January 26, 2006
Centrifuge "Spin Cycle"
All Europe is abuzz with Iran's recent tock towards the Russian proposal (following a tick against it, an earlier tock, and the original tick; I may have missed a few cycles of incoherence in there).
The Russian proposal, which I was originally somewhat attracted to myself, until I recently read the Guardian report discussed below, is that Iran cease all Uranium enrichment in exchange for being supplied with low-enriched Uranium by Russia. The Russian Uranium would be enriched enough to work in a power plant but not enough to function as a nuclear warhead.
Uranium is enriched in a centrifuge, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Iran admits to a casade of 164 of them at their Natanz pilot enrichment facility, above-ground. Currently, many of them appear not to be working, though "maintenance" (upgrading? building more of them?) continues.
A gas centrifuge is used to separate out the stable (barely-radioactive) 238U from the fissionable 235U. (235U has three fewer neutrons to "glue" the nucleus together, so is less stable -- which is what being "radioactive" means.)
(I had originally written "non-radioactive" above, but a commenter complained that 238U was, in fact, radioactive... which it is -- but so trivially that for practical, non-technical purposes, one may as well consider it not radioactive.)
Gas centrifuges spin UF6 [Uranium Hexaflouride] gas at high speeds creating a centrifugal force that separates the isotopes by forcing the heavier U-238 further outward in the centrifuge. Gas centrifuges have been used in Europe for about 30 years for enriching uranium.
A "cascade" consists of a series of such centrifuges hooked together, one after another, to force the percent of 235U to larger and larger percentages. The 235U isotope naturally occurs at a concentration of about 0.7% in Uranium ore; the concentration needs to be raised more than fivefold to 3%-5% in order to be used for fuel in a light-water reactor; but actual weapons-grade Uranium needs a concentration as high as 85%.
A crude nuclear warhead can be built with a 235U concentration of 20% ("weapons-usable" Uranium); below that, the critical mass would have to be so large, the warhead could not be put upon a launch vehicle or even transported.
Theoretically, it's possible to run the UF6 through the above-ground (admitted) cascade at Natanz enough times to get the 235U concentration up to at least 20%; but a 164-centrifuge cascade would take in the vicinity of ten years to produce enough fissile material for one, single bomb. It would also be pretty clear what Iran was doing at Natanz, if the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, currently headed by Mohamed ElBaradei) were doing any monitoring at all.
So a proposal to supply Iran with 3% low-enriched Uranium would apparently solve the problem.
But the accent is on "apparently;" because if a report in the Guardian (and elsewhere) from August, 2005 about thousands of secret centrifuges underground at Natanz is even remotely accurate, it makes a dog's breakfast of the Russian proposal:
Meanwhile, it was claimed today that Iran had secretly manufactured around 4,000 centrifuges capable of weapons grade uranium enrichment - 25 times the quantity it has admitted to the UN.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, an exiled Iranian dissident who in 2002 helped to uncover almost two decades of covert Iranian nuclear activity, said the centrifuges - rotating machines used in separation processes - were ready to be installed at Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz.
Mr Jafarzadeh, who runs Strategic Policy Consulting, a Washington-based thinktank focusing on Iran and Iraq, said the information - which he described as "very recent" - had come from sources within the Tehran regime that had proved to be accurate in the past.
"These 4,000 centrifuge machines have not been declared to the IAEA, and the regime has kept the production of these machines hidden from the inspectors while the negotiations with the EU have been going on over the past 21 months," Mr Jafarzadeh told the Associated Press.
The Wall Street Journal article linked above gives us some numbers:
The two main halls at the Natanz complex are buried beneath the sands of central Iran, and have room for some 50,000 centrifuges -- enough to produce a year's supply of low-enriched fuel for Iran's Bushehr power plant, or high-enriched uranium for 25 to 30 bombs annually. Iran, which has yet to master the intricacies of centrifuge production and large-batch enrichment, is believed to be years away from that.
Assuming linearity -- though I really don't know whether a series of centrifuges follows a linear model -- if 50,000 centrifuges could produce enough weapons-usable Uranium for 25 to 30 bombs annually, then 4,000 centrifuges would be able to produce enough for at least two bombs per year. Alas, the WSJ doesn't say whether they're talking about full weapons-grade Uranium (a 235U concentration of 85%) or just "weapons-usable" Uranium (20%). If they mean weapons-grade, then a 4,000-centrifuge cascade could produce enough usable Uranium for eight to ten bombs per year (again, assuming these estimates are all roughly linear).
The WSJ goes on to reassure us a bit that Iran is "years away" from "centrifuge production and large-batch enrichment;" but since they don't give us a source for that, we don't know if it's solid or simply denial.
