Friday, November 02, 2007

The Last to Know

The Anchoress says a recent CBS report has confirmed that Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush were fed bad information on Iraqi WMDs by the same source: codenamed Curveball. It also happens that both Clinton and Bush had the same DCIA.

Curve Ball is an Iraqi defector named Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who arrived at a German refugee center in 1999. To bolster his asylum case and increase his importance, he told officials he was a star chemical engineer who had been in charge of a facility at Djerf al Nadaf that was making mobile biological weapons. ...

More than a hundred summaries of his debriefings were sent to the CIA, which then became a pillar - along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons - for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq. The CIA-director George Tenet gave Alwan’s information to Secretary of State Colin Powell to use at the U.N. in his speech justifying military action against Iraq.

The past's past. But what other junk is rattling around the intelligence cupboard. And how would we know?



There are costs to maintaining secrecy. One of them is a guaranteed violation of Linus' Law. Linus Torwald, the originator of Linux is said to have remarked:

that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". More formally: "Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix will be obvious to someone."

This situation rarely obtains in the world of secret information, where a review by "enough eyeballs" is a security risk. In that world, many staring eyes are a bug, not a feature. It would be interesting to discover whether intelligence analysis is ever subjected to a rigorous probabalistic risk assessment, which is a fairly common engineering practice. The essential goal of a probabilistic risk assessment is to determine dependencies. To find out what holds things up and from that knowledge determine what can go wrong.

Probabilistic Risk Assessment usually answers three basic questions:

1. What can go wrong with the studied technological entity, or what are the initiators or initiating events (undesirable starting events) that lead to adverse consequence(s)?

2. What and how severe are the potential detriments, or the adverse consequences that the technological entity may be eventually subjected to as a result of the occurrence of the initiator?

3. How likely to occur are these undesirable consequences, or what are their probabilities or frequencies?

If Curveball was the linchpin on which OIF was largely premised, the question to ask is not whether CIA was willing to bet the farm on Curveball -- because sometimes you have to do that -- but whether they knew they were betting the farm on Curveball, which is another question altogether.

48 Comments:

Blogger F said...

This may well turn out to be the biggest story relating to OIF, but I suspect it will not turn out sufficiently anti-Bush to garner many column-inches. Pity, really, because it is exactly this kind of reverse analysis that teaches us the lessons we need for the next instance of single-source intelligence. Now if only curveball had a prior connection to Karl Rove. . . F

11/02/2007 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

In fact it was Saddam's previous non-cooperation with the inspectors that made curve ball's ruse possible.

After several years of looking the inspectors found, quite by cahnce, thousands of gas centrifuges that Saddam had been successfully hiding from them. Saddam's son in law told of the Bio Weapons program when he defected--also successively concealed from inspectors for years.

So the CIA was patching its last intelligence failure-- underestimating the extent of Saddam's cheating--when they got taken in.

11/02/2007 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger some said...

"the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium"

Wait, what?

11/03/2007 01:41:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The company I work for has as its primary product probabilistic risk analyses. We frequently encounter customers who look at the results and say, "No, that looks too bad. Change something in your analysis to make it better." Fortunately or otherwise, there is usually enough uncertinty in the basic assumptions to enable some wiggle room - although inevitably not enough to make the results all nice and fuzzy warm.

For the Apollo program NASA did such an analysis, and, horrified by the results, locked it up and made sure it never, ever, got out.

11/03/2007 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger section9 said...

Wait! These are the clowns who gave us Operation MERLIN, right?

Right?

11/03/2007 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

some said:

"the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium"

Wait, what?


I caught that too. Wretchard, was this a slip of the fingers, or has Joe Wilson finally said something credible?

11/03/2007 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

RWE,
What horrors did the Apollo report contain?
Certainly had a better safety record than the Shuttle.
(Post redesign - vs no significant safety changes on the shuttle)
I agree w/you it was tragic it led to NASA big-budget CYA Manned program.

11/03/2007 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"Wait, what?"

From WikiAnswers:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels.

“A lie told often enough becomes truth” Vladimir Lenin.

11/03/2007 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger newscaper said...

along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons

BS!!! Joe Wilson's lies.

Funny how the Kay report which found no large stockpiles DID confirm the nuke program's scientists and tech that SH washolding n to waiting for sanctions to collapse.

11/03/2007 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

They must have waterboarded or otherwise tortured him? After all, the tortured will say anything to make it stop.

