The United States has removed 4,000 centrifuges
from Libya, enough to develop several nuclear bombs a year.
In an assertion that revealed the scope of Tripoli's nuclear weapons
program, U.S. officials said the 4,000 centrifuges were
part of 23 metric tons of equipment removed from Libya in January. The
centrifuges were meant to enrich uranium in a process usually reserved for
the production of nuclear weapons.
"All of the ingredients were available for a weapons program," Energy
Secretary Spencer Abraham said. "Happily, this equipment is no longer in
The number of Libyan centrifuges cited by Abraham contrasts sharply with
an initial report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA
director-general Mohammed El Baradei said in January that about 100
centrifuges were found and they did not comprise any significant nuclear
weapons capability, Middle East Newsline reported.
Abraham led a U.S. government tour for reporters of the Energy
Department facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. on Monday. The department's Y-12
facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory ø which conducts energy research
and development ø contains the nuclear weapons material retrieved from Libya
over the last two months.
The energy secretary said Libya's 4,000 centrifuges ø out of 10,000
centrifuges sought by Tripoli ø were enough to comprise a nuclear weapons
program. He said any uranium enrichment facility with that number of
have produced enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons annually.
The centrifuges, described as an advanced Pakistani model, were not
shown during the tour for journalists. Officials also kept from seeing a
blueprint obtained by Libya on how to assemble nuclear warheads.
Officials said Libya paid $100 million for the centrifuges and other
components in its nuclear weapons program. They said the money was paid to
the nuclear smuggling network headed by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul
Abraham identified aluminum casings that would have enclosed Libyan
high-speed centrifuges to separate weapons fuel from ordinary uranium gas.
He said the 4,000 centrifuges found in Libya were separate from the capture
of a German ship bound for Tripoli in October 2003 and which contained
thousands of additional centrifuge parts.
Officials said Libyan scientists and technicians were trained at Hashan,
a uranium-enrichment facility in Tripoli. They said hundreds of scientists
and technicians were being prepared for the task of enriching uranium and
assembling components for nuclear weapons.
"The program was much more advanced than we assessed," U.S. National
Security Council official Robert Joseph, responsible for the White House's
counter-proliferation policy, said. "It was much larger than we assessed."
Officials said that virtually all of the most dangerous elements of
Libya's nuclear weapons program were shipped to the United States in January
and March. The first shipment flown out of Libya included three canisters of
uranium hexafluoride gas, regarded as among the most sensitive items in
Libya's nuclear program.
Another ship, this time carrying 500 tons of cargo, contained the rest
of Libya's nuclear weapons equipment. Officials said the ship was scheduled
to arrive at a North Carolina port in late March.