In these conjectural sketches I had adumbrated the possibility that by the Law of Unintended Consequences, an attack by Israel (or by Iran) could lead to a cascade of ever more grave developments, ranging from a regional nuclear war to, potentially, a global one. New, perhaps unanswerable questions have emerged in the interim as tension over Iran’s (and Israel’s) intentions have escalated. And they are certainly worth examining, but are they soluble by science?
Q. What about those Israeli submarines? Are they nuclear-armed? Would they go so far to use such nukes?Sponsored Ads
A. Almost everyone ignores the subs in this discussion. The BBC recently ran a map that purported to show the difficulty of an Israeli fighter bomber attack on Iran. Refueling problems, overflight problems, return-flight problems, and the like. What was surprising about the map was there was no submarine icon drawn on it in the waters around Iran. A submarine-launched cruise missile would be a far more efficient—though catastrophic—way of attacking that mountain at Fordow which is sheltering the key bomb-making capacity—uranium enrichment. And there have been reports of Israeli possession of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
[Some articles are limited unless you have a subscription.]
Essay – Jan/Feb 2012
Opponents of military action against Iran assume a U.S. strike would be far more dangerous than simply letting Tehran build a bomb. Not so, argues this former Pentagon defense planner. With a carefully designed attack, Washington could mitigate the costs and spare the region and the world from an unacceptable threat. Read
Matthew Kroenig’s recent article in this magazine argued that a military strike against Iran would be “the least bad option” for stopping its nuclear program. But the war Kroenig calls for would be far messier than he predicts, and Washington still has better options available. Read
As part of Foreign Affairs’ The Iran Debate: To Strike or Not to Strike, Georgetown Professor Colin H. Kahl took questions submitted to the conversation from Twitter. Read
Bombing Iran’s nuclear program would only be a temporary fix. Instead, the United States should plan a larger military operation that also aims to destabilize the regime and, in turn, resolves the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all. Read
To suggest a nuclear Iran would result in a cascade of proliferation across the Middle East neglects the United States’ power to prevent clients from building their own bombs. Read
The cascade of statements, deployments, agreements and announcements from the United States and its regional associates in the last week has to be one of the most unpleasant shocks for China’s leadership — ever. The US is moving forces to Australia, Australia is selling uranium to India, Japan is stepping up military actions and coordinating more closely with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, Myanmar is slipping out of China’s column and seeking to reintegrate itself into the region, Indonesia and the Philippines are deepening military ties with the the US: and all that in just one week. If that wasn’t enough, a critical mass of the region’s countries have agreed to work out a new trade group that does not include China, while the US, to applause, has proposed that China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors be settled at a forum like the East Asia Summit — rather than in the bilateral talks with its smaller, weaker neighbors that China prefers.
Rarely has a great power been so provoked and affronted. Rarely have so many red lines been crossed. Rarely has so much face been lost, so fast. …
The US has won the first round, but the game has just begun. …
I think its fairly certain that China will react to the events that have unfolded this week. China may become more difficult in general, but we will just have to wait and see what China does.
Concerning America and China, projecting out the current path into the future does not look good. The Americans poke the eye of China, then the Chinese poke the eye of America.
Last summer, Iran began installing two cascades of advanced centrifuges at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz. As of August 28, 2011, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had installed 136 IR-2m centrifuges in cascade 5 and 27 IR-4 centrifuges in cascade 4. Iran started feeding 54 of the 136 IR-2m centrifuges with natural uranium hexafluoride. 1 Each of these cascades is designed to contain 164 centrifuges. Iran first told the IAEA in January 2011 that it intended to install these two cascades, and it is unclear why Iran waited nearly eight months before starting to install them.
Installation of the IR-2m centrifuges is now complete. Installation of the IR-4 centrifuges could finish anytime.
The purpose of operating these cascades at the PFEP is to demonstrate their performance prior to installation of production cascades at the Natanz plant, the Fordow facility, or possibly a third enrichment site that may currently be under construction. Iran should be able to finish this demonstration work at the pilot plant within six to nine months, and perhaps sooner.
Normally Iran replaced up to 10 percent of its centrifuges a year, due to material defects and other issues. With about 8,700 centrifuges installed at Natanz at the time, it would have been normal to decommission about 800 over the course of the year.
But when the IAEA later reviewed footage from surveillance cameras installed outside the cascade rooms to monitor Iran’s enrichment program, they were stunned as they counted the numbers. The workers had been replacing the units at an incredible rate — later estimates would indicate between 1,000 and 2,000 centrifuges were swapped out over a few months.