I hardly believe it was all on this single source's statements. As hdgreene says, there were other items which made the case. In addition, the President stated it is no longer wise to wait until things become rock solid certain.

Also, remember WMD was not the sole justification. The idea to rebuild the middle eastern political institutions with a ground-up approach rather than the strongman building top-down was IMO, the key goal.

11/03/2007 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I saved this, but I don't know the source:
Saddam once had and used WMD. He still wanted them. He lied about having them. He refused access by inspectors. He concealed WMD activities over a period of 12 years. He said he destroyed what WMD he had, but he had no evidence to prove that.

Even if he had destroyed them, that would have violated UN resolutions and the terms of his surrender in 1991.

Would any sane person believe that he really didn’t have WMD in 2003?

If you don’t know any sane people, try out some of these:
• “And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.” President Clinton, December 16, 1998
• “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Al Gore, September 23, 2002
• “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.” Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002
• “I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country.” Senator John Edwards, February 24, 2002

11/03/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Nobody "knew" that Libya had a clandestine nuclear program until Moamar Khadafi confessed. This occurred as a direct result of the War in Iraq.

http://www.newsmax.com/international/al_qaida_libya/2007/11/03/46384.html

11/03/2007 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Saddam already had 500 tons of yellowcake, in Iraq. left over from his nuclear program shut down after the Gulf War. He had no reason to try to buy even more from Niger. The whole charade was pure propaganda.

11/03/2007 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

It is MAD, of course...,
Mutual Assured Deception.

We did not have the Intel first hand, nor the capacity to develop any assets. So much of what Saddam had was blown up or burned during the Gulf War, and of what was left much of that was taken out by follow on air strikes ordered by President Clinton. So how could Saddam tell us what he did or did not have left after all that and twelve years of find the pea?

Of Course should the sanctions ever have been lifted, we would be met with a different kind of obfuscation by Saddam. About having or not having various weapons systems, all to keep the Iranians (among others) guessing and maintaining the well earned reputation of the UN.

If anyone really believes that Saddam did not have any WMD by 2002, there were a lot of guys and gals sweating and suffering with those NBC suits and masks in 2003 that avoiding admitting so publicly is probably sound policy.
Or so it would seem to me.

11/03/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger amr said...

As a startup and test engineer, I know that having many eyes on a problem/test is the best, but supposedly we reduce the risk by tiring the best of the best; those who can think outside of the box and supervision willing to listen. This is where we have failed in our intelligence community. Anyone who takes one piece of information, assuming that fact is correct, to issue an intelligence directive which could end up establishing a policy direction is plain stupid; especially if the CIA did not have the background on the source.

I, in a way, fault our culture that has arisen since the 1960s. Supposedly few of our analytical and intelligence officers come from the more perceived elite portion of our population as happened during and shortly after WWII; no dirty hands wanted now. That type of varied experience is needed; especially those with open minds and willing to go face to face with those that disagree. I have put up with a lot of crap from people during my career but who kept me on my toes; they were well worth the aggravation in the long run. And if we eventually have problems with our volunteer military following our civilian government’s orders, it will be because the very same type of people who won’t join our intelligence organizations will not join the military either.

Those who would be included in the old Kennedy definition of the best and brightest are sowing the seeds of a possible disastrous American future.

11/03/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

Saddam did have a motivation to get more yellow cake. The 500 tons he had was under IAEA seal. Any new yellow cake would not have been under any scrutiny.

The name is Linus Torvalds.

11/03/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gene Felder said...

See independent British Butler Report July 14, 2004 [see http://www.butlerreview.org.uk/report/report.pdf].

“We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the government's dossier, and by extension the prime minister in the House of Commons, were well founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's state of the union address of 2003 that ‘the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa’ was well founded.”

“As a result of our review, we have reached the conclusion that prior to the war the Iraqi regime:

a) Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when UN inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.

b) In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.

c) Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations security council resolutions, but did not have significant - if any - stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment, or developed plans for using them.”

11/03/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Doc99 said...

To think George "Slam Dunk" Tenet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom ...

11/03/2007 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Doug:
The allowed – or predicted - casualties in spaceflight involve very, very small numbers. For people on the ground not involved in the launch operation (i.e., general public) the U.S. threshold is 30X10-6. Or in other words, if you launch a million rockets you get to kill 30 people. For people involved in the launch, such as the launch crew on the ground, the allowed casualties are ten times as large, 300 casualties in a million launches. For the flight crew itself it is much higher, but still “should” be very small. The calculated risk for the Apollo-Saturn flight crews was way higher than anything anyone would have tolerated had they known. What it actually said we do not know – but it scared the bejesus out of NASA management.

