discussing “desire”

  17. Hal says:

    Does not sound like they are discussing “desire”

    Sure it does. Their desire to get a war on, regardless of the cost, regardless of the evidence.

  18. davod says:

    Wilson’s advised the CIA that Iraq had sought increased trade with Niger. The Iraqi who asked was the Iraqi represenative to the Vatican. The Iraqi representative to the Vatican was the former head of the Iraqi nuclear program.

    anjin-san and Words:

    Three government reports, the latest being the Senate majority (Democratic) report all say the Bush Administrations comments leading up to the Iraq war were supported by the inteligence.

  19. Bithead says:

    Alternately, your own desire to keep a busted flush playing.

  20. Hal says:

    lol. don’t quit your day job…

  21. Bithead says:

    Perhaps you’d better come back to the real world where even in our court system, intent is a factor in assigning punishment.

  22. Hal says:

    intent is a factor in assigning punishment.

    Intent, alone, has never been a crime. That’s *all* you have, *all* that you’ve ever had wrt Saddam and WMDs. It’s laughable to make the argument that, after a *real* crime has been committed, intent figures into the punishment therefore *intent*, alone, must be punishable.

    Again, this is trivial, freshman grade logic problems that even my 3 year old daughter can figure out.

  23. Bithead says:

    Intent, alone, has never been a crime. That’s *all* you have, *all* that you’ve ever had wrt Saddam and WMDs.

    Again, untrue, as his own records demonstate.

    I say again, you’re dealing from a busted flush, and apparently you’re the only one who doesn’t understand the ramifications of that.

  24. Michael says:

    Perhaps you’d better come back to the real world where even in our court system, intent is a factor in assigning punishment.

    But intent is _not_ a factor in determining guilt. You can’t be punished for “wanting to commit a crime”. Intent, minus attempt, is perfectly legal.

  25. anjin-san says:

    Intent can be used to show premeditation if an actual crime has been committed. Intent without commission is not a crime, it is simply something rattling around in someones head.

    So what is the argument for war in the Bitverse now? That we “punished” Saddam because he “intended” to get WMD? Cause where I live we were told that Saddam had WMD, we knew were they were, and we were going to war because he was poised to strike at us…

  26. Bithead says:

    Well, you know, you could save yourself a lot of these questions by looking at what was actually said at the time.
    As I’ve already tried to point out, you’re so busy creating war-monger scenarios you neglect what was originally charged, turns out to have been the case.

  27. anjin-san says:

    you’re so busy creating war-monger scenarios you neglect what was originally charged, turns out to have been the case.

    One snippet from the State of the Union speech does not constitute the entire case for war as presented by the Bush administration. You may choose to interpret it as such, but that does not make it so.

    It is understandable that you want to focus on the only item that presents even the slightest support for your position, but that does not mean the rest of us wish to wear blinders…

  28. anjin-san says:

    Bit I am curious. How many times have you watched “A Few Good Men”?

    Is this really how you see yourself? The sentinel up on the wall, keeping watch… trying to open our eyes to truths which we are either unable or unwilling to accept?

    The fictional Col. Jessup was deranged, but at least he actually had the guts to put himself in harms way for what he believed…

  29. Bithead says:

    The fictional Col. Jessup was deranged, but at least he actually had the guts to put himself in harms way for what he believed..

    I’ve noted your pattern is to lean toward the ad hominem when you run out of argument. I’ll take this as a sign you’ve run out of argument again.

  30. anjin-san says:

    I’ll take this as a sign you’ve run out of argument again.

    Or you could take it for what it is, an attempt to get you to stop running from the issue and re-engage. Comon’ Mavrick, you can do it.

    Bush said he was taking us to war with Iraq BECAUSE THEY HAD WMD.

    There were no WMD.

    All you semantic nonsense, bobbing and weaving, and spinning of fantasies from right wing rant sites does not change this…

  31. jukeboxgrad says:

    anjin:

    One snippet from the State of the Union speech does not constitute the entire case for war as presented by the Bush administration. … It is understandable that you want to focus on the only item that presents even the slightest support for your position

    I realize you and I are on the same side of this argument. But I still want to clarify something.

    I don’t see how the 16 words provide “even the slightest support” for Bit’s position. The 16 words were wrong. Saddam was not seeking yellowcake in Africa. On the contrary. According to Duelfer, he turned down an offer. According to Robb-Silberman, there was nothing to back up the 16 words outside of forged documents.

  32. jukeboxgrad says:

    davod:

    Wilson’s advised the CIA that Iraq had sought increased trade with Niger. The Iraqi who asked was the Iraqi represenative to the Vatican. The Iraqi representative to the Vatican was the former head of the Iraqi nuclear program.

    Wrong. You’re mixing up two different stories. Maybe intentionally. It is correct that Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, visited Niger in 2/99. But this is not the trip connected to the famous “expanding commercial relations” statement. That was a separate trip, in 6/99.

    The nonsense you’re spouting about Zahawie traces back to this article by Hitchens. All he does is present lots of unsubstantiated speculation about Zahawie. R-S considered Zahawie so important that they mentioned him in this many sentences: one. SSCI considered Zahawie so important they they mentioned him this many times: zero.

    Zahawie was not part of the 6/99 visit that was about “expanding commercial relations” (and that was the visit Wilson reported to the CIA). In all his words about Zahawie, Hitchens never bothers to clarify this. I think he intended to confuse people in this regard, and I think your confusion is an example of him succeeding.

    If you’re interested in more detail: Hitchens discusses Zahawie here. Zahawie responds to Hitchens here. Hitchens responds to Zahawie’s response here. More of Hitchens rehashing his rant about Zahawie is here.

    By the way, the person who allegedly said the magic words (“expanding commercial relations”) to Mayaki was not even an Iraqi.

    Another seldom-reported fact: Iraq and Niger did indeed have “commercial relations,” and it had nothing to do with yellowcake. Iraq sold oil to Niger.

  33. jukeboxgrad says:

    bit:

    what was originally charged, turns out to have been the case

    Really? This is what Bush said we’d find:

    500 tons of mustard gas and nerve gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 29,984 prohibited munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several dozen Scud missiles, gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, 18 mobile biological warfare factories, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to dispense anthrax

    (All the claims listed above, including all the numbers cited, came out of either Bush‘s mouth or Powell‘s mouth, or possibly both. Very detailed further analysis is here and here.)

    We found that stuff? Really? Tell us about it.

    Speaking of false statements, hopefully you can explain how these statements are something other than lies:

    we found the weapons of mass destruction
    he wouldn’t let them in

  34. jukeboxgrad says:

    davod:

    Three government reports, the latest being the Senate majority (Democratic) report all say the Bush Administrations comments leading up to the Iraq war were supported by the inteligence.

    There you go again, inventing your own facts. Here’s what SSCI 2004 looked at:

    the objectivity, reasonableness, independence, and accuracy of the judgments reached by the Intelligence Community

    Here’s what was explicitly excluded from SSCI 2004:

    [looking into] whether public statements, reports, and testimony regarding Iraq by US. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information

    (See pages 1 and 2.) Silberman-Robb also had no mandate to investigate Bush. Here’s how they put it:

    … we were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community. Accordingly, while we interviewed a host of current and former policymakers during the course of our investigation, the purpose of those interviews was to learn about how the Intelligence Community reached and communicated its judgments about Iraq’s weapons programs–not to review how policymakers subsequently used that information.

    You’re also misrepresenting what the recent Senate report said. What a surprise.