Albright, David; Hibbs, Mark
March 1991
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists;Mar1991, Vol. 47 Issue 2, p16
This article discusses the likelihood that Iraq even had the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Just two hours after U.S. warplanes began attacking Iraq on January 16, President Bush went on national television to report the goals of the assault. The prominence Bush gave to Iraq's nuclear "potential" repeated a theme that the administration began pushing vigorously last November as a rationale for the use of military force against that country. But after a months-long investigation of the requirements any country would need to build nuclear weapons, and an assessment of Iraq's ability to meet those requirements, we conclude that Saddam Hussein was many years away from developing usable nuclear weapons. Most evidence supported the view that Iraq remained far from possessing the infrastructure needed to produce nuclear weapons, and worst-case assessments such as the president's seriously overstated the risk that Iraq would soon detonate a nuclear explosive. To gauge the amount of time Iraq might have needed to build a pilot enrichment plant, it is useful to consider Brazil's unsafeguarded enrichment program, which has benefitted from a more sophisticated industrial and nuclear infrastructure than Iraq's. INSETS: Making the bomb: the shopping list;Making the bomb: the gas centrifuge;Making the bomb: the rotor assembly;Iraq's "nuclear complex"


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