For Apollo-Saturn they killed 3 people on the ground before the first one launched and had one mission failure, but with no in-flight deaths. That was for 20 missions, I believe. For Shuttle they killed 3 people on the ground before the first launch, killed 14 flight crew, and had multiple mission failures – but that is for 118 missions to date. So, Apollo-Saturn moon missions were calculated as being far more hazardous than the Shuttle but they did not fly enough to prove that assessment.

11/03/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'd guess the Ruskies Old Reliable passes the test?
Sure has been a lot more cost effective on the Robot/disposable booster side of the ledger.
---
I had a friend working at Lockheed at the time, he used to talk about a new way of engineering/planning on Apollo involving the assumption of when problems that were not yet solved would be.

11/03/2007 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

doc99,
And Wilson is regarded as the
"Truthteller"
by the left!

11/03/2007 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger cathyf said...

Some facts:

1) SH had tons of WMDs that the UN inspectors saw.

2) No one knows what happened to them; no one in any position to know (SH before he died, or any of his WMD scientists) has made any attempt to explain what happened to them.

3) When we got there in 2003 they weren't where "Curveball" claimed that they had been when he left Iraq in 1999.

You have to invest in some pretty significant magical thinking to get from there to the notion that we "know" that they don't exist.

11/03/2007 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

cathyf,
You are correct. Here's a few excerpts from the final report of theIraq Survey Group (ISG) headed by Charles Duelfer, Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence

• “[Saddam Hussein] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted.”
• “we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD production as soon as sanctions were lifted”
• “Saddam did express his intent to retain the intellectual capital developed during the Iraqi Nuclear Program.”
• “Iraq took steps to conceal key elements of its program and to preserve what it could of the professional capabilities of its nuclear scientific community.”

Note the language of Duelfer’s Executive Summary:
“Iraq Survey Group judges … ISG found no direct evidence …”
One can only guess why Duelfer chose to “judge” in favor of the “destroyed WMD” hypothesis.

The simplest answer is that the ISG wanted to avoid the embarrassment of simply stating “we don’t know what happened to them”, after having spent significant time and effort looking for WMD.

In fact, even the 53 WMD that were found, were found by Coalition forces, not the ISG itself.

11/03/2007 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Oops! I quoted a link with out attribution. Info in my posts came fro the American Thinker article dated March 07, 2005 "No WMDs? Really?" By Randall Hoven

http://www.americanthinker.com/2005/03/no_wmds_really.html

It's so easy to cut and paste you end up stealing other people's work!

11/03/2007 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Saddam did have a motivation to get more yellow cake. The 500 tons he had was under IAEA seal. Any new yellow cake would not have been under any scrutiny.

True, but this presents us with a violent clash of incoherent circular narratives concerning Saddam. On the one hand we have Saddam portrayed as a hybrid of evil -- equal parts Stalin, Saladin, and Idi Amin -- just yearning to produce some WMD’s so that bin Laden’s courier service could promptly deliver them to a major US city. But although this depraved junk yard dog of villainy was sitting on enough yellow cake to make a hundred nuclear devices, he was stymied by an IAEA seal that future inspectors might find tampered with? Would Stalin, Saladin, or Idi Amin have blinked in this situation? Surely not and the evil Saddam would not have either. He would have cracked that seal and started enriching.

But on the other hand we have the narrative of a shrewd manipulative Saddam who was running a con game on the international community to get it to lift sanctions. Saddam was so invested in this game that he punted on making nuclear devices from all the yellowcake he owned (with his non-existent enriching facilities of course) due presumably to the fact that future inspectors would have been displeased. But just as he was starting to see some daylight on sanctions, he goes and tries to buy more yellowcake from Niger? But why? Such an international transaction is easily traced. Once the lightly radioactive powder was in country, any future inspectors would have been able to track it down. And at the end of the day yellowcake is useless unless enriched to weapons grade, which takes a huge industrial base, which again would be easy for future inspectors to locate. So simultaneously the conniving Saddam was both too concerned about international opinion to crack the IAEA seals on his own stash of yellowcake, but unconcerned enough about international opinion to import yellowcake form abroad and to start enriching it. Surely he would have just cracked the seals and went to town on his own yellowcake in this case.