Iran has continued to develop its ballistic missile program, which it views as its primary deterrent. Iran is fielding increased numbers of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs, MRBMs) and we judge Tehran will continue to work on producing more capable MRBMs and developing space launch vehicles, which incorporate technology directly applicable to longer-range missile systems. Iran’s ballistic missile
inventory is one of the largest in the Middle East.
In 2010, Iran continued to make progress enriching uranium at the underground cascade halls at Natanz with first-generation centrifuges, and in testing and operating advanced centrifuges at the pilot plant there. As of mid-November, Iran had produced about 3,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride (LEUF6) gas product at Natanz, compared to about 1 ,800 ki lograms in November 2009 and 555 kilograms of LEUF6 in November 2008. Between January and November 2010, Iran decreased the number of installed centrifuges from about 8,700 to about 8,400, but the number reported to be operating is around 4,800, up from about 3,900 in November 2009.
Iran Recycles the Tails in the Production of 19.75 Percent Uranium
ISIS has learned that Iran is now using the second cascade at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz to recycle the tails from the first cascade that produces 19.75 percent enriched uranium from 3.5 percent low enriched uranium (LEU). The purpose is not to increase the output of 19.75 percent material but to maximize the use of the 3.5 percent low enriched uranium (LEU). ISIS previously reported that Iran had stated its intention to recycle tails at the PFEP during the production of 19.75 percent uranium. The two percent enriched tails from the first cascade is fed into the feed point of the second cascade and emerges as about 10 percent enriched uranium. This material is then fed into an upper stage of the first cascade, while the 3.5 percent uranium is fed in at the main feed point of this cascade. With two feed points, the total amount of 19.75 percent product is not increased, but the enrichment effort embodied in the 2 percent material is more fully utilized. The assay of the tails in the second cascade is 0.7 percent enriched uranium, or natural uranium. This material can then be reused in cascades at the main Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz that make 3.5 percent uranium.
Recycling in the second cascade allows Iran to cut down on wasting separative work units (swu) in the enrichment process and ultimately requires less 3.5 percent LEU to produce a given quantity of 19.75 percent material. Iran is not short on a supply of 3.5 percent material to make research reactor fuel and will not be anytime soon. Thus, it hardly has to worry about using its tails efficiently.
If Iran enriches to weapon-grade uranium, however, it is expected to use the same type of procedure to reduce the amount of separative work left in the tails as it stepwise increases the enrichment level of the uranium, reducing the amount of feed material it needs at each step. Iran likely received the same plans that the Khan network gave Libya detailing how to organize and run cascades to produce weapon-grade uranium from natural uranium in four steps, including recycling the tails produced in the top three steps (the first step goes from natural uranium to 3.5 percent LEU and produces about 0.4 percent tails). Thus, Iran’s current actions, while superficially justified on civil grounds, mainly make sense in the context of learning how to make significant quantities of highly enriched uranium efficiently.
ISIS NuclearIran › NuclearIran News
“If North Korea and Iran cannot be contained, we face the real danger of a cascade of proliferation of nuclear-armed states,” he told a conference on the challenges facing the incoming White House team. “Indeed, I believe that today we are clearly at the tipping point of nuclear proliferation.
“Already, North Korea’s nuclear advances have triggered reflections in Seoul, Tokyo, and other regional capitals about options that were previously considered taboo,” writes nonproliferation expert Graham Alison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.
“Saudi Arabia, for example, has insisted that it will not accept a future in which Iran … has nuclear weapons and it does not,” writes Alison.
“Egypt and Turkey could also follow in Iran’s nuclear footsteps.”
The development of nuclear arsenals by both Iran and North Korea could lead to “a cascade of proliferation,” making it more probable that terrorists could get their hands on an atomic weapon, a congressionally chartered commission warned yesterday.
“It appears that we are at a ‘tipping point’ in proliferation,” the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States said in an interim report to lawmakers that was released yesterday.
“If not handled properly, this issue could trigger a cascade of other crises — affecting economic growth, social progress, and even political security around the world.”
Participants at the High-Level Conference on World Food Security will discuss short-term solutions as well as new strategies to deal with the effects of global warming, growing demand for biofuels and a crumbling agriculture sector in much of the developing world.
Ahead of the summit, battle lines were being drawn over the causes of the global food price crisis.
Video: Inside Story – Global food crisis – Part 1