Skip to comments.Report: Swiss Had Role In S. African Nukes
Posted on 10/27/2005 9:16:37 PM PDT by blam
Report: Swiss Had Role in S. African Nukes
Friday October 28, 2005 4:01 AM
GENEVA (AP) - Switzerland played a key role in building the nuclear weapons of the former apartheid regime of South Africa, a government-sponsored report said Thursday.
More than a decade ago, then-South African President F.W. de Klerk announced that his country had dismantled its nuclear weapons program.
Peter Hug, the author of a report in the Swiss National Science Foundation's six-year investigation into Swiss-South African relations, said Switzerland and other countries provided technical support for South Africa's uranium enrichment efforts.
Hug, a history professor at the University of Bern, wrote in his 11-page report that a handful of companies and a government research institute were involved in South Africa's atomic program.
In 1977, one firm began to supply ``highly sensitive technology'' to South Africa's uranium enrichment program. Hug said another Swiss company helped supply aluminum vacuum outlets, which ``played an important role in uranium enrichment.''
While the Swiss government did little to prevent these transactions taking place, it also allowed ``close scientific and technology cooperation'' to exist between a government nuclear research center and South Africa.
The nuclear research center aided South Africa between 1971 and 1985 in the sectors of acceleration technology and uranium enrichment, Hug said.
so much for the swiss being neutral
While I do love Switzerland, I know firsthand that its neutrality allowed a lot of SA businesses to do business with the countries that were then technically forbidden to do business with SA. This does not surprise me one bit.
so much for the swiss being neutral
The Swiss aren't so much "neutral" as willing to sell to both sides -- and hide war spoils. They're not much.
SA had offensive nuclear capability in the early 1960s. Israel was connected.
Thanks... these are things I did not realize. my education continues....
SA poped a nuke test (mid atlantic) in the early mid 70's that was never able to be 100% confirmed by US intel and there was a political move by the Ruskies that stopped a test in the kalihari desert via prez peanut in 75.
Welcome to the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring...
OOPS off by a couple of years....
In 1976, the Soviet Union apparently became sufficiently alarmed at the progress of the South African nuclear program to discuss it with the United States. According to Deiter Gerhardt, a German national living in South Africa who spied for the Soviet Union, Soviet officials asked for U.S. cooperation in halting the program. One of the options allegedly considered by the Soviets was a preemptive strike on the Y-Plant. U.S. officials reportedly rejected this option.
One year later, in 1977, the AEB completed manufacture of South Africa's first full-scale nuclear explosive device based on a gun-type design. The device did not contain a highly enriched uranium core, however, because the Y-plant had not yet produced a sufficient quantity of HEU. The device was loaded with a depleted uranium core in preparation for a "cold" test planned for August 1977 at a test site in the Kalahari Desert. The AEB planned to conduct an actual test using a HEU core in 1978. However, before any tests could be conducted, a Soviet surveillance satellite discovered the Kalahari test site. After a second Soviet satellite completed several passes over the test site, the Soviet Union informed the United States that South Africa was making preparations for a nuclear test. Under international pressure, South Africa subsequently covered the test shafts with concrete slabs and abandoned the site.
On 22 September 1979, a U.S. Vela surveillance satellite detected a "brief, intense, double flash of light near the southern tip of Africa." Due to its characteristics, U.S. officials estimated that the flash could have resulted from the test of a nuclear device with a yield of 2 to 4 kilotons. South Africa emerged as the prime suspect, but the South African government denied that it had conducted a nuclear test. Subsequently, noting that South Africa did not supply a complete nuclear device with HEU until November 1979, AEC head Waldo Stumpf said that "this should put to rest speculations as to whether South Africa was responsible for the 'double flash' over the South Atlantic Ocean." Other speculation alleged that Israel had conducted a nuclear test, either alone or in conjunction with South Africa.
Sometime in the late-1970s though, South Africa conducted a test of a gun-type device at Building 5000 at the Pelindaba facility. "For a brief moment, the HEU [went] critical, providing confidence that the device would work as predicted by theoretical calculations". After this first test, the device was never again loaded with HEU.
I remember reading all the speculation about this incident.
Do you think Blix would consider an "aluminum vacuum outlet" to be an aluminum tube?
Canada cut the funding for the project in 1967 and an embittered Bull returned to his Quebec range, having managed to get the project's assets transferred to his own company - Space Research Corporation (SRC). With SRC, Bull set himself up as an international artillery consultant. Incorporated in both Quebec and Vermont, a number of contracts from both the Canadian and US military research arms helped the company get started.
An early success for SRC was the sale of 30,000 artillery shells, gun barrels, and plans for an advanced 155 mm howitzer to Armscor of Pretoria - a deal suggested by CIA personnel, and shipped with the aid of an Israeli company, Israeli Military Industries. The artillery was vital to a war South Africa prosecuted with Angola.
At this point Bull was arrested for illegal arms dealing with South Africa, in violation of the UN arms embargo after the administration in the US changed. He spent six months in a US jail in 1980. On his return to Quebec he was sued and fined in the amount of $55,000 for arms dealing. It was at around this time that Bull began developing the G5 howitzer (the predecessor of Project Babylon) under an Armscor contract. Gerald Bull lived a few years in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec.
Now even more embittered, he left Canada and moved to Brussels, where a subsidiary of SRC called European Poudreries Réunies de Belgique was based. He soon secured work with the Chinese, and then Iraq. He designed two artillery pieces for the Iraqis: the 210 mm Al Fao; and the 155 mm Majnoonan, an updated version of the G2. The guns were built and sold through Austria.
Bull then convinced the Iraqis that they would never be a real power without the capability for space launches. He offered to build a cannon capable of such launches, basically an even larger version of the original HARP design. Saddam Hussein was interested, and work started on "Project Babylon".
A smaller 45 meters, 350 mm caliber gun was completed for testing purposes, and Bull then started work on the "real" PC-2 machine, a gun that was 150 meters long, weighed 2100 tonnes, with a bore of one meter (39 inches). It was to be capable of placing a 2000 kilogram projectile into orbit. The Iraqis then told Bull they would only go ahead with the project if he would also help with development of their longer ranged Scud-based missile project. Bull, never sensitive to politics, agreed. Nominally, Britain did not support Iraq's armament programs, but as a matter of fact, British assistance in the Scud program was considerable, shipping vital missile components.
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