11/04/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

I read the CBS report yesterday following a Link from Drudgereport.

I strenuously object to their casual insertion of the phrase "- along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons - " as a parenthetical reference. This is a particularly grotesque example of the typical trick the leftward -leaning alleged journalists of the mass media use in their writing: i.e., make a statement that something is true, without acknowledging any argument or evidence otherwise, then proceed to construct further assertions based on that claim.

Let's remember that the left's "proof" that Iraq was NOT attempting to purchase uranium relies on the highly-politicized, un-professional, partisan, un-scientific, and deeply biased public comments by Joseph Wilson, who is not a trained investigator, detective, intelligence analyst, forensic accountant or scientist.

Why is CBS --- whose producers, reporters, researchers, and owners went to great lengths to present amateurishly forged documents as real in their blatant attempt to smear a presidential candidate --- given any serious consideration as a source for information at this late date?

Until they are proven to have reformed, I regard them as a bunch of lying rascals.

11/04/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"To think George "Slam Dunk" Tenet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom ..."

Almost as breathtaking as Jamie Gorelick on the 9/11 Commission....

11/04/2007 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Kevin,

In actuality, the 500 tons of YellowCake (i.e., Uranium Oxide) would NOT have yeilded hundreds of nuclear weapons.

This is because Uranium occurs in ores made up primarily of three isotopes, of which more than 99 percent are NOT fissionable. So even refined yellowcake (Uranium Oxide) is mixture of the naturally-occuringl isotopes of Uranium, and only a tiny fraction of the 500 tons is fissionable U-235.

The separation of ISOTOPES requires processes that use the miniscule weight differences between isotopes to achieve gradual separation. This means vast processes, with "cascade" arrangements that minutely enrich a sample, then feed those slightly enriched samples into a further stage of refinement, until after THOUSANDS of iterations, the purity of the sample approaches 100 percent.

Interestingly, the purity required for nuclear weapons and nuclear power plant fuel is extremely high, because impurities in even minute traces tend to absorb the neutrons that are needed for a chain reaction.

This is what makes it possible to spot nations that are seriously trying to manufacture their own nuclear weapons: the separation of the fissionable materials requires hundreds of acres of buildings for any of the processes that can physically separate the isotopes - gaseous diffusion or large scale centrifuges. (I don't think anyone has worked out an economical way of using mass spectrography...)

You can mostly discount fissionable Plutonium from all this, because it's a by-product of operating Uranium-based atomic piles, which can only be built if a country has a vast industrial base devoted to Uranium refining, or an external supplier.

In other words, 500 tons of yellowcake under IAEA seals would not have been enough for Saddam to seriously pursue a large-scale weapons program, but it sure did make for a wonderful prop for his LEFTist tiny-brain know-nothing apologists to point to as proof of his benign intentions, while he searched around for a SECRET supplier of yellowcake.

If I recall correctly some correspondence I had with a physicist about the subject, the yield from 500 tons of yellowcake might be enough to make a handful --- four or five --- fission bombs.

I invite any reader with the scientific knowledge to correct me.

You will probably find that U-238 accounts for 99.2742 PER CENT of naturally-occuring Uranium.

Yellowcake is Uranium OXIDE, so there is the additional component of Oxygen reducing the fissionable U-235 to about one half a percent of the total weight, depending on the purity of the oxide...

Hmmmm. At standard conditions of temperature and pressure, critical mass for a Uranium-235 bomb is supposed to be about 50 kg.

So, assuming a 100 per cent efficiency in the industrial processing of 500 tons of yellowcake, how many 50 kg warheads can be made?

Somebody want to do the math?

11/04/2007 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

True, but this presents us with a violent clash of incoherent circular narratives concerning Saddam.
I think that is exactly what Saddam wanted. He was trying to create a facade of compliance while continuing with his plans behind the scenes.

Saddam also had good reason to at least play the charade because he knew that the US could and would attack him.

11/04/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

madhatter,

Below is a link that explains Iraq'a uranium holdings. If you notice the terms we are using are not precise. Iraq has way more than 500 tons of yellowcake, the 500 tons is a rounded number and refers to the amount of uranium that is held within their yellowcake.

See Table 1

(I have bad luck here with links so if this doesn't work bear with me)

for the math:

500 tons x 1000 kilos per ton = 500,000 kilos of uranium.

