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Possible Plutonium Find Has Wide and Disturbing Implications
STRATFOR ^ | Apr 10, 2003

Posted on 04/10/2003 5:19:05 PM PDT by Axion

Possible Plutonium Find Has Wide and Disturbing Implications
Apr 10, 2003 - 2202 GMT

Summary

Initial reports from coalition forces at Iraq's Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex indicate the presence of weapons-grade plutonium. If this is truly the case, and tests should confirm the plutonium's presence very shortly, the finding will have disturbing ramifications for the region and American foreign policy.

Analysis

Coalition forces searching the Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex just south of Baghdad on April 10 have detected a type of radiation that could signal the presence of weapons-grade plutonium.

One of two materials is used to fuel nuclear explosions: uranium or plutonium.

The initial indications from Al Tuwaitha indicate the presence of plutonium-239. If true, this is worrying on numerous fronts. Uranium is far more abundant than plutonium and methods to separate, purify and mold weapons-grade uranium are not particularly technically advanced or expensive. Plutonium manufacture and purification, in contrast, is one of the most advanced weapon-fabrication processes. Plutonium weapons also require far less material -- as little as 5 kilograms -- and so plutonium weapons can use a wider array of lighter delivery vehicles. Unlike uranium, plutonium does not occur naturally in any form.

Using radiation detectors to determine the difference between uranium products and plutonium products without taking samples is a sketchy business, but there is one relatively clear difference. When plutonium-239 decays naturally it emits almost exclusively alpha particles, or positively charged helium nuclei. Uranium isotopes, on the other hand, emit beta particles (electrons) and gamma rays along with alpha radiation.

Alpha radiation normally cannot penetrate clothes and skin, whereas beta and gamma radiation certainly can. Initial reports from Al Tuwaitha indicate very high levels of radiation, yet there have been no reported casualties. That indicates that most of the radiation is probably not beta or gamma radiation, but alpha radiation, plutonium-239's calling card. Since the people who discovered the radiation at Al Tuwaitha have reported no health problems, the plutonium is most likely purified -- and therefore usable in a weapons program.

This has some disturbing implications.

No isotope of plutonium occurs naturally. In fact, it is normally created in only one of two ways. The first method involves bombarding a sample of uranium-238 with neutrons to make plutonium-239. In the second method, a uranium reactor creates the plutonium as a byproduct.

Unlike uranium enrichment programs required to make uranium-based nuclear weapons, plutonium enrichment and purification is an expensive and technically advanced process involving quite a bit of sophisticated equipment that supposedly is under a series of strict international controls.

If Iraq has obtained the equipment to manufacture or extract plutonium, it must either have some quite complex -- and highly restricted -- technology or a functioning nuclear reactor.

Such a confirmation would signal a colossal failure not only of the United Nations sanctions regime as relates to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but also of the broader global efforts to stem the spread of nuclear technology. The new fear would be that if Iraq, clearly on the to-watch list, can import nuclear materials and advanced nuclear technology, so can other nuclear wannabes.

It also means that United States will hardly want to depend upon the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency for global nuclear security, for if it cannot prevent proliferation in the relatively cut-and-dried case of Iraq, it will be next to useless in cases where the subject has more international standing.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: illegalweapons; iraq; iraqifreedom; nukes; plutonium; warlist; wmd
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1 posted on 04/10/2003 5:19:05 PM PDT by Axion
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To: Axion
Someone set them up (with) the bomb.
2 posted on 04/10/2003 5:23:21 PM PDT by struwwelpeter (bud' ili ne bud', vot ehto est' vopros)
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To: Axion
That indicates that most of the radiation is probably not beta or gamma radiation, but alpha radiation, plutonium-239's calling card. Since the people who discovered the radiation at Al Tuwaitha have reported no health problems, the plutonium is most likely purified -- and therefore usable in a weapons program.

