Netherlands Probing Suspected Centrifuge-Related Diversions

Mark Hibbs, Nucleonics Week, January 22, 2004 (for personal use only)

The Netherlands government Jan. 19 confirmed that its domestic intelligence agency Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD) is investigating suspected diversion of know-how and possibly materials related to centrifuge enrichment to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, in part via third parties in and from Pakistan. A similar investigation is also underway in Germany, Western officials said.

Data which has come to light suggest that uranium enrichment programs in Iran, North Korea, and Libya are all based on original and virtually identical Urenco centrifuge design information featuring G-1 rotor tube segments 1,000 millimeters in length which may be connected by a bellows to replicate the G-2 centrifuge. In the case of Iran and Libya, the rotor tubes are made of aluminum. Western officials said last year U.S. intelligence suspected that North Korea's program was based on using G-1 maraging steel rotor tube segments to build the G-2 centrifuge.

While evidence indicates that the rotor tubes show basic identity, Western officials said the centrifuges also share key fingerprints which point to certain engineering breakthroughs made by Urenco over previous generic Zippe-type centrifuges. ''The true signatures for these (G-type) machines,'' one European centrifuge expert said, ''are in components such as lower bearing assemblies and bellows, and in gas-withdrawal systems.'' A Dutch businessman and engineer who was exonerated in a 1980 investigation related to the export of a large consignment of maraging steel to Pakistan, and who in 1985 was convicted for illegal export of dual-use equipment to Pakistan, more recently has been prevented from exporting other commodities to that country from Amsterdam and Vienna by lack of export authorizations. Last year, the same individual was involved in setting up the Eighth International Symposium on Advanced Materials (ISAM-2003), sponsored by the KRL in Islamabad. The organizing committee for ISAM-2003 included another scientist at the University of Leuven who had worked with A.Q. Khan in Europe during the 1970s.

According to Frank Slijper, a Groningen researcher into the Dutch arms trade, the Leuven scientist during the 1990s was appointed as a director of the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering, Science & Technology, where he joined A.Q. Khan. In 1972, the two scientists had co-authored a textbook on physical metallurgy.

The list of sponsors for ISAM-2003 also included the firm Gemco Pakistan (Pvt.). Its listed business activities are similar to those of a Dutch firm named Gemco, but the Eindhoven-based company has denied there is any formal connection with the Pakistan organization. Historical personnel links between the two firms may be probed by investigators, sources said this week.