I used the one percent number (the amount of naturally occuring U-235) and came up with 5000 (500,000 x 0.01)kilos of highly enriched uranium. That assumes 100% U-235 which is incorrect (85% is more like it) and no loss in production which is also surely incorrect in the other direction. Maybe the two cancel each other out. Anyway I came up with a hundred bombs. If I used your figure of half of one percent, I come up with 50 bombs (if I understood it correctly).

Look at the list, Saddam even had low enriched uranium. He had more than enough to play with in his own backyard.

11/04/2007 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I forgot to add, 5000 kilos of highly enriched uranium divided by 50 per bomb equals 100 bombs. For the 0.5% calculation it is 2500 kilos divided by 50 equals 50 bombs.

11/04/2007 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger cathyf said...

One plausible explanation for why SH would want yellowcake from Niger rather than using the yellowcake he had (under UN seal) already in Iraq: the nuke program he was financing was physically located in Libya. Libya is next door to Niger, not next door to Iraq.

And a fun little note about the yellowcake that was under UN seal in Iraq -- it's the yellowcake that was discovered after the first Gulf War when the UN/CIA/etc. were completely blindsided by the existance of SH's nuclear program. In other words, the "before-1991-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons."

Another fun little note -- after Libya turned themselves in for their little unsuspected nuke program (which had nothing to do with SH and it was just a coincidence that they gave themselves up as the 2nd Iraq War started) it turned out that they had a large amount of yellowcake beyond what our intelligence guys knew about.

And a final fun little note -- in 1945, the US had three bombs. We tested one and dropped the other two. If they don't test, then "4 or 5" bombs is twice as many as the number that was more than adequate the last time nuclear weapons were used...

11/04/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

RWE said:

"The calculated risk for the Apollo-Saturn flight crews was way higher than anything anyone would have tolerated had they known. What it actually said we do not know – but it scared the bejesus out of NASA management."

Based on what you said, you don't have a reference for this risk assessment but it would be interesting to read it.

The risk assessments that I've been involved with were based upon Monte-Carlo analysis. The mathematics of Monte-Carlo analysis is rigorous probability theory and the actual programming straightforward. However the results are essentially horse manure. The problem is one needs to have standard deviations for all the components in order to calculate the reliability of the complete system. The component probablities are almost always unknown or unknowable. Consequently tne Monte-Carlo analysis is a classic example of Garbage-in/Garbage-out (GIGO). This doesn't stop people from providing Wild-Ass-Guesses (WAGs) to four significant digits. I've seen studies done on nuclear reactors where the probability for the reactor pressure vessel is specified to 5 significant digits (maybe four of these pressure vessels were actually manufactured). The pressure vessel probability was an obvious WAG (not a big deal since a pressure vessel can be hydro-tested).

The way NASA avoided risk with the Apollo program was through incremental unmanned and manned flight testing. NASA would advance the technology as far as they dared and then tested it unmanned, i.e. Apollo AS-201. AS-201 barely worked but NASA was able to recover the command module (CM) and acquired lots of telemetry. They used the knowledge gained from AS-201 to learn from their mistakes and advance the technology to the next level of complexity, i.e. AS-202. This iterative process continued for many test flights to Apollo-10 where they deliberately ALMOST landed on the Moon but didn't.

Much of the technology developed for Apollo was incomprehensible, e.g. the Apollo CM thermal protection system. However it didn't matter in terms of risk because they had recovered the Apollo CM from test flights and could see that the heat shield was no where near burned through (lots of safety margin). Through this incremental flight test program, NASA was fairly confident that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would survive their trip to the Moon and back (they were still very brave men as evidenced by Apollo-13).

11/04/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Begining in the Fifties!

X-15 Hypersonic Research Program

In the joint X-15 hypersonic research program that NASA conducted with the Air Force, the Navy, and North American Aviation, Inc., the aircraft flew over a period of nearly 10 years and set the world's unofficial speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7) and 354,200 feet in a program to investigate all aspects of piloted hypersonic flight. Information gained from the highly successful X-15 program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo piloted spaceflight programs as well as the Space Shuttle program.

Manufactured by North American Aviation, Inc., three rocket-powered X-15s flew a total of 199 times, with North American (and former National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics or NACA) pilot Scott Crossfield making the first, unpowered glide flight on June 8, 1959. NASA's William H. Dana was the pilot for the final flight in the program on Oct. 24, 1968. All of these flights took place within what was called the "High Range" surrounding but mostly to the east of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and NASA's Flight Research Center (later called the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center).