BUMP

3 posted on 04/10/2003 5:26:24 PM PDT by Born in a Rage
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4 posted on 04/10/2003 5:26:51 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: Axion
It also may mean the regime is waiting to set off a nuke as a suicide operation in Tikrit as US troops move in.

That is a big "may", but conveivable.

I have to acknowledge another freeper on another thread who made this initial suggestion. It's not original with me.

5 posted on 04/10/2003 5:26:58 PM PDT by tallhappy
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To: struwwelpeter
If Iraq has obtained the equipment to manufacture or extract plutonium, it must either have some quite complex -- and highly restricted -- technology or a functioning nuclear reactor.

There's a third, and perhaps even more disturbing possibility: that the plutonium was produced elsewhere (say, Russia or France) and shipped in its purified form to Iraq.

6 posted on 04/10/2003 5:31:03 PM PDT by cicero's_son
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To: Axion
It could also have been stolen. It would have helped if there was a DeLorean parked in front of the facility :)
7 posted on 04/10/2003 5:31:24 PM PDT by jmstein7
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To: tallhappy
I think they would rather nuke somewhere in the USA instead of their home turf.
8 posted on 04/10/2003 5:33:22 PM PDT by Clean_Sweep
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To: cicero's_son
Or North Korea
9 posted on 04/10/2003 5:35:27 PM PDT by Ford Fairlane
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To: Axion
If Iraq has obtained the equipment to manufacture or extract plutonium, it must either have some quite complex -- and highly restricted -- technology or a functioning nuclear reactor.

Not necessarily. Look for a MADE IN FRANCE, RUSSIA, or NORTH KOREA sticker somewhere on the specimen.

10 posted on 04/10/2003 5:37:24 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Clean_Sweep
Whatever comes of this, we aren't going to be able to keep the nuclear genie in the bottle forever. The rogue states can get the technology and material, they know how to build facilities deep underground or inside mountains to avoid conventional bombing. We need a new strategy on how to deal with this. I'm think we should be developing small portable nukes of our own, that can be planted by intelligence operatives to destroy single targets, providing 100% deniability for the US. If that plant in Libya went up or the one in North Korea, we could just say it was a local accident. Oops..
11 posted on 04/10/2003 5:37:26 PM PDT by oceanview
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To: Axion
Could it be that THIS is really why we went in? If true, the implications are mind-boggling.

How did they get the plutonium? Did they make it or was it given to them?

How did they make it? Who gave them the equipment to make it? who built the reactor if that is how it was made?

If it was given to them, who gave it to them? Why?

Why, all of a sudden, is the UN saying they knew that "Uranium" was there all along? and they didnt remove it because they had put seals on it (think North Korea) plus it wasnt easy to make a weapon with.

If this actually proves to be weapons grade PLUTONIUM, I think we have a huge fight ahead of us.

I wonder if people here in the states will get a bit "paniky" if this is true?


12 posted on 04/10/2003 5:37:45 PM PDT by myself6
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To: oceanview
I was thinking the same thing today. We could imply that we would use these on China unless they massed the PLA on the alu river to take the koreans. With four us aircraft carriers parked there....
13 posted on 04/10/2003 5:39:59 PM PDT by fooman (Free NASA! Save NASA!)
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To: jmstein7
It could also have been stolen

I agree with this hypothesis. It would have been relatively easy to smuggle this out of the former Soviet Union. They may have had this stuff for decades or right after the fall of the FSU, using it for experimentation for further P239 development. But I'm sure it wasn't for some Badhdad University post-graduate physics project.

14 posted on 04/10/2003 5:40:12 PM PDT by BP2
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To: Axion
I wonder how much they had and what it's purity was? IOW did they have enough to produce a nuclear weapon?
15 posted on 04/10/2003 5:42:14 PM PDT by Brett66
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To: Axion
"Initial reports", "may", "could"... let's wait for something a little more solid before we let slip the cats of conjecture.
16 posted on 04/10/2003 5:50:38 PM PDT by Grut
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To: Clean_Sweep
I think they would rather nuke somewhere in the USA instead of their home turf.

