Thursday, May 25th | 29 Iyyar 5777

Close

Be in the know!

Get our exclusive daily news briefing.

Subscribe
November 9, 2014 2:01 pm

Iran Possesses All the Technology for a Nuclear Weapon

avatar by Edwin Black

Email a copy of "Iran Possesses All the Technology for a Nuclear Weapon" to a friend
The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. Photo: Nanking2012 / WikiCommons.

The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. Photo: Nanking2012 / WikiCommons.

November 24, 2014, is a looming deadline for Iran, Israel, the United States and the world over its nuclear weapons program. America’s Wendy Sherman, who is leading the negotiations, has described the talks as “a forest of distrust.” At the same time, she declares, “Our bottom line is unambiguous … Iran will not, shall not obtain a nuclear weapon.” Against this backdrop, media revelations have disclosed a secret correspondence between the Obama White House and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — kept even from Congressional leaders and possibly America’s closest allies, including Israel.

As the world ponders Iran’s dash to enrich more kilograms of uranium, the underlying concern is not so much about the enrichment process itself, but the end product: a nuclear warhead. Iran has been developing its warhead for some sixteen years. That design is nearly perfected.

Compare the process to gunpowder. To use gunpowder, you need to load it into a cartridge, load the cartridge and a bullet into a rifle, and then find a marksman. Iran has nearly mastered all those steps in nuclear terms.

Related coverage

May 24, 2017 4:33 pm
0

Linda Sarsour and the Deafening Silence

It’s said that politics makes strange bedfellows. Or as author Harlan Ellison phrased it, everyone’s entitled to their own door...

Four technological achievements are key to completing Tehran’s nuclear weapon:

  • The accretion of enough nuclear materials, highly enriched to weapons-grade or 90 percent;
  • Machining that material into metal for a spheroid warhead so it can fit into a missile nosecone;
  • Developing a trigger mechanism to initiate the atomic explosion at a precise moment during missile re-entry;
  • And, of course, a reliable delivery system.

Start with the nuclear material. Experts estimate that a single bomb would require approximately 25 kilograms of Highly Enriched Uranium, or HEU, with a U-235 concentration of at least 90 percent. Much of Iran’s nuclear enrichment remains at 3.5 and 20 percent levels. But the numbers are deceiving. Enriching to 3.5 percent is 75 percent of the task of reaching weapons-grade. Once Iran has reached 20 percent, it has gone 90 percent of the distance. Today, Iran possesses enough nuclear material for a fast “break-out” that would finish the job, creating enough for five or ten bombs in about six weeks.

Second, that HEU must be metalized and shaped into a dense spheroid compact enough to fit into a missile nosecone. Iran has mastered the metallurgical techniques using other high-density metals such as tungsten, which have been test-detonated in a special chamber to measure their explosive character.

Third, the spheroid must be detonated. Iran’s warhead design employs a R265 shock generator hemisphere drilled with 5mm boreholes that are filled with PETN— pentaerythritol tetranitrate, an organic high explosive favored by terrorists. When triggered with precision, the PETN array can cause a massive synchronized implosion. That will fire an internal exploding bridgewire, which will in turn actuate an embedded neutron initiator to detonate the atomic reaction—and the mushroom cloud. This sequence of devices has been assembled and tested. Iran has some 500 exploding bridgewires.

Fourth, the warhead must be delivered. The Shabab-3 missile nosecone is large enough to accommodate the warhead. The outer radius of the R265 shock generator-encased warhead is 550 millimeters, less than the estimated payload chamber diameter of about 600 millimeters. Most of all, the Iranian military has selected the Shabab-3 not only because it possesses a range of 1200 kilometers, but because it can be detonated in an airburst some 600 meters off the ground on re-entry. The height of 600 meters was used in the Nagasaki explosion. Such a weapon cannot be crashed into the ground. It must be detonated while still airborne. Iran has a small fleet of Shahab-3 missiles.

Hence, Iran’s metronomic accretion of nuclear material is not just an ambiguous physics undertaking that should worry the West. It is part and parcel of a nuclear attack plan that the international community is determined to address.

Edwin Black is the author of 11 award-winning editions, including IBM and the Holocaust, and his most recent book Financing the Flames. The author can be found at www.edwinblack.com.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • Mandrake

    “Let them go – let the mythologies that cloak our faiths go – and let us all walk free and learn to live together, resolving our inherited inequity..”
    Nice fictional writing. If there were no Israel, sectarian Muslims would not be killing each other in Iraq, Siria, Egypt, and other minorities. The fastest growing religion, Islam, would not be planning a world ruled Caliphate. All because of the Jews and Israel. Iran is the only country that has openly threatened to destroy the Jewish State (a second Holocaust). The writer should go to the Middle East and proselitize with his beautifull and articulated ideas. He could save mankind.