11/04/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger amr said...

Mad Fiddler: While off the blog’s post’s topic, I have just a small point to be made; one coming from an older than dirt former senior nuclear reactor operator, shift supervisor and test engineer. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants do not use the same enrichment. One couldn’t afford commercial power reactors if that was so. General Electric Test Reactor (GETR) in California, now shutdown, used a 93.5% enrichment (weapons grade) as probably did most other test reactors. But power reactors, at least the US CE, GE and Westinghouse reactors, have a very low enrichment on the order of 5% and the rest is U-238. A neutron source starts the chain reaction with the U-235 and the U-235 continues it. Some of the U-235’s neutrons are absorbed by the U-238 to produce PU-239 which is fissionable. The PU-239 continues the chain reaction after the U-235 is expended. So the reactor “runs” on PU-239. At some point calculated for the max PU-239, the reactor is shut down and the fuel is extracted from the fuel rods and the “impurities” removed to create PU-239 weapons grade material. Probably what India and Pakistan did via their peaceful nuclear programs. Probably what Iran will do with their Russian facility unless the Russians recover the fuel rods; that didn’t apparently happen in NoKo where the international community was to recover the fuel rods per President Clinton’s negotiated agreement. Otherwise the very small percentage of U-235 in natural uranium deposits must be separated from the U-238 and that can be done as you wrote via centrifuges as Iran is apparently doing. I guess the small percentage of U-235 could be removed from the rods before the unit is involved in power ascension testing which causes the rods to become highly radioactive but that would seem to me to be too obvious a misdirection of nuclear materials.

That is why there needs to be strict accountability for fuel rods if the international community wishes to limit proliferation. That hasn’t happened in the past; I’m afraid it is too late now to put the genie back into the bottle.

11/04/2007 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

1 Nuclear weapon in the hands of Saddam = TOO MANY. Never mind about 50. How about this one.

"A chemical analysis has found traces of VX nerve gas on fragments of destroyed Iraqi Scud missile warheads at a weapons facility north of Baghdad, U.N. sources confirmed to CNN on Tuesday."

Date? June23, 1998

VX was developed by the British, who traded the technology of VX with the United States for information on thermonuclear weapons. Guess the US saw it as a fair trade which gives you an idea of deadly the stuff is. 10mg is the lethal dose. Saddam admitted to having 90 tons of the chemicals needed to make VX gas. Where did they go? In order to safely destroy its stockpiles the US shipped its VX gas to a remote island in the Pacific where it is burned at temperatures high enough to break its molecular bonds. Saddam had the material and knowledge to make this stuff. He needed to be taken down for this and other reasons.

11/04/2007 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger gilliam said...

Clinton and the Democrats were insisting Saddam had WMD in 1998. If this guy reported WMD in 1999 then he wasn't the linchpin.

11/04/2007 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

pffbamr said:

"But power reactors, at least the US CE, GE and Westinghouse reactors, have a very low enrichment on the order of 5% and the rest is U-238.... At some point calculated for the max PU-239, the reactor is shut down and the fuel is extracted from the fuel rods and the “impurities” removed to create PU-239 weapons grade material. Probably what India and Pakistan did via their peaceful nuclear programs. Probably what Iran will do with their Russian facility unless the Russians recover the fuel rods..."

I'm sure Amr knows this but another aspect to plutonium production is PU-240. PU-239 is "weapon's grade plutonium" while PU-240 is "reactor grade plutonium". If the fuel in a power reactor is run for the core's nominal power production life span then the plutonium becomes "over cooked" producing excessive PU-240 versus PU-239. PU-240 is not suitable for bomb production because its fission cross section is too high (the bomb pit of a nuclear weapon blows itself apart before producing an adequate yield). The reason why plutonium can not be used in a gun-type fission weapon is because trace amounts of PU-240 causes pre-detonation. The invention of the faster assembling implosion-type fission weapon was the solution to low level PU-240 contamination in the bomb pit. As Amr said, one can produce adequate weapons grade PU-239 in a power reactor if the fuel rods are constantly being swapped in-and-out of the reactor. The Soviet graphite core reactors such as used in Chernobyl were designed to allow easy access to the fuel rods for extraction of PU-239. US commercial power reactors were deliberately designed to not have easy access to the reactor core during operation because they were not intended for production of weapon's grade plutonium.