I think they already tried.

Remember the container ship flap? Where alpha radiation was detected?

And where after a great deal of searching and strange activity the source was supposedly "trace elements in a consignment of tiles"?

17 posted on 04/10/2003 5:52:29 PM PDT by Cachelot (~ In waters near you ~)
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To: Axion
Hey Chirac, we know your name is on this somewhere..
18 posted on 04/10/2003 5:53:15 PM PDT by DainBramage
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To: oceanview
We need a new strategy on how to deal with this

I agree. Perhaps we should declare the scientists who work on these programs to be "enemy combatants," and let it be known that we consider them legitimate military targets.

19 posted on 04/10/2003 5:57:27 PM PDT by cicero's_son
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20 posted on 04/10/2003 5:57:57 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Axion
OK, anyone who didn't already think the UN was useless please raise your hand.
21 posted on 04/10/2003 6:00:34 PM PDT by McGavin999
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To: McGavin999
OK, anyone who didn't already think the UN was useless please raise your hand.

*crickets chirping*

22 posted on 04/10/2003 6:05:54 PM PDT by EternalVigilance
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To: Axion
Pretty weak analysis here. Beta radiation generally can only penetrate the skin so far- down to the germinal layer. Long term effects can happen from external exposure to beta radiation, but for acute effects there would need to be some internalization of the material (assimilation or uptake, or dust inhaled and lodging itself in the lungs, for example). But just saying "no one has had immediate health effects so it must be alpha" is quite silly.
23 posted on 04/10/2003 6:06:20 PM PDT by William McKinley (You're so vain, you probably think this tagline's about you)
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To: Grut
Another thought: we have heard nothing from the specialized teams that are specifically tasked with locating, identifying, and securing the WMD facilities, and I hear they have over 1000 facilities on their list. I doubt we will hear anything until they progress much further, because lots of attention will hamper their mission. So far, all these WMD finds we are hearing about are regular units stumbling across things that seem suspicious. In other words, be patient, these are not the real deal yet.
24 posted on 04/10/2003 6:06:39 PM PDT by norcalvet
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To: Grut
"Initial reports", "may", "could"...

Yup. These are weasel words (but nevertheless it is quite serious).

25 posted on 04/10/2003 6:08:10 PM PDT by Diddley (It's all relative.)
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To: Axion
It also means that United States will hardly want to depend upon the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency for global nuclear security, for if it cannot prevent proliferation in the relatively cut-and-dried case of Iraq, it will be next to useless in cases where the subject has more international standing.

Amen!

26 posted on 04/10/2003 6:10:54 PM PDT by Diddley (It's all relative.)
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To: McGavin999
OK, anyone who didn't already think the UN was useless please raise your hand.

LOL - this is precious. I am still trying to parse it. Maybe after another long pour of single malt I will get it figured out. Oh - I quit beating my dog too.

27 posted on 04/10/2003 6:11:26 PM PDT by AndyJackson
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To: norcalvet
Rummy said today that anything suspicious would be analyzed not only by us but by testing facilities in other countries in order to have independent verification.

I know that some of the coalition forces, not US or Brit, are skilled in this type of thing -- off the top of my head possibly Germany and Japan.

He said we would keep a good chain of custody and that takes time.
28 posted on 04/10/2003 6:13:32 PM PDT by CobaltBlue (Support the coalition! Buy goods made by our allies.)
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To: tallhappy
I have to acknowledge another freeper on another thread who made this initial suggestion. Was it me?
29 posted on 04/10/2003 6:16:18 PM PDT by Rockitz (After all these years, it's still rocket science.)
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To: american_boy
nuclear ping
30 posted on 04/10/2003 6:16:20 PM PDT by jwfiv
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To: Cachelot
And where after a great deal of searching and strange activity the source was supposedly "trace elements in a consignment of tiles"?

