Technicians have been unable to inspect the damage to the Osirak reactor in Iraq that was destroyed by Israeli warplanes because there are two unexploded 2,000-pound bombs under the rubble left by the Israeli attack last June 8.
French inspectors have refused to enter the ruins of the reactor to assess the damage, Bertran Barre, nuclear attache at the French Embassy in Washington, said yesterday, because there are at least two unexploded Israeli bombs underneath the wreckage. Barre said the Iraqis asked the French inspectors to waive Iraqi liability for their personal safety, which the French inspectors declined to do.
"Our inspectors did not go in," Barre said. "The assessment of damage done to the reactor has been made from photographs."
The unexploded bobms are under the rubble of the main reactor and pose no threat to the fuel, which lies underwater and partly underground at least 200 feet away. Barre said there may be more than two unexploded bobms in the rubble.
He said there is no evidence that the Israelis deliberately placed the bombs there to endanger a cleanup of the ruins, declaring that bombs often misfire by accident in time of war.
Said Barre: "That kind of thing happens all the time."
He said the photographs show that the main part of the $320 million research reactor is completely destroyed. Still intact are auxiliary buildings, a small reactor called a mock-up, where the fuel was pre-irradiated, and the 26 pounds of high-enriched uranium fuel that is still sitting in a channel of water separating the mock-up from the main reactor bay 200 feet away.
"If we were ever to rebuild the reactor," Barre said, "we would have to rebuild the main segment of the reactor completely because there is nothing left of it."
Most of the 150 French technicians engaged at the Osirak site are still in France, where they have beensince the attack, Barre said. There are 20 French inspectors still at the site to keep watch over the enriched uranium fuel that was also supplied by the French. Highly enriched uranium, fuel that contains more than 90 percent of the fissile isotope U235, is a weapons-grade material.
The French newspaper Le Monde reported last week that there had been reports of unexplained explosions at the reactor site, which is 11 miles outside the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
Barre said he did not know when Iraqi bomb squads might move into the rubble to disarm the unexploded bombs, saying that was an Iraqi decision. Obviously, he said, the bombs must be disarmed before the rubble can be cleaned away and the damage fully assessed.
There have been no official talks between the French and Iraqis about rebuilding the reactor, Barre said, though Iraq has pledged to rebuild it. Barre said that if France rebuilds the reactor, it will be supplied with a new type of French fuel, called Caramel, that is enriched with 7 to 8 percent of the Fissile isotope U235 and cannot be used to make weapons.
France has been developing the Caramel fueld for the last five years, Barre said, though it had not been fully tested for commercial use in June, 1979, when Iraq ordered the fuel for the Osirak reactor. France had offered the Caramel fueld for Osirak in February, 1979.
Though it contians far less U235 than the highly enriched uranium normally used as fuel in research reactors, the Caramel fueld produces as many neutrons as the highly enriched uranium does.