High-enriched uranium traces found in Egypt: IAEA
(Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog is investigating the discovery of traces of highly enriched uranium at a nuclear research site in Egypt, according to a restricted International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters.
It did not specify whether the particles were weapons-grade -- enriched to a level high enough for use as fuel for an atom bomb, as opposed to fuel for some nuclear reactors. An IAEA official reached by Reuters said this was being checked.
The report, which described global IAEA work in 2008 to verify compliance with non-proliferation rules, said the highly enriched uranium (HEU) traces turned up in environmental swipe samples taken at the Inshas nuclear research site in 2007-08.
The HEU was discovered alongside particles of low-enriched uranium (LEU), the type used for nuclear power plant fuel.
Egypt had explained to the IAEA that it believed the HEU "could have been brought into the country through contaminated radio-isotope transport containers," the May 5 report said.
The U.N. watchdog's inspectors had not yet verified the source of the particles, it said, but there were no indications that Egypt's clarification was not correct.
The IAEA was in any case continuing an investigation to establish the provenance of the traces, with further test sampling planned in the vicinity near the capital Cairo.
The IAEA is sensitive to possible nuclear proliferation in the Middle East because of inquiries into allegations of secret weapons-oriented nuclear activity in Iran and Syria, which both countries deny, and the 2003 exposure of a covert atomic bomb program in Libya, since scrapped.
PAST IAEA PROBLEMS WITH EGYPT
In February 2005, an IAEA report chided Egypt for repeatedly failing to declare nuclear sites and materials but said inspectors had found no sign of an atom bomb program.
At the time, IAEA diplomats said Egypt's breaches appeared minor compared to those of Iran and South Korea, both of which experimented with uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing -- technologies applicable to nuclear bomb-making.
The new report said Egypt told the IAEA in 2004 that its atomic energy agency lacked the means to ensure "effective control" over all nuclear work in the country. A presidential decree was issued in 2006 to strengthen the agency's powers.
Egyptian regulators then mounted a state-wide investigation and detected previously undocumented nuclear items, including depleted uranium, a by-product of enrichment used as a hardening agent in ordnance or as radiation-shielding material.
The report said Egypt had turned over information about previously undeclared nuclear work and submitted design information about the Inshas facility, a hydrometallurgy pilot plant and a radio-isotope production site.
Egypt's statements were judged consistent with IAEA findings and there were no more outstanding questions, it said.
In 2007 Egypt said it aimed to build several atomic reactors to meet rising energy demand and has since received nuclear cooperation offers from China, Russia, France and Kazakhstan.
Many Arab states have similar ambitions, to offset high fossil-fuel costs and cut emissions to combat climate change.
Industry analysts have suggested the United States could be willing to help Egypt develop a nuclear program if it pledged never to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel -- both proliferation-prone processes -- on its own soil.
Egypt ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1981 but not the IAEA's 1997 Additional Protocol that gives inspectors the right to make intrusive, short-notice inspections of nuclear facilities and other sites not declared as nuclear.http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/...54543S20090506
Nuclear Weapons Program
Egypt has not engaged in significant efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Evidently Egypt has decided to concentrate on increasing conventional forces, and chemical and biological weapons, rather than developing nuclear weapons.
The Egyptian nuclear program was launched in 1954. Egypt acquired its first nuclear reactor from the Soviet Union in 1961. The two megawatt reactor was opened by President Gamal Abdel-Nasser at Inchass, in the Nile Delta. The Soviets controlled the disposal of this small nuclear research reactor's spent fuel, which in any event was not capable of producing a significant amount of weapons-grade material. Egyptian nuclear ambitions were discarded following the 1967 defeat at the hands of Israel. Egypt signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 but delayed ratifying it, presumably because the government had evidence that Israel had embarked on a nuclear weapons program. Subsequently, Egypt lost many of its nuclear experts who had to travel abroad to seek work opportunities. Some emigrated to Canada and others joined the Iraqi nuclear program.
At the same time, however, serious work on developing nuclear potential designated for use in power engineering, agriculture, medicine, biotechnology, and genetics continues. Industrial incorporation of four explored uranium deposits is planned, including the extraction and enrichment of uranium for subsequent use as fuel for atomic power plants.
