There is little if any doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and now someone should explain … to the ignorant people … the reason why…
Barack Obama’s administration, with the help of the rest of the P5+1 signatories of the Iran deal, has gifted Iran with enough uranium to make 10 simple nuclear bombs, a nuclear arms expert said Monday.
The transfer of 116 metric tons of uranium will come from Russia as a “thank you” in exchange for Iran’s export of tons of reactor coolant, the Associated Press reported in an exclusive.
David Albright, whose Institute of Science and International Security often briefs U.S. lawmakers on Iran’s nuclear program, says the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”
The shipment is the first since the Iran deal was implemented in July 2015. However, it is by no means the only time Iran was gifted with uranium that could possibly be used to build a nuclear weapon once the terms of the Iran deal begin to expire in less than a decade. In 2015, Iran received another shipment as part of the negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal in exchange for enriched uranium it sent to Russia. They are prohibited from storing more than about 660 pounds of low-enriched uranium under the terms of the Iran deal. Conventional wisdom holds this is not enough to produce a weapon.
The AP reported Monday that Iran has not said what purpose they have in mind for the uranium they’ve just received:
Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel or medical and research purposes to the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it has no interest in such weapons and its activities are being closely monitored under the nuclear pact to make sure they remain peaceful…
…Tehran has not said what it would do with the uranium but could choose to store it or turn it into low-enriched uranium and then export it for use as reactor fuel.
Without confirming the reported agreement, U.S. officials argued that such shipments would neither endanger nor violate the Iran nuclear deal.
Two U.S. diplomats, speaking anonymously, revealed the exchange before a meeting in Vienna to discuss Iranian charges that the U.S. was reneging on sanctions relief mandates included in the Iran deal.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said there is no ban on imports of this kind to Iran, and reiterated that uranium “cannot be used … for a weapon” in its original form, the AP reported.
In December, it was revealed that Iran received more than $10 billon in cash and gold in sanctions relief that critics worried may be used to fund terror groups and activities. The Obama administration denied having a role in that exchange.
The two main categories of nuclear bombs they are working towards are exemplified by the first atomic bombs ever exploded:
- High-enriched uranium (<25 kg), suddenly assembled to form a critical mass (as used on Hiroshima in 1945), and
- Plutonium-239 (<10 kg) suddenly compressed several-fold to render it critical at its new higher density, as tested at Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico and then used on Nagasaki in 1945.
The Encyclopedia Americana article on the subject of atomic bomb design, composed by eminent experts who had served at the heart of the USA nuclear weapons program, is surprisingly informative in regards to Iran’s aspirations.
Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope U-235 (the rest if made up of U-238, which is not fissile in ordinary reactors or atomic bombs).
To make an atomic bomb, the uranium U-235 must be enriched, if possible, to around 90%, though far less can work to some extent.
Uranium can be enriched in “ultracentrifuges,” which Iran has been developing.
A gas centrifuge is a device that performs isotope separation of gases.
A centrifuge relies on the principles of centrifugal force accelerating molecules so that particles of different masses are physically separated in a gradient along the radius of a rotating container.
A prominent use of gas centrifuges is for the separation of uranium-235 from uranium-238. The gas centrifuge was developed to replace the gaseous diffusion method of uranium-235 extraction.
High degrees of separation of these isotopes relies on using many individual centrifuges arranged in cascade, that achieve successively higher concentrations.
This process yields higher concentrations of uranium-235 while using significantly less energy compared to the gaseous diffusion process.
Gas centrifugation process
The gas centrifugation process utilizes a unique design that allows gas to constantly flow in and out of the centrifuge.
Unlike most centrifuges which rely on batch processing, the gas centrifuge utilizes continuous processing, allowing cascading, in which multiple identical processes occur in succession.
The gas centrifuge consists of a cylindrical rotor, a casing, an electric motor, and three lines for material to travel.
The gas centrifuge is designed with a casing that completely encloses the centrifuge.
