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Context of 'Shortly After November 1979: British Supplier Unable to Obtain Export License for Components for A. Q. Khan'

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Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains 20 high-frequency inverters, a key piece of machinery for producing enriched uranium, from Europe. The inverters are ordered by a German contact called Ernst Piffl, based on Canadian literature apparently supplied by an associate of Khan’s named A. A. Khan. They are supplied by Emerson Industrial Controls, a British subsidiary of the US giant Emerson Electrical. Emerson had supplied the same equipment to a British nuclear plant, but does not raise the alarm over such equipment being shipped for Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53-54]

Entity Tags: Ernst Piffl, Emerson Industrial Controls, Abdul Aziz Khan, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

A. Q. Khan writes his first letter to a correspondent, the Canada-based Pakistani scientist A. A. Khan. In the letter, which is written in a code, A. Q. Khan mentions successful uranium enrichment in Pakistan (see June 4, 1978), procurement operations in Germany and Japan (see Before June 13, 1978, Spring 1978, and Before June 13, 1978), the delivery of equipment to his headquarters (see Before June 13, 1978), and the dispatch of a team member for training to the US (see Before June 13, 1978). The correspondence between A. Q. Khan and A. A. Khan will go on for some time and authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will describe it as “an intense and literary friendship, always expressed in handwritten Urdu script, the most sensitive thoughts of the man behind one of the world’s most clandestine program[s], wafting through the unsecured mail for anyone to intercept.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53] The correspondence will be seized by Canadian authorities upon A. A. Khan’s arrest (see August 29, 1980).

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Abdul Aziz Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

A. Q. Khan and one of his suppliers, the British businessman Peter Griffin, agree that Griffin will provide more equipment for Khan’s work. The agreement follows a purchase of 20 inverters by Khan from another European supplier, Ernst Piffl (see Spring 1978). However, Khan comes to feel that Piffl cheated him over the price of the inverters and asks Griffin, through his company Weargate Ltd., to take care of future business instead of Piffl. Griffin has already been working with Khan’s purchasing network for some time (see Summer 1976). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54, 471] Piffl will be unhappy that he has lost the business and will alert a British member of parliament to what is going on (see July 1978).

Entity Tags: Peter Griffin, Weargate Ltd., Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

British Energy Secretary Tony Benn announces an inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Pakistan for use in that country’s nuclear weapons program, and suspends such sales. The action results from a tip-off about operations run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan from a disgruntled former supplier. Ernst Piffl had supplied Khan with 20 inverters, but Khan was unhappy with the price and switched suppliers (see Before July 1978). Piffl then blew the whistle on the business, alerting Frank Allaun, an MP for the British Labour Party, that the components were for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons industry. Allaun, who is associated with the anti-nuclear movement, began to ask questions about the parts in parliament and Benn then decides to suspend sales and start an inquiry. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54] The inquiry will report back in the fall (see November 1979).

Entity Tags: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, Ernst Piffl, Frank Allaun

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The British government places high-frequency inverters, equipment purchased by A. Q. Khan in Britain for his nuclear weapons work, on its export control list. This makes it practically impossible for Khan to obtain the parts in Britain. The move follows an official inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Khan (see July 1978). The inquiry found that a previous sale of inverters to Khan, arranged by British businessman Peter Griffin, was legal at that time. However, British Energy Secretary Tony Benn comments: “We acted in a way that was right and proper. But I have a sort of feeling it wasn’t effective, and that what President [actually Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto began and President [Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] continued is going to be, if it isn’t already, a nuclear weapon in Pakistan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]

Entity Tags: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

British businessman Peter Griffin is unable to obtain a license to export inverters to Pakistan, where they are wanted by his customer A. Q. Khan for nuclear weapons work. Griffin tries to obtain the inverters from Emerson Industrial Controls, which had previously supplied Khan with them through both Griffin and another intermediary (see Spring 1978). However, Griffin’s applications for an export license are refused twice. This is because the British government is now aware of the transactions and has placed inverters on its export control list (see November 1979). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]

Entity Tags: Emerson Industrial Controls, Peter Griffin

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

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