Cablegate: Jordan Atomic Energy Commission Seeks U.S. Assistance

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958:N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. In a 20 February meeting, Jordan Atomic Energy
Commission DG Kodah made a strong pitch for U.S. technical and
financial assistance in the operation of Jordan's five radiation
portals. In addition, Kodah is keen for his staff to participate
in upcoming EXBS training on export controls and identification
of possible dual-use items transiting Jordan. The DG bemoaned
his agency's lack of funding and the insufficient staff to man
the portals effectively. While he greatly appreciated IAEA
support, including the recent furnishing of two additional
portals and training, Kodah suggested that an annual $140,000
commitment is needed to get all Jordanian portals up and running
in an efficient manner. That said, no official cooperative
mechanism currently exists among the JAEC, customs, and
intelligence services to ensure proper coordination at Jordan's
borders. End summary.

2. (SBU) In a call by Econ Counselor and NEA Regional Environment
Officer on the Director General of the Jordan Atomic Energy
Commission (JAEC), Dr. Ziad Kodah, we heard a refrain of his
September 2002 plea to visiting DOE, Customs, and State
Department non-proliferation officials: His fledgling
independent agency has insufficient resources--financial,
technical, and human--to effectively monitor the transit of
radioactive material through Jordan. Kodah explained that the
JAEC was responsible for the five portals in the country; two had
just been received from the IAEA and are scheduled to be
"operational" sometime in March. The challenge, he explained, is
the JAEC's manpower shortage, a function of its small size,
relative youth, and inability to eke out a larger budget from an
already strapped government.

3. (SBU) Kodah defined the JAEC portal mission as one originally
keyed to identifying imported radioactive material; however, that
is expected to evolve to also include exported and smuggled
material. JAEC only received the mandate to operate these
radiation detection units in August 2002. Despite the inability
of the JAEC to adequately staff its current five portals, he
lamented the fact that the number Jordan has is probably
insufficient to do the job. With eight official ports of entry,
the five clearly cannot cope with all of the traffic, Kodah
added. To combat this shortfall, Jordan has chosen to deploy the
portals in the following priority manner: of the three purchased
by the JAEC (Canadian manufactured "Exploronium" gamma-only
variety), one each is stationed at the Jaber border with Syria,
the Iraqi border, and Sheikh Hussein Bridge border with Israel;
the two recent IAEA machines (Yantar II variety) are deployed at
Aqaba port and the Iraqi border.

4. (SBU) At the Iraqi border, the portal has only been
operational for the past four months after the unit was
redeployed from the Israel/Sheikh Hussein Bridge. General
Intelligence Directorate (GID) officers, who, Kodah believed, are
insufficiently trained in its operation, man it. Also, Kodah
admitted that the unit is exclusively looking at material
imported to Jordan. No checks of material departing the country
are currently being conducted using the portals. As Kodah
commented, "we've been working on the assumption that there is no
unaccounted for radioactive material in Jordan, so we're only
interested in that which is being smuggled into the country."

5. (SBU) When asked if there was close coordination among the
JAEC, Jordanian intelligence services and customs authorities,
Kodah regretted that there was "no official cooperation" and no
committee to jointly discuss issues of cross-cutting concern. He
explained that the current system allowed for customs officers to
identify a suspect shipment, alert the GID, which in turn sends
the material in question to JAEC labs. Kodah was confident of
his staff's abilities to correctly identify the material.
Although he had no idea of the percentage of traffic searched, he
was able to share with us that about 300 "hits" had occurred that
warranted further investigation and testing. Most, he confided,
were of a "natural radioactivity," such as in sulfur or cuprite
shipments, as well as individuals who were taking iodine for
thyroid therapy. While the lab tests are ongoing, as a
regulatory agency JAEC has the legal ability to detain
questionable vehicles.

6. (SBU) During the course of our conversation, Kodah returned
often to what was obviously troubling him about JAEC--its
shortage of manpower and funding. Without these two critical
elements sufficiently addressed, he argued, the JAEC didn't have
the tools to implement its mission. Kodah estimates that about
35 new personnel, at an annual cost of about $140,000, would be
needed to fully staff all of the portals. In addition, he added
to his wish list mobile labs to test suspect material quickly on-

7. (SBU) Background on the JAEC: The JAEC, established in
September 2001, is an outgrowth of the Ministry of Energy. It is
an independent regulatory agency with a staff of about 50, five
of whom have nuclear engineering degrees. The JAEC currently
comprises five departments--licensing and inspection, calibration
and radiation protection, nuclear applications and research,
administration and finance, and international cooperation and
public information. A sixth department will be formed once the
calibration element is broken out of its current configuration.


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