A state that wants to build nuclear weapons must have adequately educated and trained scientific and technical personnel. They must be able to conduct a wide range of theoretical and practical tasks related to the design, development, testing, and manufacture of nuclear weapons.
To acquire the basic expertise needed for a nuclear program, many states have sent students and professionals abroad for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate education. Many nuclear weapon experts in proliferant states received their initial education in the United States, Britain, or Germany. These personnel have obtained additional expertise by attending training sessions conducted by companies or institutes, undergoing training associated with the purchase of equipment, or having discussions with experts in other countries.
Overseas University Education
Many of the leaders of proliferant nuclear programs were educated in the West. Developing countries rarely have universities with advanced technical and scientific programs, particularly those that are experimental in nature, that are useful for advancing their nuclear programs.
Jaffar Dhia Jaffar, who became the scientific father and head of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, received his doctorate in Britain in the 1960s, and spent several years at CERN in Switzerland, before returning to Iraq. Khidhir Hamza, a former senior Iraqi nuclear scientist, who briefly headed Iraq's nuclear weaponization program in 1987, received a Master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Florida State University in the 1960s. He too returned to Iraq in the 1970s. Maky Rasheed, a leader in the gas centrifuge program in the late 1980s received his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. Mahdi Ghai al Ubeidy, the head of the gas centrifuge program, received a degree at the Colorado School of Mines.
In general, the students sent abroad did not know about the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, even when they were funded by the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) or Iraqi military institutions. These students learned about the weapons program only after finishing their degrees and returning to Iraq. According to Iraqi declarations, Jaffar had the first pick of the returning graduates for the nuclear weapons program. Few could refuse Jaffar's offers of employment in the secret nuclear program.
In some cases, however, students funded by the IAEC were used to collect studies or locate equipment needed by the clandestine nuclear program. Sensitive items would be obtained by Iraqi intelligence agents based on the information provided by students. Although these students were unlikely to have been informed about the true purpose of the requests, they may have developed suspicions or inadvertently learned something about the weapons program.
Specialized training courses can be particularly helpful in gaining an understanding of fields related to nuclear weapons programs. For example, a country must master many technologies, including those associated with vacuums, instrumentation and control, heat transfer, material science, and welding. Although these courses may not involve sensitive information by themselves, they can contribute significantly to a proliferant state's understanding of sensitive information. In addition, if the courses are taught at organizations or companies that are involved in sensitive technologies, the participants may have opportunities to acquire sensitive equipment or technology during their visits.
GSI. In the late 1970s, three Iraqis received training on ion sources at GSI in Darmstadt Germany. Although the Iraqis state that the training was related to the development of ion sources for accelerators, this training became important in Iraq's program to enrich uranium through electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) technology. Despite Iraqi denials, some former Action Team inspectors suspect that these Iraqis were sent to Germany deliberately to receive training on EMIS ion sources. But whatever the original intention, these experts received valuable information and training at GSI that became the basis of their ion source development program for EMIS. One of the people trained, K. Hamdi, became a leader of the EMIS program.
Interatom. In late 1989, 22 members of the Iraqi gas centrifuge program took a conventional piping and welding course at the German firm Interatom. About half the participants were engineers in the centrifuge program and most of the rest were welding technicians or materials specialists in the program. Welding courses mainly took place at the nearby SLV Institute, which Interatom subcontracted for this purpose.
Although the Interatom course was designed to be non-sensitive, Interatom also built gas centrifuge enrichment cascades for Urenco. Iraq in fact picked Interatom because of its expertise in uranium enrichment cascade technologies and in the analysis of maraging steel properties, a critical material in the centrifuges Iraq was developing at that time. Despite Interatom's precautions against the revelation of sensitive information, the Iraqis believed they could acquire a significant amount of sensitive information during this training course. Looking back in the mid-1990s, senior Iraqi participants said that they did not find security particularly tight at the Interatom facility when they were there.
In their discussions with Interatom representatives, Iraqis were careful to hide their true intentions. For example, when the goal was training in "cold traps" for uranium hexafluoride, the Iraqis asked Interatom about cold traps for another material.
When asking for training in vacuum technologies at Interatom, the Iraqis asked for vacuum regions far lower than that inside gas centrifuges, knowing that Interatom knew mainly about the pressure region experienced in a gas centrifuge. After Interatom officials told them that they could only offer vacuum training in this other region, the Iraqis feigned disappointment, and said, "we will settle for that."