In 1975 the United States agreed in principle on a program to supply Egypt with power reactors. The US promised to provide Egypt with eight nuclear power plants and the necessary cooperation agreements were signed. The plan was subject to a trilateral safeguards agreement signed by the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Egypt. In the late 1970s, the US unilaterally revised the bilateral agreements and introduced new conditions that were unacceptable to the Egyptian government. As a result, the decision was taken to ratify the NPT, with one goal in mind � the implementation of a nuclear power program.
Although financing problems stalled construction of power reactors from the United States, Egypt ratified the NPT in 1981, in order to be able to conclude agreements with other countries for the construction of atomic energy-production facilities. Before his assassination in 1981, President Anwar Sadat announced plans to build two nuclear power stations along the Mediterranean coast. These plans, though, were subsequently shelved. There are [poorly attested] reports that Egypt is planning a Chinese-made power reactor, variously assessed at between 300 MW and 600 MW, that could have the capacity to produce material for the production of as many as four nuclear warheads a month. Egypt is believed to be seeking joint nuclear weapons research with Syria and Saudi Arabia to defray costs and allow Fgypt to continue its conventional military buildup.
In early 1992, a deal was made for Argentina to deliver one more reactor with a capacity of 22 megawatts to Egypt. The contract signed in 1991 for the delivery to Egypt of a Russian MGD-20 cyclotron accelerator remains in force. Since 1990 Egypt has been a member of the Arab Power Engineering Organization uniting 11 countries. A number of Egyptian scientific projects are being carried out under the aegis of the IAEA. There are bilateral agreements in the area of the peaceful use of atomic energy with Germany, the United States, Russia, India, China, and Argentina. There are, moreover, agreements with Great Britain and India to provide assistance in training national cadres for scientific research and work on the country's atomic enterprises.
Egypt has subscribed to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Since 1974, Egypt has taken the initiative of proposing to render the Middle East nuclear-weapons free zone, calling all countries in the region without exception to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In April 1990, Egypt took the initiative to render the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. The 1991 Madrid Peace Conference established a multinational mechanism to work on making the Middle East a nuclear weapon-free zone. This mechanism, however, stalled three years ago as a result of the Israeli position. Egypt hosted in April 1996 the conference for signing the declaration on rendering Africa a nuclear-weapons free zone.
In late 2004 and early 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency was investigating previously undisclosed experiments performed by Egyptian scientists involving uranium metal.http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/egypt/nuke/index.html
Egypt failed to disclose nuclear facilities, material, and experiments to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to a Feb. 14 report from agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. There is no indication, however, that Egypt has a nuclear weapons program, and Cairo has either ceased the nuclear activities in question or placed them under IAEA monitoring.
The report labels Egypt’s reporting failures “a matter of concern” but adds that Egypt has cooperated with the investigation, and the agency’s findings so far are consistent with Egypt’s account of its nuclear program.
IAEA safeguards agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to disclose certain civilian nuclear activities. They also allow the agency to monitor the countries’ nuclear facilities to ensure the facilities are not used to produce nuclear weapons. Egypt acceded to the NPT in 1981.
Egypt used “small amounts” of nuclear material to conduct experiments related to producing plutonium and enriched uranium, according to the report. Irradiating uranium in nuclear reactors produces plutonium, which then can be separated from the spent nuclear fuel by “reprocessing” technology. Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope to produce both low-enriched uranium, which is used by most nuclear reactors, as well as highly enriched uranium (HEU). HEU and plutonium are also the two types of fissile material used in nuclear weapons.
Egypt, however, does not appear to have made much progress on either front and does not possess either reprocessing or uranium-enrichment facilities. (See ACT, January/February 2005.)
Cairo explained its reporting failures in a Jan. 25 press statement, asserting that the government and the IAEA had “differing interpretations” of Egypt’s safeguards obligations and emphasizing that the country’s “nuclear activities are strictly for peaceful purposes.” Egypt pursued a nuclear weapons option in the 1960s, but its efforts did not advance far.
According to the report, the IAEA’s investigation began after examining “open source documents” published by current and former Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority officials that indicated undeclared nuclear activities. The agency first raised the issue with Egyptian officials in September 2004 and subsequently conducted several inspections of Egypt’s nuclear facilities. ElBaradei, an Egyptian national, obliquely referred to the investigation in a November statement to the agency’s Board of Governors.
The IAEA is still analyzing environmental samples from relevant Egyptian facilities, as well as otherwise verifying Egypt’s accounts of its nuclear activities, the report says.
