WASHINGTON — The International Atomic Energy Agency today identified “a number of failures” by Egypt to report nuclear materials, activities and facilities, according to an official report prepared for the agency’s Board of Governors (see GSN, Jan. 26).
“The repeated failures by Egypt to report nuclear material and facilities to the agency in a timely manner are a matter of concern,” the report says.
Among the U.N. agency’s findings is that Egypt failed to report in an initial inventory of nuclear materials submitted in 1982 about 67 kilograms of imported uranium tetrafluoride, 3 kilograms of imported and domestically produced uranium metal, about 9.5 kilograms of imported thorium compounds and “small amounts” of domestically produced uranium oxides and uranium tetrafluoride.
The agency also found that Egypt had not reported 16 experiments conducted between 1990 and 2003 involving the irradiation of small amounts of natural uranium and the subsequent dissolution of the material, the report says. Egypt has said the experiments were intended to test the production of medical isotopes, according to the report.
Egypt also failed to report the importation of fuel rods containing uranium enriched to 10 percent U-235, some of which was used in experiments testing fuel dissolution prior to the development of a reprocessing laboratory, the report states.
Egypt further failed to report about 2 kilograms of uranyl nitrate and scrap uranium dioxide pellets and their use in acceptance tests conducted in 1987 at a hydrometallurgy pilot plant, according to the report. The plant, which was never completed, was intended to conducted small-scale experiments involving plutonium and uranium separation.
Egypt did not include the laboratory in its 1982 initial declaration of nuclear facilities, the report says, adding that Cairo’s explanation was that the facility “was being constructed only to carry out bench scale radiochemistry experiments.”
“In the view of the agency, however, given its intended purpose and design capabilities, the Hydrometallurgy Pilot Plant was a nuclear facility … and, as required … Egypt should have declared the pilot plant to the agency as early as possible prior to the introduction of nuclear material into the facility,” the report says.
In addition, Egypt did not provide the agency with initial design information for a radioisotope production facility under construction at the Inshas Nuclear Center, the report says.
The report is set to be discussed at a meeting later this month of the 35-member board.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog began its investigation into past Egyptian nuclear activities in late September following the publication of open source documents by the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority “that had given rise to concerns that Egypt may have carried out some nuclear activities that it had not declared to the agency,” according to the report. The agency conducted several rounds of inspections and meetings with Egyptian officials from October 2004 to last week.
In late January, Egypt acknowledged that it had not informed the agency about past nuclear experiments, but reiterated the peaceful nature of its atomic program.
Egypt attributed its reporting failures “to a lack of clarity about its obligations” and has agreed to report material and activities in the future, the report says.
In addition, Egypt agreed to a number of “corrective measures,” according to the report, including providing modified design information on its two research reactors and new design information for the hydrometallurgy pilot plant and the radioisotope production site. Egypt has also agreed to “recategorize” the Nuclear Fuel Research Laboratory at the Inshas center as a declared facility for IAEA purposes and has submitted design information for the site, the report says.
The agency called Egypt’s cooperation with its investigation “welcome,” and noted that work had been “complicated” because some of the activities were conducted years ago.
“The agency has requested Egypt to continue to provide such cooperation,” the report says.
The agency’s verification of the “correctness and completeness” of Egypt’s declaration is continuing pending “further results of environmental and destructive sampling analyses” and the analysis of additional information provided by Cairo, the report says.