The cylindrical rotor is located inside the casing, which is evacuated of all air to produce a near frictionless rotation when operating.
The motor spins the rotor, creating the centripetal force on the components as they enter the cylindrical rotor.
There are two output lines, one located at the top of the centrifuge and the other located at the bottom.
The heavier molecules will segregate to the bottom of the centrifuge while the lighter molecules will segregate to the top of the centrifuge.
The output lines take these separations to other centrifuges to continue to the centrifugation process.
The process began with the rotor is balanced in three stages.
Most of the technical details on gas centrifuges are difficult to obtain because they are shrouded in “nuclear secrecy”.
The early centrifuges used in the UK used an alloy body wrapped in epoxy impregnated glass fibre.
Dynamic balancing of the assembly was accomplished by adding small traces of epoxy at the locations indicated by the balancing test unit.
A section of centrifuges would be fed with variable frequency AC from an electric inverter, which would slowly ramp them up to the required speed, generally in excess of 50,000 rpm.
The whole process is normally silent, if a noise is heard coming from the centrifuge it is a warning of failure.
The design of the cascade normally allows for the failure of at least one centrifuge without compromising the operation of the cascade.
Later models have increased the rotation speed of the centrifuges, as it is the velocity of the centrifuge wall that has the most effect on the separation efficiency.
A feature of the cascade system of centrifuges is that it is possible to increase plant throughput incrementally, by adding cascade “blocks” to the existing installation at suitable locations, rather than having to install a completely new line of centrifuges.
However, low-enriched uranium, of the kind used to fuel nuclear power stations in USA, France, Germany, Japan etc., only requires a small percentage of U-235. The pretense of making reactor fuel is the cover for the Iranian enrichment efforts.
In the mid-1970s, a key textbook emerged on the threat of the diversion of plutonium-239 from civil nuclear power systems to make atomic bombs (known as “the safeguards problem”).
The book detailed how a mature nuclear power system, including reprocessing, may well fail to detect diversion of several bombs’ worth of plutonium due to accounting uncertainty. Thus, the fabrication of a crude atomic bomb could be achieved by a handful of people using un-notable equipment.
This “safeguards problem” has increasingly worried independent experts that take an interest in such threat.
In fact, many of these experts rank this problem as the most intractable drawback of the peaceful atom.
The main argument against this concern has been that few, if any, criminals could be such clever atomic designers as the experts.
It is all very well to mention Iran’s signing the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
However, it should also be mentioned they have never ratified the NPT. To the legally-oriented mind, ratification is the more important act.
But in the case of the Iran regimes during the four decades since the Islamic Revolution, it is doubtful whether any such acts are much more than deceptive gestures.
In typical brief accounts of Iran’s nuclear activities, nuclear power stations are mentioned, but nothing about whether purification of plutonium from their spent fuel is being attempted (commonly termed ‘reprocessing’). While the mass media have mentioned this, the U.S. State Department has rarely done so.
The Islamic Republic has insisted they want nuclear fission reactors only to generate electricity.
But they have plenty of byproduct natural gas from their oil-fields, which could be used to generate electricity in power stations.
This route to expanding electricity generation capacity would be many times cheaper, several times faster to build and far more reliable than the nuclear route.
Tandem-cycle power stations, refined over the past three decades, burn natural gas to drive a gas turbine and a steam turbine, yielding better than 50% efficient conversion of the chemical energy in the gas to electrical energy.
(Even faster and cheaper to build, but less efficient in operation, are the even more mature power stations which use a simple lashed-down jumbo-jet gas turbine to drive an alternator. But fuel is free, the inefficiency of that type of power station matters little.)
Iran’s line that it wants nuclear power stations “just for electricity” is thoroughly false and completely deceitful.
From the sidelines of the U.S.-Iran negotiations during the Obama-Kerry period, one could only wonder what the U.S. government was hoping to achieve by the much-touted interactions.
President Trump’s skepticism looks far more suitable for this matter than the Obama/Kerry trustfulness.