Sunday, July 6, 2008

Saddam's Yellowcake -- A Fitting Resolution -- To Some A Bridge Too Far

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.
Associated Press

Some are reporting this as a new unreported finding.  I think that is being blown out of proportion as this really is old news.

When I head this story this week I remembered the origins from a few years back.  I wrote about it in October 7, 2004 in passing (search page for yellow), and today I am glad they were finally dealing with this material and removing it from the region.

This material was discussed in the Iraqi Survey Group's report.  In addition it was a known quantity of material that was acquired and reported by Iraq in their declarations following the 1991 Gulf War.  We know where the material came from and where it was kept.
Known Iraqi uranium holdings have been accounted for by the Coalition and the IAEA. In June 2004, a joint IAEA and Coalition team verified the inventory of Iraqi uranium compoundsan inventory comprising both imported material and that indigenously produced prior to 1991 (see figure 4).

  • During the 1970s and early 1980s, Iraq bought uranium in various forms from the international market. These materials included about 486 tons of yellowcake, 33,470 kg of “natural” uranium dioxide, 1,767 kg of “low-enriched” uranium dioxide (2.6 percent 235U), and 6,005 kg of “depleted” uranium dioxide from Portugal, Italy, Niger, and Brazil.
Prior to 1991, Iraq also acquired highly enriched uranium for its research reactors from France and Russiamaterial that was removed from Iraq following the 1991 Gulf war. Following the Husayn Kamil defection in 1995, Iraq admitted that in 1991 it had intended to use this highly enriched fuel as part of a “crash program” to develop a nuclear weapon (see Table 1).  (ed note: the difference in tonnage is accounted for in Iraq's pre 1991 domestic production facilities -- see link).

Additionally this was part of the material that the IAEA was pissed off about us disturbing in July 2004 as it was under their control and UN seal up till the invasion of the country, as pointed out in this American Thinker report dated July 15, 2004.
Now, the IAEA complains that the Department of Energy (DOE) shipped the radioactive materials to the US without UN permission.  The agency's rationale is that there was
some concern about the legality of the U.S. transfer because the nuclear material belonged to Iraq and was under the control and supervision of the IAEA.
That has to be an intricacy of the cease fire agreement, Iraq owned the material and would probably have been required to sell it under the supervision of the IAEA, but I'm just guessing here.  They can't have been allowed to keep it, right?  (From the AP story:)
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.
This material does not involve Wilson/Plame or their attempts to change history in any way.  Various agencies still support the story that Iraq was attempting to purchase yellow cake.  This simply is not that material.

That Iraq had a nuclear program before the Gulf War is a fact, they have the destroyed reactor to prove it thanks to the Israelis.  That Iraq had an ongoing program that was exposed in 1995 is also a fact as it was uncovered following the defection of Saddam's son in law.   That Iraq planned on reconstituting that program as soon as sanctions were lifted is also a fact.

However, this yellow cake is not a new revelation or a new admission of Iraqi guilt.  This is simply the fitting resolution of an old news story.


Justin Levine said...

This material does not involve Wilson/Plame or their attempts to change history in any way."

With all due respect, the fact that this yellowcake might not have come from Niger does not mean that this has no bearing on the Wilson/Plame affair. It is still directly relevant to Wilson's credibility and how he decided to conduct himself.

Remember, Wilson claimed that Bush deliberately lied about Saddam attempting to purchase yellowcake from Niger as a way of 'fooling' America to go to war. You don't feel that the presence of large quantities of yellowcake has any bearing on the Wilson/Plame issue??

LifeTrek said...

Justin, I'm sorry but that is just incorrect. Yes, Wilson lied and the Democrats beat that dead horse for political advantage to the detriment of the nation.

However, check the link above -- we know exactly where this yellowcake came from, and the Niger portion (199.9 tons) was purchased in 1981. Really, check the chart!

This is not relevant to the Wilson lies! Or the reason we went to war! This was declared! Didn't involve Saddam under sanctions - period!

Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

A visitor from here.

This story interests me as a reminder that Saddam not only wanted yellowcake, he also had quantities of it. Some people (present company excluded) seem to forget that in their zeal to discredit the Bush Administration in the Wilson/Plame affair.

LifeTrek said...

Anon, your right. It is a dramatic reminder that Saddam had every intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. That was his goal most of his rule.

Justin Levine said...

David - you are completely missing the point. Nobody believes or suggests that this yellowcake was purchased from Niger. (Did I ever suggest that??) Even the original intelligence assessment concerning Niger concluded that Saddam was unsuccessful in his attempts to purchase it from there. Everybody knows that, and (as you know) Bush never implied otherwise. But that is a far cry from saying that this has no relevance to Wilson's lies. If Saddam had yellowcake stored in Iraq, that would be evidence suggesting that he had motive to purchase more quantities at some point. This in turn would tend to support the intelligence assessment that one of the places he tried to purchase it from was Niger. Hell, even the original AP story about moving the yellowcake to Canada mentions the Plame affair, because even they understand that they can't escape the implications concerning Wilson's lies. The issue of Wilson's lies remains relevant even though it is clear that this yellowckake didn't come from Niger. For you to suggest otherwise is to completely miss the point about what the Wilson/Plame affair was really about.

LifeTrek said...

Justin, thanks for explaining but, while I agree that the Wilson/Plame farce is still relevant it just isn't relevant to this yellowcake.

You state,"If Saddam had yellowcake stored in Iraq, that would be evidence suggesting that he had motive to purchase more quantities at some point.

But that isn't quite right -- the fact that the yellowcake was controlled by the IAEA is definitely reason to believe he was looking for more! Not the fact that he had it to begin with, we already knew that, he just couldn't use it.

I don't dispute your facts, I never said the Wilson/Plame lies weren't important -- shoot I don't think the administration should have backed off the 16 words (of course they felt they had to in order to stave off the debacle of having someone jump out and proclaim the agency was against it -- which happened anyway).

While it may bring up their name, and the opportunity to remind people that they were idiots, this story is just not about them.

I'm sorry, it's like you (or I admit, it could be I) are just a hair off target.

cmblake6 said...

It doesn't matter WHERE th "yellowcake" uranium came from, only that he had it, he had WMD material, and W was ridden about "No WMDs" by the left. Only that. And the warheads with quantities of nerve agents and biological weaponry. He had the stuff. Period.

LifeTrek said...

Cmblake -- I wouldn't be surprised to find out the Russians DID move the stuff for him! The one thing I fault the Bush Administration for is allowing the left and the media to completely control the flow of information related to the war.

Obama assumes all is well now, just get Osama behind bars -- but that is FAR from the case. That really is dangerous thinking.

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