US embassy cable - 03AMMAN1188

JORDAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION SEEKS U.S. ASSISTANCE FOR RADIATION PORTALS

Identifier: 03AMMAN1188
Wikileaks: View 03AMMAN1188 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Amman
Created: 2003-02-27 10:58:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: KNNP PARM PTER SENV IZ JO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 001188 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
ENERGY FOR SCHEINMAN 
VIENNA FOR GOLDMAN 
 
E.O. 12958:N/A 
TAGS: KNNP, PARM, PTER, SENV, IZ, JO 
SUBJECT: JORDAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION SEEKS U.S. ASSISTANCE 
FOR RADIATION PORTALS 
 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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- 
site. 
 
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. 
 
GNEHM 

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