An interesting bit of French nuclear history from the book Atomic Rivals (original version, Pionniers de l'Atome) by Bertrand Goldschmidt, who died last June 11 at age 89 in Paris ( see http://www.cns-snc.ca/history/pioneers/b_goldschmidt/goldschmidt.html ).
What's interesting is that back in 1940, the French thaught they could successfully hide their prized cache of uranium from highly motivated nazi "weapons searchers" -- which they did, for the duration of the war -- while today the French seem to think that Sadam Hussein can't hide Iraq's weapons of mass destruction from United Nations' weapons inspectors.
Of course they -- and Britain's PM Neville Chamberlain, among others -- also thaught that they could make peace with Hitler.
But that that was "old Europe" (to quote Don Rumsfeld).
Things are different today :-)
(....actually, that's really true, with Tony Blair in the UK at least...)
TRANSFER OF THE URANIUM TO MOROCCO
On the other hand, those who saved the stockpile of the College de France by transporting it to Morocco and then hiding it there rendered an outstanding service to French nuclear development. They never took advantage of it, having maintained absolute secrecy on the operation until I undertook to recount the events for this book.
Halban, who had first gone to England and then later to the United States, learned before his departure from France on June 18, 1940, of this transfer to Morocco, but he knew little more than that.. Interrogated on several occasions by the British and U.S. intelligence services (as was Joliot by the Germans during the Occupation), he could not give them the least indication as to where it was. Had he been able to do so, he would certainly have informed them in good faith, and the fate of this uranium would have been the same as that of the stock in Toulouse. That would have struck a serious blow to the subsequent launching of France's national effort.
Trying to clarify this question, I found only a cryptic note in the diary kept by Halban off and on after his departure from France. In a May 1943 entry he mentions that, in the course of a conversation with Francis Perrin in New York, he got. the vague impression that a physicist from Maurice de Broglie's laboratory, Serge Gorodetzky, had perhaps transported this uranium to Morocco in a motorboat across the Mediterranean.
Although it seemed to me improbable that the transport of such a tonnage could be made in a motorboat and that thie one responsible would have kept the episode secret for nearly half a century, I decided at the beginning of 1987 to talk to Gorodetzky, who had just concluded his career as professor at the University of Strasbourg. He had in fact played a major role in the operation but never considered it necessary to boast about it.
As the Germans approached, Joliot had asked the help of the Ministry of Armaments, on whom he depended to safeguard his uranium stockpile; some 130 crates and small barrels were then evacuated to Bordeaux. This is where Serge Gorodetzky enters the picture. He had been commissioned at the laboratory of' Louis Leprince-Ringuet at the Ecole Polytechnique, but when the Germans invaded France he succeeded in obtaining orders from General Maxime Weygand, the chief of staff for a mission to England. When he arrived in Bordeaux around June 15, 1940, and found no means to cross the Channel, he opted for a cargo vessel leaving for Morocco. He was then asked if he would be willing to take charge, in the greatest secrecy, of conveying to Morocco and from there possibly to England Joliot's stockpile of uranium along with some instruments, documents, and precious objects of the scientist (the diploma and gold medal of the Nobel Prize among them). He accepted the new mission, and having survived a German bombardment of Bordeaux, as did the ship, left before the request for the Armistice of June 17, sailed along the coast of Portugal, and arrived unscathed in Casablanca about ten days later.
Total confusion then reigned in Morocco, where the liner Massilia had just arrived from Bordeaux loaded with former ministers, members of Parliament, and other VIPs because the government had decided to move itself, along with the two chambers, to North Africa. Several of these members of Parliament - among them Edouard Daladier and Pierre Mendes France - were then accused of abandoning their post and were arrested on their arrival by General Charles Nogues, the resident-general, on orders of the Petain government.
Fortunately Jean Perrin, who also arrived on the Massilia, had not been bothered. Gorodetzky confided in him; there evidently was no longer any question of transferring the uranium to England, and it became more and more difficult to prevent the existence of this cumbersome stockpile from becoming common knowledge in Casablanca. The Moroccan dockworkers already had found the unexpected weight of the crates and barrels suspicious, and a radiologist from Casablanca who had been notified - heaven knows how - urgently wanted to put his hands on the stockpile and hide it in his cellar.
Jean Perrin entrusted the documents to Jean Marçais, director of the Moroccan Scientific Institute in Rabat. Marçais put Gorodetzky in touch with the Division of Mines and Geology of the protectorate and its director, Jacques Bondon, then a young state mining engineer, another modest fellow who kept the secret of his role (along with his colleague from the Scientific Institute) until I interrogated them recently. Bondon, understanding the importance of his task, had the heavy crates and barrels transported by night from Casablanca to the mine of Khouribga of the Moroccan Office of Phosphates by the "phosphate train," which returned empty from the port to the mine.
