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to have advanced with work on firing systems and high explosive parts to the stage where they could be incorporated into a nuclear device. The JIC noted that:

If and only if all of these conditions were met,and assuming that reprocess ing of diverted fuel started at the time of the invasion of Kuwait,then it is conce ivable that Iraq could have the capability to make an untested nuclear weapon (though not a series of weapons) with a yield of approximately 20 kilotonnes by the end of this year.

[JIC, 27 September 1990]

The JIC noted that there were some indications that Saddam Hussein might have authorised a development project on those lines. It also concluded, however, that those indications did not lead it to alter its judgement that:

. . . the technical difficulties would be so great as to be virtually insurmountable in the short time available.

[JIC, 27 September 1990]

In a further assessment in December 1990, produced following an IAEA inspection in November, the JIC noted that:

We have no intelligence that would cause us to change our assessment of Iraq’s current nuclear capability. Without significant foreign assistance,Ira q is still at least three years away from the capability to produce fissile material itself; and at least a further year away from being able to turn it into a weapon.

[JIC, 4 December 1990]

The JIC also reconsidered its previous judgements on the possibility of Iraq having a ‘crash programme’ to build a nuclear device, concluding that:

We continue to believe that the most obvious short cut for Iraq to produce at least one nuclear device would be by diverting the material from its civil reactor programme,which was inspected by the IAEA. We have no reason to believe tha t the IAEA inspection was flawed. This means that the material had not been diverted by 22 November. If,however,material were diverted immediately after the inspection . . . [Iraq] might,in ideal circumstances,be able to produce a single, untested device by mid-1991. But we continue to believe that the technical problems would be so great as to be virtually insurmountable in such a short timescale.

[JIC, 4 December 1990]

Finally, the JIC noted that:

The only other way in which Iraq could have a nuclear weapon within the next few months would be for it to acquire,or to have acquired,the necessary materi al,or a complete weapon,from an outside supplier.

[JIC, 4 December 1990]

The JIC dismissed this option, on the grounds that, of the countries with access to fissile material, only a few might conceivably have the motivation to supply the necessary materiel or weapons and that the JIC did not in any case consider such supply likely.


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