The reactor that the Russians are/were building for the Iranians is a light-water moderated reactor. It's basic design (in theory) is not suitable for producing bomb grade plutonium. However it's possible that the Iranian reactor could be modified to enable insertion and extraction of uranium target cylinders that could be used for producing PU-239 without getting over cooked. This modification would have to made before the reactor was activated. I suspect the Russians would stop cooperating with the Iranians if they saw this modification being planned.

11/04/2007 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger luagha said...

Twenty tons of nerve gas and poisonous substances captured in Jordan. They came over from Syria not long after those mysterious 19 trucks came into Syria from Iraq just before the Iraq war.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-04/27/content_326599.htm
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/26/jordan.terror/index.html

11/04/2007 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Yo, Sarko!

SARKOZY: One must look forward. What’s new, Mr. President?

BUSH: Well, let’s see, what do you make of our Mideast peace conference?

SARKOZY: Not much. You spend seven years doing nothing, then call a big meeting. Bizarre. But, as we say, better to appear to do something with nothing than to appear to do nothing with something.

BUSH: Woah! Don’t go all Left Bank on me, Sarko. My view’s simple: anything to please Tony! I miss that guy. Brown reminds me it’s not difficult to tell the difference between a sour Scotchman and a ray of sunlight.

SARKOZY: No comment, George.

11/05/2007 03:32:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

McClatchy: 'No Evidence of Iranian Nuke Program' by Rick Moran

Talk about burying your head in the sand.

McClatchy News Service has proven itself over the years to be on of the more anti-American media outlets in the world. Today, they take on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program and despite mountains of evidence (that they supply at the end of the article) question whether the mullahs are serious about building a bomb at all:

"I don't think that anyone right today thinks they're working on a bomb," said another U.S. official, who requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

Outside experts say the operative words are "right today."
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2007/11/mcclatchy_no_evidence_of_irani.html

Having succesfully discredited the evidence on Saddam's nuke program, leftist journalists will now discredit any evidence that Iran is building the bomb.

11/05/2007 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger reoconnot said...

The real intelligence failure is the apparent inability to understand (or admit) that Saddam would have again turned his attention to developing WMD, not the day after, but the day of, the moment after, sanctions ended.

McGrory and Bhattia's book Saddam's Bomb describes the lengths to which he went to develop nuclear weapons and just how close he was to achieving that ambition in 1991.

The notion that if he had been left in power - after 12 years of ceasefire violations- he wouldn't by now have reconstituted his weapons programs is naive in the extreme.

11/05/2007 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger cathyf said...

The reactor that the Russians are/were building for the Iranians is a light-water moderated reactor. It's basic design (in theory) is not suitable for producing bomb grade plutonium. However it's possible that the Iranian reactor could be modified to enable insertion and extraction of uranium target cylinders that could be used for producing PU-239 without getting over cooked. This modification would have to made before the reactor was activated.

What does "have to" mean? Does it mean that the modification could be made after the reactor was activated, as long as some people were willing to die from radiation poisoning to do it? Because, as we've seen, the idealogical fellow travelers of the mad mulluhs have not had any particular shortage of people willing to commit suicide for their cause...

11/05/2007 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

cathyf said:

"What does "have to" mean? Does it mean that the modification could be made after the reactor was activated, as long as some people were willing to die from radiation poisoning to do it?"

I'm hoping that Amr responds to my comments and Cathyf's. I'd be interested to read what Amr thinks the Iranians can actually do with the Russian reactor in terms of proliferation.

By the way, the current main proliferation danger with the Iranians is U-235 isotope separation and not plutonium production. Presumably the Iranians want to make gun-type fission bombs (low tech and easy to do). The reactor/plutonium activity is a long term future worry.

11/05/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Does all the trouble they are going through mean that black market fissionable materials are a lot harder to get than many people think?

11/05/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Doug said:

"Does all the trouble they are going through mean that black market fissionable materials are a lot harder to get than many people think?"

That is actually a $64,000 question. It's my understanding that many of these bad actors have enough fissionable material acquired from the black market for one or two nukes. However to be a player in the nuclear weapons game, a bad guy needs to test one nuke and have another as an actual weapon. The NorKs tried testing a nuke but it fissiled (PU-240 issues??). After their test nuke failed, they transported their whole nuclear program to Syria and claimed that they had disarmed. Of course the Israelis out-foxed them by destroying their hardware in Syria. So do the Syrians have enough NorK plutonium or U-235 laying about to make one nuke? --Or better yet-- Are the Syrians prepared to combine what they have with the Iranians? Also the Libyans had a fair amount of hardware when they "disarmed". Did the Libyans simply scrap their nuclear hardware or give it back to the Pakis or perhaps it was in the same pile that the Israelis bombed?

