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Briefing Room

Iraq Nuclear File

Where did things stand in December 1998, and what's been done since then?

IAEA Inspectors in Iraq

Scenes from IAEA inspections in Iraq in the 1990s. (Photo: IAEA Action Team)

In December 1998, UN-mandated inspections were stopped in Iraq. By then, the IAEA Iraq Action Team had formed a technically coherent picture of Iraq's secret nuclear weapons programme, and inspectors had effectively uncovered, mapped, and neutralized it. Here's where things stood in late 1998, based on the Action Team's findings:

  • Nothing indicated that Iraq was successful in its clandestine attempt in the 1970s and 1980s to produce nuclear weapons. However, some uncertainties surrounded the programme's development and termination, including the extent of external assistance to the clandestine attempt.
  • Iraq was near success in some areas, notably uranium enrichment. The areas included the production of highly enriched uranium through a physical process known as Electromagnetic Isotope Separation (EMIS); the production and pilot cascading of single-cylinder, sub-critical gas centrifuge machines; and the fabrication of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon.
  • Nothing indicated that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material through its indigenous enrichment processes, or that Iraq had secretly acquired weapons-usable material from external sources.
  • All known weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance was removed from Iraq by February 1994; this included 208 spent fuel assemblies from research reactors.
  • Left in Iraq was some safeguarded nuclear material at the Tuwaitha site. The bulk of material, some 1.8 tonnes, is low-enriched uranium; the rest includes several tonnes of natural and depleted uranium. All these stocks are verified and accounted for under IAEA safeguards.
  • Though physical aspects of Iraq's programme were eliminated, Iraq retained the practical knowledge acquired by its scientists and engineers about the production and processing of fissile material and the construction of a nuclear warhead.

Since December 1998, the IAEA Action Team has concentrated efforts on the possible resumption of inspections in Iraq, including the implementation of a monitoring and verification plan. Specifically, the Team has:

  • created and updated a detailed plan for monitoring and verification in Iraq;
  • prepared a revised list of items that Iraq must report to the IAEA in the context of the monitoring and verification plan;
  • conducted additional analyses of data and information obtained or reported to the IAEA since 1998;
  • improved its computerized inspection support and analytical tools; and
  • incorporated commercial satellite imagery into its information system.

For more detailed information on past inspections in the 1990s, see the Iraq Action Team chronology.

In December 2002, the Action Team was renamed as the IAEA Iraq Nuclear Monitoring Office (INVO).