In one of the more alarming scenarios, analysts estimate that Iran—using only declared nuclear material and declared sites for uranium enrichment—already has the technical potential to produce nuclear explosive material for its first nuclear weapon in a matter of a few months. What’s worse, if Iran has undeclared sites for uranium enrichment, analysts worry that Iran’s possible timeline for breaking out overtly—or sneaking out covertly—of the international inspections regime and building its first nuclear bomb could further shorten.
Tag Archives: Nuclear Material
Tehran may be only days from being able to create weapons-grade uranium
One of three diplomats who discussed the issue said Iran was now technically ready within days to ramp up its production of 20 percent enriched uranium at its Fordo facility by nearly 700 centrifuges. That would double present output, and cut in half the time it would take to acquire enough of the substance needed to make a nuclear weapon, reducing it to just over three months.
Such a move would raise the stakes for Israel, which has said it believes the world has until next summer to stop Iran before it can get nuclear material and implied it would have time to decide whether to strike Fordo and other Iranian nuclear facilities.
It’s not what you don’t see that will get you into trouble. It’s what you see but don’t understand that will do it.
In the case of nuclear terrorism, it’s not a rogue group that manages to get its hand on a nuclear bomb or material that is the problem. It’s a terror sponsoring state with nuclear weapons that is the problem. That means for the most part we have to wait until Iran gets nuclear weapons for nuclear terrorism to start. Yes, the rogue group scenario is possible, but it is less likely.
Interestingly, world leaders focus on nuclear terrorism while pretty much ignoring nuclear war.
World leaders have called for closer co-operation to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism at a summit on nuclear security in Seoul.
A communique at the end of the summit reiterated a joint call to secure “vulnerable nuclear material”.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said nuclear terrorism remained a “grave threat”, while US President Barack Obama said action was key.
“Iran has started the production of uranium enriched up to 20 percent” in the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, IAEA spokesman Gill Tudor said in an e-mail today. “All nuclear material in the facility remains under the agency’s containment and surveillance.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the enrichment represented an intensification of Iranian violations of United Nations agreements on its nuclear program.
“This is a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations,” Nuland said today. “We call on Iran once again to suspend enrichment activities.”
According to a RAND report, the United States and the world have blown the chance to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Half a year ago, US air strikes and a no-fly zone might have prevented a nuclear bomb in the hands of the martyrdom ideology of Khomeinist Iran. That window has now slammed shut. In about 8 weeks, the RAND report concludes, Iran will have the nuclear material for its first bomb.
RAND Corporation’s Gregory S. Jones believes that Iran has produced almost 40 kilograms of uranium enriched near 20% percent. Jones suggests that air strikes can no longer stop Ahmadinejad’s rush to nuclear weapons.
In a worst case scenario, there will be no health issues beyond 20 or 30 kilometers. There will be a meltdown. As nuclear material hits the concrete floor there will be an explosion. Radioactive material will go up to about 500 meters into the air. That means the problems will be all local.
At Chernobyl radioactive material shot up to 30,000 feet into the air. Why? Because the reactor core was made out of graphite. Graphite is just a form of coal, and coal burns. It was a poorly designed nuclear reactor. The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor doesn’t have this design problem.
At Chernobyl the pressure vessel was breached and the reactor had no containment. There, the core itself burned fiercely, largely because it was made of graphite – which was used as the moderator… once the reactor exploded the graphite made the situation worse, because it burned so readily. The fires carried radioactive material from the reactor core high into the atmosphere, where it spread far and wide. This could not happen at Fukushima Daiichi, as it does not use graphite as the moderator.