You mean like make tiles with plutonium added to the mix, ship it to wherever your destination is, grind up the tiles, and chemically extract/concentrate the plutonium? This would actually be relatively trivial to do...

31 posted on 04/10/2003 6:21:07 PM PDT by tortoise
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To: Axion
GW Bush probably ...and inspite of the democraps...saved America

Had they nuked our cities instead of plowing highjacked aircraft into them...

That alone could have been all the Rooskies or Chinese along with all our other enemies would have needed to pile on..

Even without ...what a devstating attack it would have been

And had Algore won...within a few years or months Iraq would have been able using its various terror agents...nuked America and would have..

Gore would not have lifted a finger to stop it...

We were perhaps ....inches away from destruction...or at least a few stuffed Broward county ballot boxes away..

Those old folks down there after Ed Assnerd scared the crap out of them by lying about the Repubs stealing their Social Security money almost sank us...them and and the democraps stuffing ballot boxes...altering ballots and hangning chads...

32 posted on 04/10/2003 6:21:22 PM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: cicero's_son
"There's a third, and perhaps even more disturbing possibility: that the plutonium was produced elsewhere (say, Russia or France) and shipped in its purified form to Iraq."

IMO, This is the most likely. It's my understanding that each reactor leaves a 'signature' in the isotopes and can be tracked exactly to its source. Someone is in serious trouble.

33 posted on 04/10/2003 6:26:42 PM PDT by blam
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To: oceanview
"We need a new strategy on how to deal with this."

We have one, you're presently seeing it in Iraq.

34 posted on 04/10/2003 6:28:56 PM PDT by blam
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To: Axion
Both Bush and Blair acted as if they knew something about Iraq, but did not want to say in case they started widespread panic. The idea of Saddam possessing nuclear weapons is indeed one such item which fits the bill. In which case, once this is exposed to the rest of the world, all of our opponents from France to the hippies of San Francisco, are going to look unbelievably stupid.

Regards, Ivan

35 posted on 04/10/2003 6:32:18 PM PDT by MadIvan
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To: Rockitz
Actually, not that post. There was one on the radiation find that said it as well.
36 posted on 04/10/2003 6:39:08 PM PDT by tallhappy
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To: MadIvan
"Both Bush and Blair acted as if they knew something about Iraq, but did not want to say in case they started widespread panic."

Ivan,
My son kept asking 'why are we so determined to go into Iraq before it gets too hot this year'?

I told him that Saddam was probably 8 months from having a nuclear device. If we waited until the weather was cool enough next fall to go in it would be too late.

Nuclear blackmail against Kuwait, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc. We would be right where we are now with N. Korea
37 posted on 04/10/2003 6:53:12 PM PDT by edwin hubble
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To: Grut
>> "...let slip the cats of conjecture"

I LOVE that phrase.
38 posted on 04/10/2003 6:56:37 PM PDT by sd-joe
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To: Grut
let slip the cats of conjecture

Great phrase! May I use it for a tag, pretty please?

On a more serious note, this is an excellent article that explains many things that mystified me about the significance of plutonium, as opposed to plain old uranium. That is, I wasn't quite sure why this was such a significant find, if true. Now that I know, I think I'll go off and conjecture for a while...

39 posted on 04/10/2003 7:00:28 PM PDT by livius
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To: Axion
Although insightful it misses a bigger point. If Iraq has it, odds are Syria, Libya and who knows who else (Venzuela or Cuba?) have it also. This also increase the odds of a true nuke within our borders. If they have developed a trigger for it, we could lose a city easily. Smuggling this into the U.S. would not be difficult with such stalwart allies as Mexico.(sarcasm off)

V


40 posted on 04/10/2003 7:02:18 PM PDT by Beck_isright ("QUAGMIRE" - French word for unable to find anyone to surrender to)
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To: cicero's_son
Remember the ship from North Korea with the missles encased in concrete? That is how you would ship plutonium also if you do not want it detected. Now, remembering that only 2% of all shipping containers are inspected coming into the U.S.A., just how hard do you think it would be to smuggle 20 lbs of plutonium into the U.S. Especially since dopers smuggle tons of drugs in on a weekly basis.

