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March 27, 2006
Sudan to create nuclear program for electricity
The impoverished and wartorn country of Sudan is considering trying to create a nuclear program to generate electrical power, its president told the state-owned Kuwait Television in an interview aired on Monday. President Omar Al Bashir said his government believes that its energy resources will not cover an expected increase in needs for electrical power in the next 25 years in the Arab-African country. "During that period, nuclear energy comes in to fill the deficit in electrical power generation," Al Bashir said in the interview conducted on Sunday. He spoke from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where his nation is hosting the Arab League summit that starts on Tuesday. The president said his country had contacts with "the agency" in regard to such a nuclear program. He did not specify which agency, but presumably meant the International Agency for Atomic Energy, the United Nations nuclear watch dog based in Vienna, Austria.
March 11, 2005
Sudan understands the Sedan mistake, but what about that red dye named Sudan in 19th century, huh?
A typo in the transcript of the US Congress' Armed Services Strategic Services Subcommittee's March 2 session had the unforeseen consequence of triggering Sudanese accusations the US had carried out nuclear tests in Sudan. "The Sudan test displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep in over 1,000 feet in diameter," reads the transcript, quoting representative Ellen Tauscher, speaking to the committee on March 2. A week later, Sudanese officials started blaming the alleged nuclear testing and resulting waste for a reported rise of cancer cases north of Khartoum, prompting Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Ismail to request a clarification from Washington. Agriculture Minister and ruling party secretary general Majub al-Khalifa Ahmed accused the United States of being "the state of the devil" and said "the US nuclear tests were at the origin of cancer cases that have appeared in Sudan." The Sudanese media pounced on the scandal and reported Tuesday that the US charge d'affaires was summoned over the issue. "It is clear from the context that she (Tauscher) was referring to a well-known July 6, 1962 explosion at the Nevada Test Site codenamed Sedan," the Federation of American Scientists said in a statement. "The term 'Sedan' was mistakenly transcribed as 'Sudan' both by Federal News Service and by FDCH Political Transcripts and has been so recorded in the Nexis news data base, where it continues to cause mischief," it explained. "We have no reason that makes us doubt the explanation that we have received from the US administration," Ismail told reporters Thursday, adding, however, that the investigation the Sudanese authorities had begun would continue "so as to be fully reassured."
The misunderstanding, whether genuine or not, betrays a rising anti-US sentiment in Khartoum, on which the international community -- led by Washington -- has turned up the heat over its involvement in atrocities committed in Darfur. The Sudanese authorities also took offense at the fact that a cancer-causing food dye -- which created a stir in Britain and other countries after it was discovered in several food products -- was named after their country. The incriminated 'Sudan I' red dye, a colouring usually included in solvents, waxes and polish, was found in close to 500 products last month, prompting a European-wide food scare and mass recall from the shelves. The scare was widely reported in the Sudanese media and the Sudanese embassy in London complained to the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) earlier this month, demanding it shed light on the origin of the incriminated agent's name. "Nobody knows where the name comes from. It's lost in the mist of time," FSA spokeswoman Rosalind Snow told AFP. "I can understand that the Sudanese would find it offensive... we have chemists and academics trying to track down the name but Sudan I was first synthesised in the 19th century and it's very difficult," she explained. Khartoum has been under close international scrutiny and faces UN sanctions over the repression of an uprising in Darfur that was brutally crushed by its proxy militias, which are now accused by the US Congress of genocide. The authorities frequently resorted to anti-US rhetoric with the domestic public to fend off these accusations, accusing the West of plotting against Islam and seeking to plunder the country's wealth.
[Source: Agence France Presse, "US nuclear confusion, British food scare reveal testy Sudanese diplomacy", March 11, 2005 12:07 pm GMT]
Sudan's foreign minister told Al Jazeera television Wednesday that his government wanted to know more about a U.S. nuclear test in Sudan in 1962 that was disclosed last week at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing. The Sudanese summoned the U.S. chargˇ d'affaires to explain what this stunning revelation was all about. Turns out it was a false alarm. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) checked the subcommittee transcript and, sure enough, there is Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) talking about a previously undisclosed 1962 "Sudan" nuclear test, which "displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep" with more than a 1,000-foot diameter. But the FAS said the context makes it clear Tauscher was talking about the 1962 explosion in Nevada code-named "Sedan." "The remarkable crater it left behind can be visited today by tourists." Both the Federal News Service and FDCH Political Transcripts mistranscribed Sudan for Sedan, and it "has been so recorded in the Nexis news database, where it continues to cause mischief," FAS reported. Sudan's agriculture minister was reported to have suggested Wednesday that the test may have caused cancers in Sudan. After talking to embassy officials, the foreign minister said the confusion was cleared up. "They want to confirm the tests did not take place in Sudan but in Sedan, part of the United States in Nevada," he added, according to Reuters.