11/05/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger amr said...

Neutron absorbing isotopes present a problem when trying to produce PU-239. Again weapons grade is not pure U-235 or PU-239; just a very high percentage which in my day, 93.5% was the magic number; which impurities are present will make a difference. The alpha emitting PU-239 (skin can stop it) is not the problem when separating for PU-239; the other fission products are, many being gamma emitters (penetrating radiation). But if you are suicidal, not a problem, as long as you have a lot of volunteers.

Prohibited reconfiguring the a core to produce PU-239, as effectively producing a breeder, is possible from my experience but the estimated critical position (ECP) of the control rods during startup and the flux profile of the core will change from that calculated for a normal fuel load/configuration. In the mid 1970’s our nuclear physicist called me in, since I controlled the isotope production in the reactor, to review the data on our estimated critical position and flux pattern. Since we were not hitting the ECP on startups and SCRAM recoveries based on fuel burn out and core changes, he got curious. Tests and calculations showed that our fuel elements and U-235 irradiation capsules were short U-235. We turned that info into our management and I never heard what happened, if anything. I have often wondered if we were correct and if so how that happened and where the fuel went. The point is that in the good old days our physicist, out of curiosity, found a problem with the core loading. Technology has improved since my time in reactor operations and detection of anomalies should be much easier, if those monitoring the reactor care to do so.

I don’t know much about the Russian-Iranian reactor design, but it is possible for reactors which are submerged in pools to convert U-238 to PU-239 in the pool utilizing the neutron leakage from the reactor. Neutrons are not stopped by the heavy elements in steel vessels. That was how fuel was tested at our test reactor; capsules were placed outside of the core in the pool. The ECP and flux pattern would not change since leakage neutrons are not involved in controlling the reactor. Commercial designs, I suppose, configure the core to severely limit leakage, where in a test reactor producing isotopes and fuel testing there is a very high flux concentration usually in a small area allowing considerable leakage from the core.

The extraction of U-235 seems the best method of getting fissionable material provided you have an accessible uranium deposit, which Iran has. Probably the PU-239 route is not needed by Iran.

11/05/2007 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Amr,

Thank you for responding to my earlier comments. This thread is almost expired so I'll make no more comments after this one.

In your reply you said:

"I don’t know much about the Russian-Iranian reactor design, but it is possible for reactors which are submerged in pools to convert U-238 to PU-239 in the pool utilizing the neutron leakage from the reactor. Neutrons are not stopped by the heavy elements in steel vessels. That was how fuel was tested at our test reactor; capsules were placed outside of the core in the pool. The ECP and flux pattern would not change since leakage neutrons are not involved in controlling the reactor. Commercial designs, I suppose, configure the core to severely limit leakage, where in a test reactor producing isotopes and fuel testing there is a very high flux concentration usually in a small area allowing considerable leakage from the core."

I do not have your professional knowledge about reactor design but what you say coincides with my limited understanding. My interpretation of your response is that it is relatively easy to convert U-238 target cylinders/capsules into PU-239 in a swimming pool type reactor. However doing so in a power reactor is difficult because there is very little clearance between the core and reactor's pressure vessel to enable insertion of the U-238 target capsules. It is my understanding that the Iraqi "Osirak" reactor that the Israelis destroyed in 1981 was a research reactor and presumably a swimming pool type reactor that could have been used for PU-239 production (The French were incredibly irresponsible to have provided Saddam Hussein with that technology).

"The extraction of U-235 seems the best method of getting fissionable material provided you have an accessible uranium deposit, which Iran has. Probably the PU-239 route is not needed by Iran."

It is my understanding that either highly enriched PU-239 or PU-239/U-235 composites make the best bomb pits for a thermonuclear weapon. My guess(?) is the Iranians ultimately want to make compact thermonuclear weapons to be launched by their ballistic missiles. However they currently want nuclear weapons capability as soon as possible so they're focused on developing U-235/gun-type fission weapons. I assume they'll develop thermonuclear weapons if they are allowed to make the more primitive fission weapons.

11/06/2007 12:09:00 PM  

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