V

Sleep tight on that one gang.
41 posted on 04/10/2003 7:04:16 PM PDT by Beck_isright ("QUAGMIRE" - French word for unable to find anyone to surrender to)
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To: Axion
Unlike uranium, plutonium does not occur naturally in any form.

This is a misstatement. "Traces of plutonium have subsequently been found in uranium ores, where it is not primeval but naturally produced by neutron irradiation."--Encyclopedia Britannica.
42 posted on 04/10/2003 7:04:16 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: oceanview
What about the plant in Brazil?
43 posted on 04/10/2003 7:04:38 PM PDT by Beck_isright ("QUAGMIRE" - French word for unable to find anyone to surrender to)
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To: myself6
"Could it be that THIS is really why we went in? If true, the implications are mind-boggling. How did they get the plutonium? Did they make it or was it given to them? How did they make it? Who gave them the equipment to make it? who built the reactor if that is how it was made? If it was given to them, who gave it to them? Why? Why, all of a sudden, is the UN saying they knew that "Uranium" was there all along? and they didnt remove it because they had put seals on it (think North Korea) plus it wasnt easy to make a weapon with. If this actually proves to be weapons grade PLUTONIUM, I think we have a huge fight ahead of us.

Yes indeed. If this is the case, it's not Syria, or Palestine, or any of the other third rate middle east countries we have to worry about.

"Mind boggling implicatations", if this is the case is China, Russia, France, Germany, Iran, and North Korea!

44 posted on 04/10/2003 7:11:52 PM PDT by Bob Mc
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To: livius
the significance of plutonium, as opposed to plain old uranium.

If memory serves me from my CBR training WAY back when - the significance is two-fold. (1) Smaller quantity of fuel is required, and (2) Thermo-nuclear explosion (what used to be referred to as H-bomb) results from plutonium. Much more powerful explosion - megaton range, as opposed to kiloton range of uranium explosion.

45 posted on 04/10/2003 7:12:36 PM PDT by Don Carlos (NO! Well, maybe. Let me get back to you.)
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To: Axion
Such a confirmation would signal a colossal failure not only of the United Nations sanctions regime as relates to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,

Irrelevant is the word that describes the capability of the U.N.

The sad part is that it took so long to realize this, though many have realized it for years now, and now that it's out, what are we going to do about it?

What a sham the U.N. is and what a waste of U.S. dollars.

46 posted on 04/10/2003 7:14:30 PM PDT by slimer
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To: Grut
All SUCKFOR did was watch Fox and read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, most likely, and then bloviate at length about it as is their habit.

47 posted on 04/10/2003 7:15:07 PM PDT by John H K
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To: aruanan
Plutonium is a trace contaminant in uranium ore. As I recall, it is the product of decay of the Neptunium which is formed as an unstable intermediate by the bombardment of U-238 with neutrons.

So, you are technically correct. Stratfor's point is still well taken.

48 posted on 04/10/2003 7:16:21 PM PDT by the_doc
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To: slimer
~~~~~What a sham the U.N. is and what a waste of U.S. dollars.~~~~~

Yes...and accordinding to the UN website we just made another payment today for humanitarian needs to the tune of 146 or 147 million, ya know, give or take a million or so.

49 posted on 04/10/2003 7:17:01 PM PDT by Born in a Rage
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To: Axion
Yeah, Saddam just may have a couple nukes stashed in some bunkers under Baghdad waiting to set them off remotely.

After all, from Saddam's standpoint, the only casualties in Baghdad now would be coalition soldiers and collaborators with the enemy.

50 posted on 04/10/2003 7:21:08 PM PDT by Z-28
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