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Iran’s Nuclear Deceit Home
The Clarion Project
By L. R. B. Mann, M.Sc Ph.D
There is little if any doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. 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. 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.