CEIP Conference Hibbs Conversation

These are notes from the conversation that Matt Bunn and Joe Cirincione had with Mark Hibbs. They are by no means comprehensive.

p=. *The Khan Network*

* The network is still operating, or at least something like it. When asked by Joe if the proliferation networks out there are the same as the Khan network, Hibbs pointed out that the network members disappear and reappear, change the companies’ names, etc. Even if they’re convicted, business people can later go underground and restart their enterprises.

* Mark also noted that Pakistan continues to use its network to procure stuff for its nuclear program.

* More generally, he cautioned that we don’t know enough about proliferation networks and we need to learn more.

* Asked why no one outside of Pakistan has been allowed to debrief AQ Khan, Hibbs said that he was told by a Pakistani official responsible for debriefing Khan that Islamabad could never allow Khan to be interrogated by a foreign government because he knew too many of Pakistan’s nuclear secrets. The official also said that the Pakistanis told the IAEA that they’re still using at least part of the network to procure stuff for themselves – the implication being that they don’t wanna jeopardize it.

p=. *Nork HEU Program*

* Joe pointed out that Hibbs reported in October 20002 that NK may have terminated the program after having reached a technical impasse. Jeffrey has the quote “here.”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1561/a-conversation-with-mark-hibbs

* Hibbs said that one reason for his skepticism about North Korea’s progress was that, although there was evidence that Pyongyang was trying to obtain materials for centrifuges, there was no good evidence that the Norks had obtained materials for centrifuge rotors. For example, the NSG found out that North Korea was trying to procure a large amount of cobalt powder, as well as aluminum tubes, but neither of those could be used in or for rotors.

* I “blogged a while back”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1368/cia-and-heu-nork-edition about a similar story that Mark wrote about intelligence estimates regarding the program.

p=. *IAEA Safeguards Committee*

* Hibbs also talked about the end of the IAEA’s Advisory Committee on Safeguards and Verification. The committee, which was formed in June 2005, ended its work earlier this month – a fact which got a very brief mention during the last IAEA BoG meeting, he said.

* My understanding is that the committee produced no recommendations. I have an article coming out which talks about that subject in the forthcoming issue of _ACT_. I wrote an earlier piece about it “here.”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2006_07-08/IAEASafeguards.asp]

p=. *How Far Open is the Technology Barn Door?*

* In response to a question from Jeffrey about which nuclear technologies are truly out of the bag, Hibbs said that the Khan network has demonstrated that once information is stolen, it’s “not possible to get the genie back in the bottle.”

* Mark acknowledged that making improvements on stolen designs is difficult and requires serious engineering expertise.

* He also agreed with Matt (I think it was him) that actually implementing an enrichment program is hard, even if one does have the appropriate designs and technology.

p=. *Pakistan’s Centrifuge Program*

* Jeffrey, drawing on (I believe) “this post,”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1399/p3-and-p4-centrifuge-data also asked about an article Mark wrote about Pakistan’s P3 and P4 centrifuges. After noting that Pakistan is apparently using maraging steel, rather than carbon fiber, for the centrifuge rotors, Jeffrey asked Mark to expand on his claim that “procurement breakthroughs” have enabled Pakistan to obtain maraging steel of sufficient strength for its newest centrifuges.

Hibbs made two points:

* After noting that the Pakistanis have been using maraging steel since early 1980s, Mark explained that sources he ahd spoken with said that maraging steel is something that the Pakistanis know how to work with; they’ve done a lot of work on it over the last 15-20 years and carbon fiber would require them to retool the way they do things.

* Furthermore, Pakistan is confident that it can continue to procure this material.

Lastly, Joe mentioned a 1996 PBS Frontline interview with Mark that I didn’t know about. “Here it is.”:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/nukes/interviews/hibbs.html

As an aside, it made me feel better to hear Mark say that he had to miss some sessions at the conference because he was working on an article. I was in the same boat on day one. And kind of on day two.

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