[Source: Al Kamen ("In the Loop" columnist), "That '62 Sedan Was a Real Bomb", The Washington Post, March 11, 2005, p. A21]
Tauscher sez twasn't me!
At a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-California, spoke about a 1962 nuclear test in the Nevada desert. The test was code named "Project Sedan." Tauscher's remarks were little noticed, until they were transcribed -- incorrectly -- in an unofficial transcript of the hearing. One letter was changed. The "Sedan" nuclear test became the "Sudan" nuclear test. And the government of Sudan took notice. Less than a day after Tauscher uttered her words, and after they were incorrectly transcribed, Sudanese officials evidently were alerted to the transcript. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires in Khartoum and demanded an explanation about the supposedly secret nuclear tests in the east African country. The Arab language satellite channel Al-Jazeera picked up the story. It put the Sudanese foreign minister on the air. "The Sudanese government takes this issue seriously and with extreme importance," he told the world. The Chinese news service picked up the story. In a story appearing only one day after Tauscher spoke, the news service reported that the Sudanese government held the U.S. responsible for "cancer spread in Sudan" caused by "U.S. nuclear experiments in the African country in 1962-1970."
The quickly evolving story got little notice in the United States. At the offices of the Federation of American Scientists, however, government watchdog Steven Aftergood was reviewing the CIA public translations of overseas newscasts, and came upon the story. "I thought, Wow!," said Aftergood. "Here's a historical revelation that will cause the history books to be rewritten. No one's ever heard of a U.S. nuclear test in the Sudan in 1962." Aftergood went to work. He tracked down the transcript of a March 2 House Armed Services subcommittee hearing during which the 43-year-old nuclear secret was supposedly revealed. Aftergood read Tauscher's comments about a 1962 test involving a 100 kiloton blast that displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep. He noted that the transcript referred to it as the Sudan nuclear test site, but quickly recognized that the blast described was identical to the "Project Sedan" test -- which was conducted to determine if nuclear devices could be used for peaceful purposes such as cratering or earth moving. "So somehow the notion that the U.S. had conducted a nuke test in Sudan had gotten into the news food chain and had triggered alarms on the part of the Sudanese government," Aftergood said.
Now comes the job of rectifying the error. A State Department official told CNN that U.S. officials have explained the mix-up to the Sudanese. And Tauscher this week issued a terse statement: "When speaking at a March 2 briefing ... I referred to nuclear testing that occurred on July 6, 1962, at the Nevada Test Site code named 'Sedan.' I was not referring to the African country Sudan."
For Aftergood, this is a cautionary tale. "It is an amazing demonstration of the way information flows in our world today and how it has enormous potential to mislead as well as inform," he said. "In this case, the changing of a single letter altered the meaning from a meaningless code name into a foreign country with repercussions that are still unfolding." "I think the saving grace in this case was that the concern expressed by the Sudanese government was not classified. They didn't say, 'We have a secret source that has informed us that there was a nuclear explosive test in 1962.' The fact that they laid it out on the table at least makes it possible to correct it in a matter of a day." So corrections, like mistakes, also can travel with warp speed, although they rarely do.
[Source: Mike M. Ahlers (CNN Washington Bureau), "What a blast!", CNN.com, March 11, 2005 12:52 pm EST]
March 10, 2005
Oops - it was the "Sedan" n-test in Nevada, not some test in Sudan
The government of Sudan has received assurances from the Bush administration that the area where the nuclear experiments and explosions took place was not Sudan, but rather the Sedan area in the US state of Nevada... Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail said in a press statement that as a result of urgent contacts made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the American authorities via their embassy in Kahartoum and the Sudanese Embassy in Washington on what had been reported, that US had conducted nuclear tests in Sudan in 1962 and 1970, assurances were received that there was a mistake concerning the name of the area where the nuclear tests and explosions took place in the American State of Nevada at Sedan area and not Sudan. The minister added that one of the reasons of the confusion was the spelling mistake committed by an editor of the Armed Forces Committee at the US Congress, when he mistakenly typed the word Sedan as Sudan and put it at the minutes of the committee. Dr. Ismail said that the government has nothing to make it doubt the explanations it has received from the American administration til now, adding that the investigations begun by the government would continue until fully assured.
