September 15, 1998
REP. GILMAN: Major Ritter, in your September 3rd testimony, you asserted that it would take 10 years for Iraq to have an -- operable nuclear weapons if it had to reconstitute its own fissile material production program. I am going to ask you now, how long would it take Iraq to activate its nuclear weapons if it obtained the needed fissile material from the black market or any other source? How many sets of potential weapons does Iraq have at the present time?
MAJOR RITTER: Mr. Chairman, that question really needs to be answered by a nuclear weapons design specialist because the fissile material - it depends on what form the fissile material is when Iraq obtains it, what kind of machining it has to do to get it down to the proper core size. There are a number of technical issues at stake there.
What I have indicated in the past is that the special commission had received sensitive information of some credibility, which indicated that Iraq had the components to assemble three implosion- type devices, minus the fissile material, and that if Iraq were able to obtain fissile material of the quality and of the proper physical properties conducive to such a weapon, then they could assemble three nuclear devices in a very short period of time.
REP. GILMAN: Are you confident, Major, that Iraq's obtaining fissile material from an outside source for its nuclear weapons, would be detected by a U.N. weapons inspector or by any other means? How difficult an intelligence task would that be?
MAJOR RITTER: Mr. Chairman, I can only address the issues that are pertinent to the work of the special commission and insofar as we cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has a comprehensive program of conducting gamma surveys in Iraq, which would allow it to map out specific areas of Iraq. And the sensors they use are of a sensitivity that if Iraq obtained fissile material and if the fissile material was packaged improperly, there is a high Likelihood that it would be detected by the International Atomic Energy Agency through their ongoing survey work.
In terms of finding it through the process of inspections, our information is that materials such as the components of a nuclear weapon are protected by the Special Security Organization, as are chemical, biological and ballistic-missile components. And this in fact was the purpose of the inspection teams that I was tasked with leading, to break through the wall of concealment put up by the Special Security Organization and get to these components. We have not been allowed to do these jobs, so right now my confidence in the ability of the inspection process to find these components or fissile material is very low indeed.
REP. GILMAN: Well then, Major, did the Iraqi facilities you were blocked from inspecting include those in which Iraq is thought to be hiding its components for the nuclear weapons?
MAJOR RITTER: Mr. Chairman, we were attempting to conduct a comprehensive campaign of inspections against a special security organization in an effort to define the precise methodologies that they use to hide all components -- chemical, biological, ballistic missile and nuclear -- from the Special Commission. We were not going after solely the nuclear capability or the chemical capability or the biological capability. We were going after them from a strategic standpoint, so in blocking the inspections, you, in effect, blocked our ability to find the components in all four areas of concern.
REP. GILMAN: Major, a respected nuclear trade journal called "Nucleonics Week" has reported that IAEA was informed that Iraq had developed a scale model of a nuclear weapon. Did UNSCOM have any access to information about such a scale model?
MAJOR RITTER: Mr. Chairman, in my role as the chief of the Concealment Investigations Unit, I coordinated very closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency's action team, and we shared a lot of sensitive information. I think I need to yield the exact nature of those discussions. I think it would be inappropriate for me to discuss those, but I should say that they were very forthcoming in telling us what they knew, and we were likewise forthcoming in letting them know what we knew about Iraq's nuclear programs.
REP. GILMAN: Are you aware of any other activities of Iraq that would indicate they are preparing to conform the nuclear bomb components to a missile delivery vehicle?
MAJOR RITTER: The Special Commission has conducted investigations into activities that took place in the fall of 1990 in which a Scud-type ballistic missile warhead was turned over to the nuclear weaponization team of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, and we have concerns that measurements were being taken and that a redesign of the weapon was being done so that it could fit into a conventional-dimension Scud warhead.
One of the problem is that Iraq refuses to discuss the final design phase of its nuclear weapons program. This is an outstanding issue I believe the IAEA has highlighted to the Security Council and is one which is still under investigation today.
REP. GILMAN: Major, one last question. You mentioned a "short period of time." Would that be weeks, months, years? What would you define as a short period of time?
MAJOR RITTER: If the components of the implosion device are operational, if they have not been damaged through moving them around the country and hiding them from the inspection teams, and the fissile core is of the correct properties, it's a matter of days, maybe weeks before they could be assembled into a device.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you, Major.
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