A few days later the entire stock was placed at the end of an abandoned mine shaft and the tunnel was walled up. Finally, in order to cover up effectively all traces of' the operation in case anyone should start to ask indiscreet questions, Bondon, still in the greatest secrecy, drew up a new plan of the mine - and the mine shaft in question disappeared. Thus we owe to the devotion and discretion of Gorodetzky, Jean Perrin, Marçais, and Bondon the crucial rescue of this uranium, which remained hidden from July 1940 until the beginning of 1946 in a mine belonging to the Moroccan state without any local or Allied official every knowing about it.
PS. its also interesting to compare the weapons search in Iraq with a true weapons inspection, as was done in the case of South Africa - the example cited recently by US secretary of state Colin Powell.
According to the paper, "BIRTH AND DEATH OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMME," by Waldo Stumpf of the Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa Ltd, they had "completed" 6 fission gun-type devices using HEU, over several years during the late 1970s and early 1980s:
BIRTH AND DEATH OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMME
Waldo Stumpf, Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa Ltd,
P 0 Box 582, Pretoria, 0001
Presentation given at the conference "50 YEARS AFTER HIROSHIMA", organised by USPID (Unione Scienziati per il Disarmo) and held in Castiglioncello, Italy, 28 September to 2 October 1995.
1 South Africa's former nuclear deterrent programme is made public
2 The start of Uranium Enrichment work
3 Early programme for the development of peaceful nuclear explosives
4 A nuclear deterrent is born
5 The programme's end and eventual turnaround
6 The IAEA's verification process and "completeness investigation"
7 South Africa's commitment to future non-proliferation
8 Lessons learnt from South Africa's nuclear deterrent programme
5 THE PROGRAMME'S END AND EVENTUAL TURNAROUND
5.1 Events Leading up to the Decision
This confirmation of the limits to the programme in September 1985, had a marked retarding effect on the programme and was, in retrospect, possibly the first sign of an eventual turnaround of the nuclear deterrent capability. It also put an end to some earlier studies for the possible production of plutonium and tritium in a planned PWR fuel test reactor for the development of fuel for Koeberg. Although replanning of this reactor project was subsequently undertaken in an attempt to redefine it as a purely commercial PWR demonstration reactor, economic realities put an end to even this concept by 1989 and the small group involved with this project was disbanded soon after.
Although it was fully recognised in the 1980's that accession of South Africa to the NPT without substantial political reform of domestic policies, would not result in any meaningful benefits to South Africa in the nuclear area, sporadic discussions with the USA and later also with the UK and the Soviet Union as the other two depository states, on South Africa's accession to the NPT, took place throughout this period.
Towards the end of the 1980's some significant events occurred that started to ease the security situation around South Africa.
*A cease-fire on the northern border of Namibia was agreed upon on 1 August 1988, to be followed by the signing of a tri-partite agreement between South Africa, Angola and Cuba on 22 December 1988 ensuring a phased withdrawal of the 50 000 Cuban forces from Angola.
*On 1 April 1989 UN Security Council resolution 435/9978, leading to the independence of Namibia, was put into operation.
*The imminent collapse of the Soviet Empire was demonstrated by the fall of the Berlin Wall towards the end of 1989. The end of the cold war and the termination of super power rivalry also in Africa, appeared inevitable.
*These events coincided with the assumption of office of the former State President F W de Klerk in September 1989, who immediately set into motion fundamental political reforms of South Africa's domestic policies towards full democracy.
With the removal of the external threat, it became obvious that South Africa's nuclear deterrent capability was superfluous and could, in fact, become a liability. Furthermore, as the progress of domestic political reform became better understood abroad, accession to the NPT assumed distinct advantages for South Africa internationally and especially within the African continent.
5.2 The Decision to Dismantle the Capability
Shortly after his assumption of office in September 1989, the former State President, therefore, instructed that an investigation be carried out to dismantle the nuclear deterrent completely with the aim of acceding to the NPT as a state without a nuclear weapons capability. This first report was submitted to him in November 1989 and was approved in principle. In the light of internal and external political factors, it was also decided that an announcement of South Africa's past nuclear deterrent capability, would not take place before accession to the NPT and that the dismantling project would, therefore, for the time being, also be classified as top secret.
A steering committee of senior officials of the AEC, ARMSCOR and the SA Defence Force and under the chairmanship of the author, was appointed by the State President, with the following brief:
*To dismantle the six completed gun type devices at ARMSCOR under controlled and safe conditions; *To melt and recast the HEU from these six devices as well as the partially completed seventh device and return it to the AEC for safe keeping; *To decontaminate the ARMSCOR facilities fully and to return severely contaminated equipment to the AEC (such as a melting furnace); *To convert the ARMSCOR facilities to conventional weapon and non-weapon commercial activities; *To destroy all hardware components of the devices as well as technical design and manufacturing information; *To advise the Government of a suitable time table of accession to the NPT, signature of a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA and submission of a full and complete national initial inventory of nuclear material and facilities, as required by the Safeguards Agreement; and *To terminate the operation of the Y Plant at the earliest moment.