[Source: Suna News Agency (Khartoum), "Government Receives Assurances From American", March 10, 2005 5:14 pm EST]
The Sudanese government on Thursday received an explanation from the United States in which Washington denied its alleged nuclear experiments in Sudan in 1962 and 1970. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said in a press statement that the US administration said the area where the nuclear experiments were conducted was "Sedan" in Nevada state of the United States, not "Sudan" as being reported. Ismail said the US administration attributed the misunderstanding to the ambiguity about the two names "Sudan" and " Sedan." The US administration added another cause of the ambiguity was that a US Congress clerk printed the word "Sudan" instead of " Sedan." "So far, we do not have what makes us doubt the US explanation on the issue," said Ismail, stressing Sudan would investigate further for full certainty. The explanation came two days after Ismail quoted a US Defense Department official as saying that the United States carried out two experiments of nuclear explosions in Sudan in 1962 and 1970. The Sudanese official then accused Washington of being responsible for a cancer spread in the African country caused by these explosions.
[Source: Xinhua News Agency, "Washington denies nuclear experiments in Sudan", Xinhua General News Service, March 10, 2005 2:30 pm EST]
The USA Thursday informed the Sudanese government that nuclear tests carried out about four decades ago were in Sedan, in the US state of Nevada, and not in Sudan, the Sudanese foreign minister said. The clarification came in response to Mustafa Osman Ismail's request Tuesday that Washington look into reports of nuclear waste allegedly buried in the country in the 1960s and 1970s. Ismail then said the information had been posted on a news website by an unnamed US Defense Department official. "We have no reason that makes us doubt the explanation that we have received from the US administration," he told reporters Thursday, adding that the investigation the Sudanese authorities had begun would continue "so as to be fully reassured." Before obtaining clarification on the matter, several senior Sudanese government officials had fiercely criticised the United States, branding it an "evil" and "criminal" state which they blamed for the spread of cancer in their country.
[Source: Agence France Presse, "US says nuclear tests conducted in 'Sedan' not 'Sudan': Khartoum", March 10, 2005 7:08 pm GMT]
Sudan official calls for extreme reaction to humiliation and loss
Addressing the heads of Sudan's state legislative councils, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Tahir, accused the United States of violating international human rights and criticized it for carrying out two nuclear tests in northern Sudan in 1962 and 1970. The Speaker called on all Sudanese citizens to express their objection to these 'violations' in the most extreme ways. He said the citizens should not keep quiet in the face of this humiliation and loss that had been caused... He added that official government procedures were under way in this regard.
[Source: Al-Khartoum newspaper (Khartoum, Sudan), "Sudan: Speaker of parliament accuses USA of carrying out nuclear tests", March 10, 2005 (translated from the Arabic by BBC Monitoring)]
Sudan official cites US n-explosions there as spreading cancer
The Sudanese government on Wednesday held the United States responsible for cancer spread in Sudan caused by US nuclear experiments in the African country in 1962-1970. Sudanese Minister of Agriculture and Political Secretary General of the ruling National Congress (NC) party Majzoub el-Khalifa told reporters in Khartoum that his government would launch a public campaign and judiciary procedures on the issue. The remarks came one day after Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail quoted a senior US Defense Department official as saying that the United States made two nuclear explosions in Sudan in 1962 and 1970. Khalifa said his government would take steps in coordination with the international community to regain rights of the Sudanese people who suffered from these nuclear experiments.
[Source: Xinhua News Agency, "Sudan holds US responsible for cancer spread in Sudan", Xinhua General News Service, March 10, 2005 5:30 pm EST]
March 9, 2005
Sudan concern over reports that US buried n-waste there between 1962-1970
The Sudanese government has expressed serious concern following unconfirmed reports that the US buried nuclear waste in the country some 40 years ago. Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters in Khartoum Tuesday that he summoned the US Charge d'affaires in Khartoum, David Kauper, for comments on the allegations according to which America buried nuclear waste in the Sudan between 1962 and 1970. Ismail said the Ministry of High Technology was in contact with international environmental and health organizations to help avoid any possible disaster, should the allegations turn out true. He said a national committee would be set up to start work should Washington confirm claims about the buried waste.
According to reports, an official in the US Defence Department has provided the Military Services Committee in the House of Representatives last 2 March with photographs showing nuclear experiments carried out by the US in Sudan during between 1962 and 1970.