The agency is also investigating whether Egypt received assistance from a uranium-enrichment technology procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, a diplomat in Vienna familiar with the investigation told Arms Control Today Feb. 19. The Egypt probe is part of a broader inquiry into whether a number of other countries—Morocco, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria—were involved in the network, the diplomat said. The network’s known customers include Iran, Libya, and North Korea.
ElBaradei said in a Feb. 4 interview with Arms Control Today that Khan’s network may have had additional “satisfied or unsatisfied customers,” but he did not name any specific countries.
The IAEA report contains no evidence that Egypt received any assistance from the Khan network. Press reports, as well as U.S. and Israeli officials, have named other countries as possible customers of Khan’s network, but the publicly available evidence is thin.
ElBaradei’s report does not provide specific dates for all of Egypt’s nuclear experiments but does say that some nuclear activities took place “between 15 and 40 years ago.”
The report states that Egypt conducted uranium-conversion experiments before 1982 but does not provide an exact date. Converting uranium oxide into other uranium compounds is a key step in the uranium-enrichment process.
Egypt failed to report that it had produced “small amounts” of uranium compounds, including uranium tetrafluoride, to the IAEA. Converting uranium tetrafluoride into uranium hexafluoride is the last step to producing feedstock for uranium enrichment. Although Arms Control Today previously reported that Egypt had experimented with uranium hexafluoride, the country apparently did not do so.
The equipment used in the conversion processes has been “largely dismantled,” the report says.
Egypt also failed to include both imported and domestically produced nuclear material in its 1982 initial declaration to the IAEA, according to the report. The imported material included 67 kilograms of uranium tetrafluoride and approximately 9 kilograms of thorium compounds.
Although no nuclear plants currently use thorium, it can be irradiated to produce uranium-233, which can also be theoretically used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.
Egypt also failed to declare that it had imported and produced a total of 3 kilograms of uranium metal. Uranium metal is used as the explosive core in some nuclear weapons, but the metal Egypt produced could not be used for that purpose.
Egypt used its two research reactors, which are under IAEA safeguards, to irradiate “small amounts of natural uranium” between 1990 and 2003, conducting a total of 16 experiments, the reports says. Egypt also irradiated thorium in one of its reactors. Egypt dissolved the irradiated material but did not extract any uranium or plutonium.
Dissolving irradiated nuclear material is a key step in separating fissile material from spent nuclear fuel.
According to ElBaradei’s report, Egypt conducted “similar experiments” between 1982 and 1988, as well as before 1982, but Egyptian officials have not been able to locate the relevant documentation. The “continuing” irradiation experiments will now be under agency safeguards, the report says. The radioisotopes that could be produced by such experiments potentially have a number of civilian uses, including medical treatment.
Egypt also imported nuclear fuel rods containing enriched uranium to conduct experiments related to plutonium separation, the report says. Egypt did not report either the material or the experiments, which occurred prior to 1982, to the IAEA.
ElBaradei’s report also states that Egypt contracted with a “foreign company” in the late 1970s to build a pilot plant for conducting experiments involving the separation of plutonium and uranium from irradiated reactor fuel. Egypt tested the facility in 1987 with domestically produced nuclear material, but Cairo declared neither the tests nor the material to the IAEA, the report says. Egypt was unable to complete the facility, which is now being used for an unrelated project.
Additionally, the IAEA is also analyzing Egypt’s explanation for “traces” of nuclear material found in IAEA environmental samples taken from Egyptian hot cells. Hot cells are shielded rooms useful for separating plutonium. The IAEA first inquired about the sample results in 2001. Egypt responded in 2003, telling the agency that the particles came from contaminated reactor water.
ElBaradei’s report also notes that Cairo failed to disclose relevant information about its nuclear facilities. Egypt failed to declare the pilot plant for plutonium and uranium-separation experiments, as well as failed to provide design information for a new facility under construction. The latter facility is to be used for separating radioisotopes from enriched uranium, which is to be irradiated in one of Egypt’s research reactors. Cairo should have notified the IAEA in 1997 of its decision to build the facility, according to the reporthttp://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_03/Egypt
و من التقرير السابق يلاحظ
The imported material included 67 kilograms of uranium tetrafluoride and approximately 9 kilograms of thorium compounds
اى ماده كافيه لصناعه ما يوازى 3 قنابل نوويه
ويكفي هذا التصريح من الرئيس المصري السابق حسني مبارك
In October 1998, Mubarak said that Egypt could, if need be, develop nuclear weapons, or even buy the technologyhttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7181847/...dy-go-nuclear/