Although the Y Plant was actually closed down on 1 February 1990, actual written confirmation of these instructions was received from the former State President on 26 February 1990 and this date should, therefore, stand as the official date of implementation of termination of South Africa's nuclear deterrent capability.
5.3 The Dismantling Process and Accession to the NPT
Dismantling of the high enrichment end of the cascade of the Y Plant started without delay. Extensive operational procedures for the safety and security requirements of the dismantling process of the nuclear devices, were drawn up before actual dismantling of the first device could start in July 1990. The former State President also appointed an independent auditor, an eminent retired academic, to independently audit the entire process.
The entire dismantling process proceeded without incident and was essentially complete towards the end of June 1991 with the last HEU returned to the AEC during the night of 5 to 6 September 1991. Accession to the NPT occurred on 10 July 1991 and, within 7 weeks, a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement was signed with the IAEA on 16 September 1991 and came into effect immediately. On 30 October 1991 South Africa submitted its initial inventory of nuclear materials and facilities to the IAEA and the first verification team from the Agency arrived on site in November 1991.
It is also noteworthy that at the General Conference of the IAEA in September 1991, the Director-General of the IAEA was instructed to "... report back on the completeness of South Africa's declaration of nuclear material and facilities."
The question has often been asked whether public acknowledgement of the past nuclear deterrent capability should not have been made at the time of accession to the NPT. Although this is a valid question, it should be understood that this is not required by the NPT as this treaty only looks forward from the date of accession. Secondly, the "completeness" instruction to the IAEA, covered only nuclear materials and facilities and did not include projects or programmes of the past which had been fully terminated before accession to the NPT. South Africa was, therefore, under no obligation to reveal the existence of the already dismantled nuclear deterrent capability(4). Nevertheless, public acknowledgement at the time of accession to the NPT was very carefully considered by South Africa but was rejected, mainly for two reasons:
*The state of the internal political transformation process was considered not to be conducive at the time for such an acknowledgement; and
*The confrontational verification process between Iraq and the IAEA at the time, which was highly visible in the news media, convinced South Africa that it could very easily have been branded as a second Iraqi case in international quarters in spite of the fact that South Africa had not violated the NPT as Iraq had done.
6 THE IAEA'S VERIFICATION PROCESS AND "COMPLETENESS INVESTIGATION"
Verification by the IAEA of the completeness of South Africa's declaration of inventory of nuclear material and facilities, was no easy task and valuable lessons may have been learned by all parties concerned. Although the NPT looks only forward from the date of accession and is not really concerned with the past, implementation of the NPT within a country with a substantial activity in the nuclear fuel cycle, will, without doubt, be forced to delve into the past to ensure that no undeclared carry-over from the pre-NPT era to the post-NPT era has taken place. The normal INFCIRC-153 type of safeguards agreements cannot handle such a situation very easily and special measures must be designed. Such measures could, of course, be dealt with by the IAEA's formal process of Special Inspections.
Experience in both Iraq and North Korea have shown, however, that this procedure very easily becomes confrontational and that an open and transparent policy by the party acceding to the NPT should be far more conducive to the aims and the spirit of the NPT. This was accepted by South Africa even before accession to the NPT and did result in a stated policy of full transparency with the IAEA and a standing invitation to the IAEA of visits "anywhere, any time, any place - within reason".
In spite of this open policy, verification of the completeness of South Africa's inventory of nuclear material and facilities by the IAEA, was no easy task as the exercise had to go back 20 years or even more, in history. Especially the verification of the HEU output of the pilot enrichment plant against the natural uranium inputs, depleted uranium outputs and in-process gas losses posed a particularly difficult problem as far more U-235 is present in the more than 270 depleted UF6 cylinders than in the HEU. Because of the low value normally placed on depleted UF6, the tails cylinders had not been homogenised and had also not been analysed to a proper degree of accuracy required for later safeguards verification. Extensive correlation between the operating records of the plant and the declared outputs took place by the IAEA over a period of 21 months and finally culminated in a positive verdict by the General Conference of the IAEA in September 1993. Likewise, was a positive verdict also given as to the completeness of the dismantling and destruction of the hardware of the nuclear devices and the reassignment of dual-use equipment and facilities to non-nuclear or peaceful nuclear work as well as the destruction, under IAEA supervision, of the two underground test shafts.
This, therefore, practically brought to an end the special investigations by the IAEA after accession of South Africa to the NPT and both the IAEA and South Africa have, since then, experienced a less arduous normal process of safeguards application on an on-going basis.
....not quite the same situation in Iraq, is it ?