Sunday, February 15, 2004

Batteries Not Included

This from the Washington Post:

Investigators have discovered that the nuclear weapons designs obtained by Libya through a Pakistani smuggling network originated in China, exposing yet another link in a chain of proliferation that stretched across the Middle East and Asia, according to government officials and arms experts.

The bomb designs and other papers turned over by Libya have yielded dramatic evidence of China's long-suspected role in transferring nuclear know-how to Pakistan in the early 1980s, they said. The Chinese designs were later resold to Libya by a Pakistani-led trading network that is now the focus of an expanding international probe, added the officials and experts, who are based in the United States and Europe.

The packet of documents, some of which included text in Chinese, contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. They also included technical instructions for manufacturing components for the device, the officials and experts said.

"It was just what you'd have on the factory floor. It tells you what torque to use on the bolts and what glue to use on the parts," one weapons expert who had reviewed the blueprints said in an interview. He described the designs as "very, very old" but "very well engineered."

The question has to be asked: why would anyone like Libya buy such a design unless there was the reasonable expectation of charging it with fissile material? How many people will buy a car unless they could buy gas? This investigation isn't over yet.

In a related development ...

Another Washington Post article today alleges that Iran maybe enriching uranium for illicit purposes.

U.N. inspectors have discovered blueprints for a previously unknown Iranian program to enrich uranium, a finding that they said calls into question Iran's promise three months ago to fully disclose its nuclear activities, diplomatic sources familiar with the investigation said yesterday. ... The blueprints contain instructions for building a type of gas centrifuge known as the P2, a super-efficient machine used in producing enriched uranium, the fuel used in nuclear power plants and a key ingredient in atomic bombs. Iran has acknowledged possessing hundreds of less efficient P1 machines at a formerly secret nuclear facility near the central town of Natanz. ... Although some U.S. officials suspect Iran of operating secret enrichment facilities elsewhere in the country, IAEA investigators have found no evidence that Iran currently is using the advanced machines to enrich uranium. Iran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is intended only for energy production.