Report: Saddam Experimented With Radioactive Bomb In 1987

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - In lieu of having a full-fledged atomic bomb, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein tested a bomb in 1987 filled with radioactive material to inflict mysterious suffering and death on the enemy, according to a secret Iraqi report published on the Internet on Monday.

The bomb was expected to cause vomiting, sterility or genetic damage, cancer and possible death within two to six weeks. It was tested three times in 1987 at a time when Iraq was waging war on Iran.

"The bursting of this bomb will cause the usual effects of the traditional bomb and will add a biological effect," said the report, published by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, an independent group.

The report, written jointly by the Atomic Energy Agency, Al-Qaqa Facility and Muthanna Facility, suggested the more than one-ton bomb be dropped on areas of troop concentration, industrial centers, airports, railroad stations, and "any other areas the command decrees."

"The weapon will weaken enemy units from the standpoint of health and inflict losses that would be difficult to explain, possibly producing a psychological effect."

Zirconium 95, the irradiated material, was chosen because it was already in production and because it dissipates within a few weeks making it "difficult to track, analyze, or recognize" and giving "sufficient time for the desired biological effects to take place, especially when there are multiple bombings," said the report.

"It would also be possible for our units to go to the bombed area without great danger after this period has expired," it added.

Gary Milhollin, director of Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said the most important thing about the report is that it "shows the thinking [that was] going on." Saddam Hussein wanted to radiate people with the goal of poisoning them, Milhollin said in a telephone interview.

It also gives a "good indication" of the Iraqi leader's intentions should he ever develop any kind of nuclear capability in the future, Milhollin said.

The reactor, in which the material was irradiated was bombed in 1991 during the Gulf War and no longer exists. However, during the time Saddam was using it for such tests, he was able to do so despite international safeguards and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Known as "dirty bombs," the radiation bomb is actually a nuclear device, said Paul Beaver, spokesman for Jane's Defense group in London on Monday. It can cause a slow and torturous death by radiation poisoning.

Iraq scrapped the project because it did not emit enough radiation to cause the desired damage, Milhollin said. Despite all the calculations and "purple prose," the "level of radiation" was not higher than the amount allowed by the industry and government for workers to receive, he added.

The document was reportedly given to United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq and later passed on to the Wisconsin group by a U.N. official who was concerned that Saddam Hussein might develop a nuclear bomb.

Beaver said he had no problem believing that the report was genuine. Experts have known for a long time what Saddam Hussein was doing, he said.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein would like to pick up where he left off Beaver said. He wants to create weapons of mass destruction and be a leader of the Arab world, he added.

According to Beaver, the only thing keeping the Iraqi dictator from accomplishing such a plan is "technology" and doing it slow enough so that the Americans don't find out about it.

However, Beaver noted that no one in the West has any idea about what he is actually doing since U.N. weapons inspectors, installed in Iraq to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction at the end of the Gulf War, were kicked out almost three years ago.