FAS | Nuke | Guide | Iraq | Other |||| Index | Search |

Radiological Weapons

The purpose of the project was to combine the effectiveness of conventional aerial munitions with the spreading of radioactive materials. The radiation effect would extend through the inhalation exposure from the irradiated materials floating in the air. Around the end of 1987, the Military Industrialization Corporation gave orders to the Nuclear Research Centre at Tuwaitha to explore radiological weapons as a means of "area denial" to be used in the final stages of the Iran/Iraq war. [S/1995/1038]

Field tests of these munitions were carried out by Iraq's Air Force and the Muthanna State Establishment. A number of lead-shielded metal containers with irradiated zirconium oxide were exploded at a chemical weapons test site. Each container, which weighed about 1 ton (because of extensive shielding), had from 0.5 to 1 kilogramme of irradiated zirconium oxide.

Three prototypes were made based on modified "Nasser 28" aerial bombs. These prototypes had a gross weight of 1,400 kilogrammes and had a radioactive content of some two curies deriving mainly from the hafnium impurity present in the zirconium oxide that had been irradiated in the IRT5000 research reactor at Tuwaitha. All three bombs were exploded at test sites. One bomb had been detonated as a ground-level static test, while the other two bombs had been fitted with impact fuses and were dropped from an aircraft at a testing range. The results of these tests were disappointing in that the majority of the radioactive material concentrated on the crater with a sharp decline in the radiation level at a relatively short distance away. [S/1995/1038]

Concurrently with the "Nasser 28" experiments, development of an alternative design based on a derivative of the Muthanna- 3 chemical bomb casing - renumbered Muthanna-4 for the project - was undertaken. This version weighed about 400 kilogrammes and, since it could be accommodated in the aircraft bomb bays, more weapons could be carried by one aircraft. In order to cover the possibility that a decision be taken to go ahead with the deployment of radiological weapons, 80 Muthanna-4 casings were prepared. Iraq acknowledged the production of 100 empty casings of LD-250 aerial chemical bombs (known as "Muthanna-4") in 1987. These casings were modified at the request of the Al-Qa'qa State Establishment and the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC). These casings are lost. [S/1995/1038]

Taking into account the poor test results and safety problems with the handling and transportation of irradiated materials, this project was purportedly shelved at the end of 1987. In total, only a few kilogrammes of zirconium oxide had been irradiated in the research reactor in Tuwaitha for the purpose of this project. [S/1995/1038]

According to Iraq, in mid-1988, a progress report was made to the Military Industrialization Corporation. The report was reviewed by the Corporation, which then presented a "pros and cons" summary to the leadership. The leadership did not pursue the option of the radiological weapon and the project was shelved. [S/1995/1038]

In an attachment to the February 1996 draft of its chemical full, final and complete disclosure, Iraq provided a copy of a report on the efforts undertaken by Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission and Military Industrialization Commission. This document covered activities carried out in the period from August to December 1987. The report contains information on details of zirconium irradiation in a nuclear reactor at Tuwaitha, calculations of the biological effect of the irradiated materials, field experiments of the distribution of isotopes and the design of munitions. The report also contains information on the special aerial bomb, known as the Qa-Qa-28, four prototypes of which were constructed for the purpose of this experiment. The report concludes that Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission and the Military Industrialization Commission had the capability to manufacture a bomb containing irradiated materials. However, it was suggested by Iraq's Air Force that a study should be conducted to consider the possibility of reducing the weight of the bomb (the total weight of the Qa-Qa-28 bomb was 1,400 kilograms). Iraq declared that no order to produce radiological weapons was given and the project was abandoned. The production of 100 empty casings of the smaller calibre aerial bomb for the purpose of radiological weapons was admitted in the full, final and complete disclosure. According to Iraq, 75 bombs were sent to the Al-Qa-Qa State Establishment and the remaining 25 bombs at Al Muthanna were destroyed unilaterally in the summer of 1991. The fate of the 75 bombs was not mentioned. [S/1996/258 and S/1995/1038]

Sources and Resources

FAS | Nuke | Guide | Iraq | Other |||| Index | Search |


Maintained by Webmaster
Updated Tuesday, November 03, 1998 6:48:07 AM