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Monday, February 06, 2006

Iran Stands United

Here's a report from Iran in today's Times which you won't see posted on Harry's Place. The U.S. led bullying is bringing all Iranians together: far from being the obsession of hard-line Islamists- Iran' s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy is backed by people from across the political spectrum.,,251-2026916,00.html


Tim Worstall said...


Might be worth getting this straight. There is no ban on Iran developing peaceful nuclear energy. As you know, under the IAEA rules they have a right to this, so it’s not even as if they need permission from anyone to do it.

There is however a slightly different question. This is enrichment of the fuel. There are two types, Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) and High (HEU). While there are a few designs of research reactors that use HEU commercial reactors tend to use LEU. Certainly the new ones do. HEU really only has a use in a bomb therefore. (You can’t make a bomb out of LEU).

There is also the question of the disposal of fuel, even if they use an LEU reactor. Plutonium can be extracted from used rods.

The current impasse is not about Iran building nuclear power stations. It’s about whether they enrich fuel (and thus are capable of making HEU) and whether they recycle the fuel rods (thus possibly making Plutonium available).

The Russian offer, for example (and I know some of the Russians who were working on those very plans a decade ago) is that the enrichment and reprocessing will be done in Russia. Iran gets nuclear power but not the bomb. This is, BTW, the deal that the Iranians are rejecting.

There’s nothing very odd about such deals either. It’s the way most countries run their nuclear power plants. Japan, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Poland,’s a very long list. In fact, it’s much easier to write a short list of those few places that do have enrichment and reprocessing facilities. Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China I think, maybe Kazakhstan and one or two others.

No one (no, not even Israel or the US) is trying to stop Iran having peaceful nuclear power. But an awful lot of people are worried about their desire to build theentire nuclear cycle, which would enable them to produce bombs.

Neil Clark said...

That's a good point.
But Iran, in addition to its repeatedly denials that it wishes to develop a nuclear bomb, had in any case already signed the additional protocol of the Non Proliferation Treaty (unlike Israel, Pakistan and India), thereby allowing unannounced, on-the-spot IAEA inspections.
How on earth would it be able to develop nuclear weapons under such an inspections regime-a regime it happily signed up to?

Tim Worstall said...


I think you need to understand a little more about nuclear technology.

Making a nuclear bomb is simple. Seriously, it’s very simple indeed.

If you’ve got 50-60 kg of HEU in two pieces and you bang them together hard then they’ll go boom!

You can get a lot more sophisticated than that as well, of course. But something like the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs could be put together by any group of half competent engineers. The plans were even declassified back in the 1950s and I’m sure you can find them on the net.

The difficult part about building a nuclear bomb is getting either the HEU or the plutonium.

What worries people is that the Iranians are demanding to be allowed to do the enrichment and recycling. When it isn’t economically sensible to do so. They’d save a great deal of money by hiring someone else to do that work in their factories in other countries.

So, as the thinking goes, as they’re doing something which the could do a great deal cheaper, in the way that is being offered, they must be doing it for some other reason. Like building a bomb.

Neil Clark said...

Even if 'the worst case scenario' does come to pass,- and Iran does develop a nuclear bomb- in defiance of its promises and the Fatwa issued last year by The Supreme Leader- why wouldn't Iran be deterred from using its bomb- as others have been?
Experts have calculated that it would take at least till the end of the decade for Iran to develop a bomb, if it so wishes, the more likely time scale is another decade. Do you honestly think they would launch a pre-emptive strike at Western targets- in the knowledge that to do so would lead to their country's destruction? Surely the lesson of Iraq (attacked not because it possessed WMDs- but because it didn't) is that deterrence works. Always have. Always will.

Tim Worstall said...

Whether they would use a bomb after they had developed it is a very different question from whether they are trying to develop one. Not the point I was arguing to at all.