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Profile: Ernst Piffl
Ernst Piffl was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
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).
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