05 July 2008

ME uranium to gooo to Ontario - o -o -o

Canada gets Saddam's uranium


Associated Press

July 5, 2008 at 2:21 PM EDT

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 13,500-kilometre 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 centre-piece of Saddam's nuclear efforts.

Israeli warplanes bombed a reactor project at the site in 1981. Later, UN 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 massive 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 colour 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 Shiite 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. (oh, that's ludicrous! Really, REALLY dangerous. But Ontario MUST be made into the butthole of the world, no matter how dangerous THAT is .. )

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, a U.S. 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 UN'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.

A CIA officer, Valerie Plame, claimed her identity was leaked to journalists to retaliate against her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who wrote that he had found no evidence to support assertions that Iraq tried to buy additional yellowcake from Niger.

A federal investigation led to the conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

See my links on dumping of uranium in Ontario, on my blog lowlevelradiation.blogspot.com

and you may wish to consider the following:

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Dera Ghazi Khan

Beginning in 1972 the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission began geological surveys to find mineable deposits of uranium. Uranium deposits were found in several locations in Pakistan. The Atomic Energy Minerals Centre (AEMC) in Lahore was responsible for the exploration and mining operations. The Siwalik Hills, west of Dera Ghazi Khan, was indentified as the most promising location. Even this uranium ore is of relatively low grade, containing only a few kg of uranium per ton [compared to tens of kilograms in high-grade Canadian or Australian ore].

In 1996 Pakistan launched a five-year effort to locate new uranium resources. The $7 million effort included exploratory drilling, reconnaisance and radon track density surveys and mapping in the areas of north and south Nangar Nai, Khara-Murghan Zai and Pitek Sori Gorakh in the Dera Ghanzi Khan region.

The Pakisani uranium extraction plant, located in the same region, was designed by Pakistani chemical, mechanical and electrical engineers from AEMC and other PAEC centers with the assistance from other Pakistani industrial concerns which manufactured certain key components. Construction of the uranium yellow cake plant was completed in short order, and the first yellow cake, which is a concentrated form of uranium, was produced at the plant within 12 months of the start of construction.

Sources and Resources

  • "How Pakistan Made Nuclear Fuel" by Munir Ahmad Khan, former chairperson of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission: Islamabad The Nation 7 February 1998, page 7 [Pakistan: Article on How Pakistan Made Nuclear Fuel : FBIS-NES-98-042 : 11 Feb 1998]
  • [NB96.36-16] Pakistan: Uranium Institute News Briefing

29 June 2008

Conference on Disarmament Statements


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24 June 2008
States News Service

The following information was released by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG):

The Conference on Disarmament today heard statements from Australia, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Canada, France, Sri Lanka, China and New Zealand on Presidential proposal CD/1840 to end the impasse in the Conference and on regional nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.

The incoming President of the Conference, Ambassador Christina Rocca of the United States, said it was unquestioned that CD/1840 was a compromise, and thus by definition, unable to meet anyone's goals perfectly, but it was well-suited to advance everyone's interests and to get the Conference back to work. If it was adopted, all would win much and lose a little. While the United States would continue to focus on CD/1840 as the desired outcome of this year's activities in the Conference, with the support of the P6, they proposed a series of informal meetings during the third part of the 2008 session of the Conference in late July and in August. The United States had asked the seven Coordinators to resume their roles and to chair the discussions. The full exchange of views in these renewed informal discussions would help refresh all the issues in Members' minds, would help advance consensus on CD/1840, and would help inform the Conference on its final report.

Australia informed the Conference of an announcement made by the Australian Prime Minister in a speech in Japan on the establishment of an International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. In a joint statement with the Japanese Prime Minister, Australia and Japan had renewed their determination to strengthen the international disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime and to cooperate closely to achieve a successful outcome to the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The objective of the Commission was to enhance global efforts to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty by paving the way for a successful Review Conference in 2010.

Japan said that, on 12 June, the Japanese Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Australia had released a joint statement to reaffirm the particular importance of the Japan-Australia relationship and to strengthen further the comprehensive and strategic partnership between the two countries. Both leaders had renewed their determination to strengthen the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Japan had also welcomed the Australian Prime Minister's proposal to establish an international commission on nuclear non-proliferation. On CD/1840, Japan believed it was a well-balanced compromise.

The Russian Federation said not everything in CD/1840 suited the Russian Federation and it was sure that all other delegations were not fully satisfied either. The Russian Federation wanted a stronger focus on prevention of an arms race in outer space which was a priority for the country. The Russian Federation was interested in having a negotiating mandate for the Ad Hoc Committee on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation was prepared not to oppose it with the view of ensuring the quickest return of the Conference to work.

