November 14, 2002
SADDAM VS. THE A/V CLUB:How the techies will find Saddam's arsenal (Todd W John, 11/15/02, Asia Times)
Locating nuclear devices and accessing Iraq's capabilities will be the work of highly specialized inspection personnel who will employ technologies such as X-ray, holographic imaging and plutonium measurement analysis (PUMA) to detect the components of a nuclear arsenal. Seeking out nuclear-arms capabilities relies on a "nuts and bolts" approach that seeks to identify the 30 or so telltale parts, such as uranium processed fuel and specialized machine parts that are essential for the construction of nuclear weapons. The PUMA technology is an advanced radionuclide detection tool that uses glass-housed lithium-6 atoms and cerium ions. The presence of radionuclides causes a reaction of the neutrons with the lithium, illuminating the cerium - a state-of-the art, lightweight and low-energy detection system for finding components such as plutonium.However, the nuclear detection and inspection experts will also rely on good old-fashioned intelligence in locating for interrogation Iraq's experts in nuclear science who may be part of a weapons program.
Detecting the presence of chemical and biological weapons is no easier for the inspection team. Biological-agent detection is complicated, as some components are naturally occurring, requiring the UN experts to analyze samples to determine whether an agent is natural or weapons-grade. With chemical weapons, complexity arises in separating the masses of chemicals used by Iraq's civilian chemical industry, such as phenol and chlorine, that have justifiable industrial uses but can also be used for insidious weapons programs. Finally, facilities used for civilian biological and chemical purposes can often be quickly converted to produce devastating agents and pathogens for warfare.
UN inspection teams armed with high-tech cameras, sensors and monitoring devices will combat these difficult detection and assessment tasks by installing equipment that will alert inspectors to facility conversion or sudden changes in chemical and biological compositions in air, soil and water. An example of biological-agent detection and classification equipment is a new "DNA chip" technology developed by California-based Affymetrix that helps inspectors by storing complex genetic information for pathogens, allowing quicker analysis and classification of unknown agents that may be used in biological weapons. Likewise, Biodetection Enabling Analyte Delivery System (BEADS) is a technology that was developed to enable inspectors to make on-the-spot analysis of samples without the need for painstaking sample preparation. By allowing analysis of "dirty" or unprocessed samples, BEADS is a technology that can be implemented as a stand-alone, unattended monitoring system.
Conventional methods of determining Iraq's weapons capabilities will also be augmented by technology. Research and analysis of Iraqi envoys' dealings throughout the world in trade and acquisition of certain materials, chemicals, agents and components will also be essential in assessing its weapons capabilities. This analysis five to 10 years ago would have been far more painstaking without the many computing tools available to inspectors today.
It seems like the only feasible way to find stuff is to remove all of Iraq's military leadership and scientists and their families beyond Iraq's borders, so that you can interview them free of fear of Saddam's retaliation. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 14, 2002 4:06 PM