Jeffrey LewisDetecting & Thwarting Proliferation Networks

Good morning. This is a Calutron used to enrich uranium in the Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

After the 1991 Gulf War, IAEA inspectors found that the Iraqi’s had set up Calutrons, using dual-use products like oil diffusion pumps (right). Many companies, including Germany’s Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, had sold such pumps to Iraq, believing they would be used in the oil industry (or not caring how they would be used).

I am staring at pictures of that Calutron and oil diffusion pump in the panel Finding Innovative Ways to Detect and Thwart Illicit Nuclear Trade.

The pictures are in a presentation, not by an academic or an activist, but by Ralf Wirtz, an executive in the export control divison of Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum—makers of vacuum products and other applications that can be used in centrifuges, missiles and production facilities for chemical and biological weapons agents.

(Sadly, he did not say “Despite what you think, our vacuum products don’t suck.”)

Wirtz is telling the story of how Oerlikon set up its division after being implicated in Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program and how it now approaches issues related to dual use purchases that seem a little shady.

David Albright, from ISIS, and Matti Tarvainen, from the IAEA, also made great presentations, but really to the point of how the important role that private firms play in combating proliferation networks.