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Goodbye Yellowcake Road

July 7, 2008
tags: ,

Best headline of the weekend: Saddam’s Non Existent Nuclear Program Has Been Shut Down.

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.

Please note that this last remnant- which implies there were more remnants- was 550 tons worth. Sounds like a lot to me. (Whole article found here.)

And yet, the majority is now with those who think all there is to day about Sadaam is that he was not much of a threat, or that he had not tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger so therefore there was not much to his nuclear ambitions.

Yes, yellowcake alone is not that dangerous, but it would be able to converted to a weapon with the right equimpment. More discussion at the American Thinker:

By the way, is it illogical or insane to think that Saddam could not possibly obtain yellowcake, and did not even try to, because one former ambassador went to one country in Africa and said he couldn’t find it there? What about after they found over a million pounds of it just south of Baghdad? Is it now considered reality-based to think Saddam “sought” yellowcake, just as President Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address ?

The end of that post will tell you how many weapons this stuff could make.

For a rebuttal, and response check out Protein Wisdom: Let them (refuse to) eat cake. Here, Jeff Goldstein points out that enriched uranium was also found at this site, implying that the technology to enrich it had one existed there, and that “Iraq had no legitimate reason to have posessed the yellowcake”, as the faciilites there had been destroyed 12 years previous.

The point being that, had the US followed prevailing wisdom and lifted sanctions on Iraq prior to 911 (as many had been proposing), this yellowcake would have been “returned” to the Iraqi government, where it would be put to use in ways that are perhaps hinted at by the discovery, on the site, of depleted uranium, a by-product of uranium enrichment. Which, it seems to me, suggests that the technology to enrich uranium was available to Saddam at some point — the logical corollary to that observation being that leaving stockpiles of “harmless” yellowcake lying around a country that had flouted UN directives consistently enough to warrant a US invasion was probably not the best course of action for those western countries against whom Al Qaeda had declared war.

Similarly — and even if we bracket the possibility that Saddam could ever effectively reconstitute a nuclear program (with the AQ Khan revelations, I’m not sure how one can posit such a thing as a technological blackout, but then, what do I know…) — the fact that Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups were active in Iraq presented the possibility that they could have acquired some of this material, and used it not as a way to launch a nuclear holocaust against the west, but rather to launch attacks intended to terrify and to alter our way of life, which, as they themselves have maintained, has been one of their primary goals.

As he points out, you don’t have to have a complicated bomb to produce terror with this stuff- although with the AQ Khan revelations it seems more and more plausible that a bomb could be produced by independent parties.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 8, 2008 9:36 am

    1.7 metric tons of enriched uranium were removed back in ’04. This fact was ignored by virtually all the major media, being only noted by the local OakRidger newspaper (Oak Ridge was where the stuff was moved to, so it was local news for them) and an official complaint by the UN that we didn’t notify them of the transport, and some whining by GreenPeace over the transport.

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