Let me now talk about what would be a reasonable worst case scenario. If the Japanese fail to keep the reactors cool and fail to keep the pressure in the containment vessels at an appropriate level, you can get this, you know, the dramatic word “meltdown”. But what does that actually mean? What a meltdown involves is the basic reactor core melts, and as it melts, nuclear material will fall through to the floor of the container. There it will react with concrete and other materials … that is likely… remember this is the reasonable worst case, we don’t think anything worse is going to happen. In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 metres up into the air. Now, that’s really serious, but it’s serious again for the local area. It’s not serious for elsewhere even if you get a combination of that explosion it would only have nuclear material going in to the air up to about 500 metres. If you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation i.e. prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall which would bring the radioactive material down do we have a problem? The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue. The problems are within 30 km of the reactor. And to give you a flavour for that, when Chernobyl had a massive fire at the graphite core, material was going up not just 500 metres but to 30,000 feet. It was lasting not for the odd hour or so but lasted months, and that was putting nuclear radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere for a very long period of time. But even in the case of Chernobyl, the exclusion zone that they had was about 30 kilometres. And in that exclusion zone, outside that, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate people had problems from the radiation. The problems with Chernobyl were people were continuing to drink the water, continuing to eat vegetables and so on and that was where the problems came from. That’s not going to be the case here. So what I would really re-emphasise is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometres, it’s really not an issue for health.
With the decline of the American empire, the global financial crisis and a Middle East that is about to blow up, historian Niall Ferguson announced that the “age of upheaval” has begun. Just in case you thought it couldn’t get any worse, now it has. The “start of the end of the world” begins now.
We have now learned that North Korea has built a new modern uranium enrichment plant with 2,000 centrifuges. This plant didn’t even exist in April 2009. How is this even possible given that North Korea can’t even afford to feed its people? There is one likely answer – North Korea had help from another country. That country is most likely Iran. Iran has started spreading its nuclear technology to other countries. North Korea may be the first country, but there are likely to be more. I would look to Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Turkey and Burma as possible targets for nuclear technology proliferation from Iran and now North Korea.
The nuclear genie is out of the bottle, and there is no stopping it. Wars between countries will turn into nuclear wars between countries. As the Bible says, “there will be wars and rumors of wars,” except what the Bible really meant to say was, “there will be nuclear wars and rumors of nuclear wars.”
Although North Korea has been producing nuclear material, since the 1950s, it relied on using plutonium from spent fuel, until recently. But the up-to-date technology and the speedy construction of the uranium enrichment plant raises questions of foreign assistance, considering North Korea can’t even afford to feed its people.
“The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that he had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building that had housed an aging fuel fabrication center, and that were operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.” The North Koreans claimed 2,000 centrifuges were already installed and running, he said.”
North Korea’s uranium plant sends a chilling message to Washington
The second striking element of the discovery is the speed at which the 2,000-centrifuge enrichment plant was built. It was not there just a year ago. That is highly unusual because getting precise high-speed centrifuges to work consistently and lining them up in “cascades” of 300 machines would normally take years.
“There is an anomaly in how rapidly this has been built,” said David Albright, the head of the institute, which yesterday published satellite pictures of the site. “That raises the question of whether this plant was originally put together somewhere else and was moved to Yongbyon, or whether there is a parallel plant elsewhere.”
As scientists warn that much of the nuclear material still remains in Chernobyl, Europe is already building a new dome over the contaminated plant in order to protect the continent from another nuclear disaster.
According to scientists, only a fraction of the nuclear material the reactor contained was expelled by the explosion back in 1986, and massive amounts of lethally contaminated debris remain buried at the site.
If “the sarcophagus” falls down, the consequences could be grave for Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe.
Administration officials say that it would still take Iran a year to produce a weapon and that such an attempt would likely be detected by U.N. inspectors. But the IAEA report contained worrisome information on that score, too. Iran is refusing to answer questions about its work on more advanced centrifuges or on plans to construct more enrichment facilities. In June it barred two of the most experienced inspectors, part of a systematic effort to blind the IAEA to its activities. An analysis of the report by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that Iran may be seeking “to increase its capability to divert nuclear material in secret and produce weapon-grade uranium in a plant unknown to the inspectors or Western intelligence agencies.” If that is the case, economic sanctions are unlikely to prevent it.