But clearly, before any proposal like the Russian one is accepted by the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany), who are negotiating with Iran in a (probably futile) last-ditch diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis without resorting to sanctions or military action, we need to get better intelligence on the claim by Jafarzadeh of an army of secret centrifuges.
Since the CIA is too busy on its long-running, critical-priority operation to produce regime-change in the United States, and thus has no time to deal with such side issues as Iranian nuclear yields, perhaps we should ask the Israeli Mossad for help on this "burning" question.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 26, 2006, at the time of 4:54 PM
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Tracked on April 21, 2006 6:15 PM
The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael
Um, Dafydd? Uranium 238 IS most definitely radioactive. Not fissionable... but I certainly wouldn't want any of it in my belt buckle. ;)
And I'm quite sure the IAEA and the esteemable M'med ElBaradei knows all there needs to be known about the Nuclear Programs of the Iranians. After all they have so much practice with, say, the North Koreans.
Am I spelling it right? Lemmesee...
Nope, capitalization isn't the problem. Oh that's right, you use the > href plan, I forgot...
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Um, Dafydd? Uranium 238 IS most definitely radioactive.
Why, yes indeed it is... with a half-life of FOUR AND A HALF BILLION YEARS!
Colloquially speaking, Mr. M., U-238 (depleted Uranium, dU) isn't radioactive enough to worry about. That's why we use it for bullets and armor. But I'll change the parenthetical phrase to "barely-radioactive," if you prefer it.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at January 27, 2006 1:09 AM
The following hissed in response by: John Sobieski
Thanks for the explanation. It was on my todo list to understand more about how you cook the material for the IslamicBomb.
No one knows how close Iran is, but everyone knows they are busy little bees in Natanz. The political speak, where our leaders keep dancing around the fire, is very tiring to listen to.
The above hissed in response by: John Sobieski at January 27, 2006 8:34 AM
The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael
It's a little thing, I guess. I had no idea how relatively low it's radioactivity was... My apologies.
But I do prefer the corrected phrase.
The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist
Apparently, MSM polls are now showing some "57%" of Americans in support of "military action in Iran"
Humble Low and Ignorant Insane swamp hermit me didn't understand what MSM's polls were about, back before mid to late 2002, so i have no clue what the MSM's so-called polls showed about military action in Iraq back then, but suspect the support was at least "57%".
Who votes or Votes for a leader or *LEADER* that uses MSM's polls to *LEAD* America by?!?
Do polls...did any poll ever show or even conduct a poll like this??? Those are old videos, #4 dates back to "1987-1988", and shows that "Saddam's forces" used WMD against Iraqi Citizens.
Were any polls conducted or ran, following the February 1993 World Trade Center Terrorist *ATTACK*??? Perhaps not, since most of my searches lead to just a "bombing". Well, bbc.co.uk does attempt to approach the topic of Terrorism against America's Homeland back in 1993, with "1993: World Trade Center bomb terrorises New York". A "bomb terrorises"?!? ER, OK. Such mentality must be akin to "SUV terrorises", huh!?! Anyway, i can find no polls on what Americans thought back then.
Were any polls conducted or ran, following the attempted April 1993 assassination attempt on former president George Bush?!? i can't find any, even on this:
U.S. Strikes Iraq for Plot to Kill Bush
Well, clearly, former President Bill Clinton tried to stop Saddam from slapping him around (for some reason/s that MSM seems to have forgotten), and he attempted to talk tough to such Terrorists, but he was basically leading American whilst on his knees begging such obvious Terrorists as Saddam, Arafat, and Osama to 'pleeeeeeeeese stop!' Has there ever been a poll on Bill being a "wussie"??? He was, since early 1993, so why bother, i suppose, since none can be found by me. Bill Clinton tried to stop the slaps from Saddam by raising his hands, from alternating belly and knees positions...so to speak of what his infamous "legacy" is and was.
If the resent MSM so-called poll is correct, which, BTW, only showed up after Hillary talked tough on Iran, then i suggest that they be ignored by all other than Hillary and JFKerry. Hillary and JFKerry are starting to remind humble me of Hamas and Fatah. Simple as that, and let Israel protect itself, until "W" *STRIKES* again.
The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist at January 27, 2006 5:40 PM
The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist
'Da "Bitch Slap"...
i have slapped some so-called men so hard, that all worked stopped, as the employees came to see where that sound came from.
Talking tough never draws such crowds...trust humble gentle me. i don't play games...Saddam and Osama did, and the two of them look as foolish as any Prison Punk ever looked. i would've probably Voted back when former President Bush ran against Bill Clinton, if i had had a understanding of such, or even a clue.
i Vote now, and need no clue/s...especially after watching the *ENEMIES* of America do a very weak "Bitch Slap" on Bill Clinton for *EIGHT* years!!!
The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist at January 27, 2006 6:12 PM
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