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Facilities Last updated: October, 2014

Nuclear

  • Prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq possessed a vast nuclear infrastructure. Iraq's nuclear programs, although spanning the entire fuel cycle, were devoted to Saddam Hussein's single-minded pursuit of nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Iraq established 10 major nuclear installations and utilized more than 20 factories and state industrial establishments for manufacturing equipment and materials necessary to the nuclear effort. With the exception of a few industrial-scale production facilities related to Iraq’s uranium enrichment program, most of these facilities were located within a 70km radius of Baghdad.

    Prior to 1992, two organizations were principally responsible for the development of the nuclear weapons program. The first group was the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), which was chaired by Saddam Hussein, a fact that was never disclosed to the IAEA until after the 1991 Gulf War. Headquartered at the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, the IAEC consisted primarily of Saddam's top nuclear scientists, and loyal technicians who oversaw the day-to-day research, development, and operation of Iraq's nuclear facilities. The second and more prominent organization involved in overseeing the development of nuclear facilities was the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI). Throughout the 1980s this extremely powerful entity, led by Saddam Hussein's son-in-law Hussein Kamil, was responsible for an elaborate scheme using state civilian establishments as fronts for procuring equipment necessary for Iraq's nuclear weapons program. MIMI used commercial ventures such as dam building, fertilizer plant construction, and petrochemical plants for purchasing defense-related items. Examples of MIMI fronts included the Badush Dam construction program, which was used in procurement efforts for the BADR-2000 ballistic missile program, and Petrochemical Complex 2 (PC-2), which masked an effort to construct a "super gun" capable of firing artillery shells hundreds of kilometers. MIMI's code name for the secret nuclear weapons program was Petrochemical Complex 3 or PC-3. Designated sub-projects within PC-3 were tasked with various responsibilities, including procurement of advanced CNC machine tools, centrifuge research and manufacturing, and purchasing graphite sheets used in the EMIS enrichment process. At the height of Iraq's nuclear weapons program in the late 1980s, it is estimated that the combined manpower of the IAEC and PC-3 organizations was approximately 7,000 people. [1]

    Iraq's primary centers of nuclear activity were the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center and the Al Atheer Nuclear Weapons Complex. In these facilities, Iraq conducted research and development on all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. One of the most striking features of the Iraqi nuclear effort was its commitment to enrichment technologies. It is estimated that Iraq spent between $5 and 10 billion exploring a number of uranium enrichment processes. [2] This effort included a vast number of organizations, machine shops and production facilities, many of which were located outside of Al Tuwaitha or Al Atheer.  

    As of November 2011, there is no open source evidence to indicate that Iraq possesses the facilities necessary to produce fissile material. Most of Iraq's nuclear infrastructure was destroyed or severely impaired by coalition air strikes in 1991, or rendered useless by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) following the Persian Gulf War.

    Sources:

    [1] "Projects Managed by the Iraqi Nuclear Weapons Program Known as PC-3," Federation of American Scientists Central Intelligence Agency Gulflink Collection, August 1991, www.fas.org.

    [2] "Pickering Testifies on Gulf Cease-Fire Implementation," Statement by Thomas Pickering, US Ambassador to the UN, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 18 July 1991, www.fas.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Iraq

  • Nuclear weapons program comprehensively dismantled by the IAEA from 1991 to 1997
  • Used chemical weapons against Iran and its Kurdish population during the 1980s
  • Pursued offensive biological weapon capabilities from 1985 until the 1990s