!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory
Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory was a participant or observer in the following events:
A. Q. Khan starts work for an engineering company called Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), which is based in the Netherlands. He obtains the job, evaluating high-strength metals to be used for centrifuge components, through a former university classmate and a recommendation from his old professor, Martin Brabers. FDO is a subcontractor for a company called Urenco. Urenco owns an enrichment facility and was established in 1970 by the governments of Britain, West Germany, and the Netherlands to manufacture top-quality centrifuges that can be used to produce highly-enriched uranium for use in power plants and nuclear weapons.
Khan Obtains Security Clearance - Khan obtains a security clearance with minimal background checks because he tells investigators he intends to become a Dutch citizen. However, he finds that security is lax and he has access to areas that should be denied him. For example, less than a week after he is hired, he visits the centrifuges, although he does not have clearance to see them. He obtains access to data about them and is also asked to help translate sensitive documents, as he has lived in various European countries and can speak several languages. Khan is allowed to take the documents home, even though this is a clear violation of security protocols. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 46-7]
Studied in Europe, Developed Network of Contacts - Prior to being hired by FDO, Khan had studied in Europe for some time. First he attended a series of lectures about metallurgy at the Technical University in West Berlin in 1962, then obtained a master’s degree in engineering from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands in 1967, and received his doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1971. His studies in Europe will later turn out to be useful when he starts a nuclear smuggling ring. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will comment, “Along the way the affable Pakistani had developed a wide range of contacts, including individuals who would later emerge as part of his smuggling network.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 22-25; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 46-7]
Frits Veerman. [Source: atoomspionage(.com)]Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan asks a former European associate, Frits Veerman, to help him with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, but Veerman refuses and informs officials at his employer, Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO). The request is made in a letter hand-delivered by two Pakistani scientists on a business trip to the Netherlands and “very confidentially” asks Veerman to provide assistance “urgently” for a “research program.” Khan wants Veerman, who is already suspicious of Khan (see Mid-1975), to provide him with drawings of tiny steel ball bearings used in centrifuges, as well as some sample bearings, metal membranes, and steel springs used to dampen centrifuges. Realizing that this information is secret, Veerman refuses to provide it. He also alerts FDO, which in turn informs the Dutch authorities. The Dutch begin to harass Veerman as a result (see (August 1976)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 6]
Pakistan nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains more information from employees at the Dutch company Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory about centrifuges it is developing for the European nuclear power industry. Khan needs the information for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan previously worked for the company (see May 1, 1972), stole secrets from it (see October 1974), and the Dutch authorities are aware of this (see Mid-October 1975). The Dutch government learns that company staff have been visiting Pakistan no later than the second half of 1976. While the Dutch discuss what information may have been stolen, Khan continues to receive help from two Pakistani quality inspectors at the company who will later be found to be “active helpers of Khan.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]
After Frits Veerman, an employee at Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), learns of an attempt by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to steal more nuclear secrets from the Netherlands (see July 1976), he informs his supervisor at the company of the attempted theft. He also gives his supervisor a letter Khan had sent him detailing what secrets Khan wanted from Veerman, but the supervisor tells Veerman that if he does not destroy the letter he will be arrested. FDO informs the Dutch authorities of the case, and they arrest Veerman, accusing him of spying. In response, Veerman, who had repeatedly warned his superiors of Khan’s activities (see Mid-1975), then accuses the Dutch authorities of allowing the export of dangerous technology from the Netherlands. Veerman is released after two days and told, “You may not talk about this to anyone,” because “[i]t is dangerous for the Netherlands.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 66]
A. Q. Khan. [Source: CBC]A Dutch court sentences A. Q. Khan to four years in jail after convicting him in absentia for espionage. Khan denies that he stole plans from URENCO, a maker of uranium enrichment centrifuges, when he worked there translating documents in the 1970s. Khan was employed by Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory, or FDO, a company that was sub-contracted by the URENCO consortium. [MSNBC, 2004; CNN, 2/5/2004]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.