Iraqi participants would daily collect information during the courses and report to their managers afterwards. The managers would collect the information and direct the trainees to collect additional information or data. Two participants prepared detailed trip reports, one on pipe bending and the other on welding. A senior manager prepared a technical report on welding. Both subjects were vital to Iraq's efforts to construct a cascade of centrifuges connected by piping and valves.
The Iraqis made observations while in the facility and discussed questions with Interatom technicians. According to an Iraqi pipe worker, who wrote one of the trip reports, he surreptitiously obtained entrance into a "clean-room" piping workshop next to the training area. Inside, he was able to copy sensitive piping and valve arrangements for gas centrifuge cascades.
An Iraqi manager was able to able to obtain details of a sensitive tri-flange valve that is attached to a centrifuge. He secretly entered the room containing the flange and pressed an oily paper against the top of the tri-flange. Later, he took the dimensions from the paper and prepared a drawing.
Other Iraqi trainees received extensive training in welding pipes, including witnessing the procedure to weld small pipes to the tri-flange valve. Training occurred both in the Interatom piping workshop and at SLV. The training at SLV was specialized for aluminum pipe welding. The Iraqi wanted the training at SLV to gather knowledge and experience on cascade pipe welding.
The Iraqis had to walk a fine line between asking questions of Interatom officials to gain information and raising suspicions about their true intentions. At one point during the training, a suspicious Interatom official came to one of the Iraqi leaders and said that his colleagues were asking sensitive questions. Alarmed, the Iraqi went to his colleagues and told them to be more careful.
Nonetheless, Interatom and the German government became suspicious about the Iraqi participants. In addition, the contract with Interatom was signed by the Baghdad-based Industrial Projects Company (IPC). When Interatom management learned that IPC was in fact a front company for Iraq's secret nuclear program, it cancelled the second training course scheduled for early 1990.
MTI and ROMAC. The Iraqi centrifuge expert Maky also received training from the U.S. firm Mechanical Technology Incorporated (MTI) on the use of computer programs that calculate rotor dynamics and stability and that are useful in designing bearings. MTI had been involved in the U.S. gas centrifuge program prior to the program's cancellation in the mid-1980s.
This senior Iraqi visited the University of Virginia, and met with personnel from the Rotating Machinery and Controls (ROMAC) consortium, which specializes in high-speed, rotational phenomena. IPC, which was in reality a Baghdad-based procurement company for the Iraqi gas centrifuge program, joined ROMAC in 1989. IPC established a letter of credit for ROMAC Labs, mechanical engineering department, in the amount of $19,000 on July 6, 1989. It is hard to judge how much Maky benefited from his visit to MTI or the University of Virginia, or by IPC's membership in ROMAC. However, the computer software supplied by MTI was useful to the centrifuge program.
Equipment or Technology Demonstrations
States have gained valuable knowledge when companies present their equipment or software to a prospective customer. Many companies have included sensitive information or items in their demonstrations. For example, the German company Leifeld made a demonstration of its flow-forming equipment in Iraq, anticipating a sale. Leifeld showed Iraq a video containing sensitive information about producing maraging steel rotors for a gas centrifuge. When Karl Heinz Schaab, the German gas centrifuge expert, laid out his products at his company ROSCH in Kaufbeuren to a visiting Iraqi delegation, he included a highly sensitive carbon-fiber centrifuge rotor.
Training in the Use of Supplied Equipment
Often the supply of equipment or software has been accompanied by training in its use. For example, suppliers trained proliferant state personnel to operate their equipment at their factory or in the proliferant country after the equipment was installed.
Schaab was involved in an agreement by the Swiss company Alwo to provide the Iraqi gas centrifuge program with a carbon-fiber winding machine. Schaab also agreed to program the machine to make carbon-fiber centrifuge rotors. He anticipated spending several weeks in Iraq after delivery of the machine to do the programming. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent international sanctions on Iraq prevented Iraq from receiving this machine or Schaab's programming.
Members of Iraq's weaponization program benefited from overseas training associated with the purchase of equipment. Iraqis received training on the construction of flash X-ray machines in Sweden. They received training from the British company Hadland Photonics on high speed photography, and from the Japanese company Hamamatsu on the operation of streak cameras. Iraq used this equipment in its research and development effort on building an implosion-type nuclear weapon.