South Africa said the consensus rule in the Conference had often been mentioned as the main reason why the Conference had not been able to negotiate anything in the last couple of years. But was it not perhaps the misuse of the consensus rule, rather than the rule itself, that had created the problem. The consensus rule did not apply itself, it was the Members of the Conference that chose when and how to apply it. When it was used to block the commencement, not the finalization, of negotiations, one could perhaps understand why some referred to the "tyranny of consensus". South Africa did not believe that CD/1840 was perfect. However, it represented that which was possible and practical under the present circumstances. South Africa stood ready to join a consensus on CD/1840.

Canada, speaking also on behalf of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), presented to the Conference the report on a conference entitled: "Security in Space: the Next Generation", that had taken place earlier this year. The conference had been the latest in a series of annual conferences held by UNIDIR on the issues of space security, the peaceful uses of outer space and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

France referred to the statement by the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, on 21 March in Cherbourg proposing an ambitious disarmament plan, saying that these transparency measures were unprecedented for a nuclear weapon State. The President of France proposed to invite international experts to come and witness the dismantling of the fissile material for weapons facilities in Pierrelatte and Marcoule. Today, France renewed this invitation, and a visit to these facilities would be organized on 16 September. All Member States were invited to send representatives.

Sri Lanka said CD/1840 was a good basis for discussion, Sri Lanka had no doubt about that. However, Sri Lanka wished to draw attention to some underlying structural anomalies which had to be addressed if this effort was to be successful. CD/1840 privileged one agenda item over others. This particular item elevated over the others involved certain Member States more than certain others. If those Member States felt that their fundamental national interests were at variance with the spirit of CD/1840, then it was not a question of a handful of holdouts. Those countries concerns had to be seriously engaged with. If it was the perception of these States that their core strategic interests were at stake, then the Conference had to do better. Doing better could mean looking afresh at the other agenda items.

China hoped that the relevant parties would continue to make efforts to further conduct a constructive dialogue and consultations so that they were able to narrow the differences and reach consensus on a programme of work which was acceptable to all. In general, China was ready to make joint efforts with all the relevant delegations to push forward progress in the Conference.

New Zealand supported the President's comment that moving forward to reach consensus on the basis of CD/1840 was the best basis for advancing the work in the Conference. As far as its national position was concerned, New Zealand would be happy to commence negotiations on any of the core items before the Conference. As a non nuclear weapon State and as a State which had taken strong positions on nuclear weapons, New Zealand particularly wished for the start of negotiations on nuclear disarmament. The reality was that no delegation here was in a position to begin serious negotiations on all the core issues before the Conference. A Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty would contribute to nuclear disarmament. New Zealand would like to see the treaty deal with verification and existing stocks and would argue in the negotiations in favour of including verification and existing stocks.

According to draft decision CD/1840 by the 2008 Presidents of the Conference, the Conference would appoint Chile as Coordinator to preside over substantive discussions on nuclear disarmament and the prevention of nuclear war; appoint Japan as Coordinator to preside over negotiations, without any preconditions, on a non-discriminatory and multilateral treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, thus providing all delegations with the opportunity to actively pursue their respective positions and priorities, and to submit proposals on any issue they deem relevant in the course of negotiations; appoint Canada as Coordinator to preside over substantive discussions dealing with issues related to prevention of an arms race in outer space; appoint Senegal as Coordinator to preside over substantive discussions dealing with appropriate arrangements to assure non-nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; and would request those Coordinators to present a report to the Conference on the progress of work before the conclusion of the session. The Conference would also decide to request the Coordinators for the agenda items previously appointed by the 2008 Presidents (i.e., new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems for such weapons, radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament; and transparency in armament) to continue their work during the current session.

Draft Decision CD/1840 builds on an earlier proposal submitted by the 2007 P-6 (CD/2007/L.1), and its related documents CRP.5 and CRP.6, combining those three texts in a single document.

The Conference on Disarmament will hold a public plenary at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 June, to listen to a statement by Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union. This will be the last public plenary of the second part of the 2008 session of the Conference. The third and last part of the 2008 session of the Conference will be held from 28 July to 12 September.


CHRISTINA ROCCA (United States), Incoming President of the Conference on Disarmament, said it was an honour to preside over the Conference. The common sense of purpose shown by all members of the Presidency, their joint aim in getting the Conference back to work, the genuine collegialitiy, was all impressive and gratifiying. It was a demonstration of how harmony could be created from disparate voices, given the will to do so. Some delegations had questioned the need for the differentiation among the key issues shown by CD/1840. It was unquestioned that CD/1840 was a compromise, and thus by definition, unable to meet anyone's goals perfectly, but it was well-suited to advance everyone's interests and to get the Conference back to work. If it was adopted, all would win much and lose a little.

read the rest of the press release here.

Here is the .pdf of the draft document