[Source: Panafrican News Agency (PANA) Daily Newswire, "Khartoum Summons US Envoy Over Nuclear Wastes", March 9, 2005]
March 8, 2005
Sudan concern over USDOD info that US buried n-waste there in 1962 and 1970
Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail demanded Tuesday that the United States look into reports of nuclear waste it had allegedly buried in the country more than three decades ago. "For the safety of our people, we have summoned the American charge d'affaires and asked him to supply us with information ... that the US buried nuclear waste in the Sudan in the years 1962 and 1970," Ismail told reporters. Ismail said the information had been posted on a news website by an unnamed US Defense Department official. "An explanation will be demanded from the US administration if the report turns out to be true," he added.
[Source: Agence France Presse, "Sudan calls on US to probe nuclear waste report", March 8, 2005 7:26 pm GMT]
March 5, 2005
The hearing transcript that started it all
REP. ELLEN O. TAUSCHER (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Brooks, I want to join Congressman Thornberry in thanking you again for the comprehensive nature of your statement and the fulsomeness of your remarks. As usual, I think you have really taken hold as administrator of the NNSA and I'm very pleased to see that. I have -- there's a poster over there. It's difficult to see and more difficult to read, but it's basically a poster of the Sudan nuclear test site. I want to talk to you about RNEP because it's a study that you're asking for us to fund again.
In 1962 we took 100 kiloton nuclear warhead. We buried it 635 feet under the surface which is deeper than any nuclear buster can dig and we blew it up. As you can tell from the top picture, radiation was not trapped inside the earth and instead was spread above and beyond the target area. As you can see from this picture below, the Sudan test displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep in over 1000 feet in diameter. On December 18, 1970 we conducted another test, the Baneberry used a 10 kilotons device, smaller than the Hiroshima weapon and probably much lower than the B83 and that was placed in the bottom of a sealed 900 foot shaft.
The shaft did not contain the explosion. It was released -- released a flow out cloud that rose 10,000 feet in the air and tracked north to Canada. So, Ambassador Brooks, in both of these cases the RNEP was buried and we controlled the environment. You've discussed this before in an unclassified environment. I just want to know is there any way an RNEP of any size that we would drop will not produce a huge amount of radioactive debris?
AMBASSADOR LINTON F. BROOKS, ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: No, there is not.
REP. TAUSCHER: Secretary Rumsfeld last week confused the debate over the RNEP when he told our committee that the RNEP study, "is taking existing weapons and doing a study to see if they can be reduced in their power, lethality, to a level that is lower than current weapons." My understanding was that the RNEP study was not going to change the physics package of the warhead but simply look at ways to repackage the device so it can penetrate hard geologies. Am I right or are you also looking at lowering the yield of, say, the B83 to perhaps under five kilotons?
MR. BROOKS: We are not looking at changing the yield of the physics package. We are looking at -- there are a couple of aspects. One is a hardened case. The other is very precise control of the attitude, that is the weapon has to be very close to vertical so that it penetrates and that's a non-trivial technology issue. But we are not looking at altering the physics package. What we're trying to make sure is that the physics package survives intact the few meters into the ground.
REP. TAUSCHER: At an unclassified level of discussion, how deep do you think an RNEP could go?
MR. BROOKS: I'm not sure we know that. The -- you'll measure it in meters. A couple of tens of meters, maybe. I mean, certainly -- and I really must apologize for my lack of precision if we in the administration have suggested that it was possible to have a bomb that penetrated far enough to trap all fallout. I don't believe that -- I don't believe the laws of physics will ever let that be true. It is certainly not what we think we're doing now. What we're trying to get in the ground is far enough so that the energy goes deep into the ground to hold at risk deeply buried facilities. But it is very important for this committee to recognize what we on our side recognize.
This is a nuclear weapon. This is a nuclear weapon that is going to be hugely destructive and destructive over a large area. No sane person would use a weapon like that lightly, and I regret any impression that anybody, including me, has given that would suggest that this is going to be any easier a decision -- I mean if this weapon were in the arsenal today, it would still be a hugely difficult decision for any president to even contemplate it. So I -- the administration believes and I personally believe that this study should continue, but it -- I want to -- I do want to make it clear that any thought of sort of nuclear weapons that aren't really destructive is just nuts.
REP. TAUSCHER: Mr. Chairman, I have questions I'll use in the second round.
REP. EVERETT: We won't have a second round.
REP. TAUSCHER: Thank you.
[Source: "The Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Request from the Department of Energy on Atomic Energy Defense Activities", Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, March 2, 2005 (Federal News Service)]