  • Yale

    The Obama administration has been built on its ability to fool people. In 2008 and 2012, they focused on fooling the voters.
    Since 2009, they appear to have been focusing on fooling themselves.

    The Iranians know when they’re dealing with fools and have let Obama go his merry way.

  • steven L

    The Obama Adm. decided early on to take major risks at the expense of others rather than play safe when it decided to suspend partially the sanctions.
    Pr. O knew very well that the Europeans did NOT have the capacity to take the lead since Iran progressed in spite of Europeans useless sanctions.
    Apparently, Iran is not and was never interested in changing the climate between her and the West. Nuke is a indispensable step stone for her control of the ME and the pursue of international terrorism.
    Naivete may come with an incalculable prize!

  • art

    It is a done deal. Obama has betrayed Israel, as stated by a whitehouse official it is so bad that Iran even brags that it has lied to IAEA and has broken the sanctions as well as re affirmed its intent to have nuke bombs

  • Efram

    I do not know how ‘determined’ is the international community to address this fact, but I do know that Obama’s secret correspondence is treason, and this will be proven when a useless deal is agreed to within two weeks. The US may be suspicious, but Obama is not. He is certain, and that is why he writes to Khamenei. When Iran delivers its first nuclear weapon to Israel, you might be able to hear the shout of glee from the white house in Philadelphia.

  • isak

    I think if you don’t want junk food don’t have too!

  • Doc Smith

    I don’t know what else is required for the world to
    be certain of Iran’s nuclear intentions….the
    Ayotollah has made it very clear..destroy Israel..
    death to the Jews…..Why is the world silent on this…
    Why us there no outrage over Egypt’s treatment of
    the Palestinians…but everybody it aseems was in
    outrage when Israel was defending itself from the
    aggression out of gGaza…..

  • Julian Clovelley

    An excellent account of the technology required = primarily the problem of enrichment which generally with present methods requires a great deal of electricity

    What is missing from this article is the ready availability of uranium. It is as common as tin ,and many countries have deposits – including, I understand, Iran. The problem is always mainly the question of enrichment – whether the end use be for nuclear power, or for weaponry

    I question whether the denial of Iran’s “right” to produce nuclear weapons is practical in the long term, or if there is any real point, there already being over 100 warheads in Pakistan held by an Islamic regime. What would be far more effective would be a normalisation of regional relationships, and the avoidance of confrontation,

    One cannot get past the fact that there are two running sores – perhaps three – that need addressing. The first is the vexed question of the Occupation and blockade, the second the very existence of Settlements on Palestinian land – which one might easily define as land outside the boundaries of the original UN Partition and subsequent armistice – the third is the administration of Jerusalem.

    None of these can be addressed if Israeli politics is dominated by an obsessive Zionism, that creates an entirely artificial and mythological history through abuse of religious Judaism. The nineteenth century Zionist tool is not just redundant – many rabbis and academics never liked it – it is also dangerous in its inaccuracy, inflammatory rather than defensive in nature.

    Judaism itself needed no country. Zionism is what turned individual pockets of religious Judaists into an invented(sic) “people”. Like any of the great religions, the historical basis of Judaism was always questionable. It is Zionism that created the search for that which never existed. As with Christianity, the more one looks into the past the shakier becomes the ground on which the religion in terms of history is built. The Bible is neither the history of Judaism, nor the history of Christianity – nor indeed, in similar vein, does it contain much of the real history of the Muslim faith.

    The nuclear relationship is about putting the cards on the table. There is no room for cultural lies. Since a nuclear dispute cannot be resolved militarily without the destruction of both parties, a standoff evolves whose stability relies on absolute accurate understanding of each party of the other. This cannot take place when both sides wrap themselves in nationalist myths

    Nothing is more urgent than the construction of a realistic history of the region, based on clear evidence. For it is only through that understanding becoming part of our culture, that a new identity and inter relationship, can evolve. Israel needs a new identity – so does “Jewishness”. Zionism has cut off the simple ability to return to a faith without a country – the accomplishments of Zionism, for good or ill, cannot be undone. But the crucial identity can change. The word Israeli can come to mean something different, something more regional, and something that is multicultural linked by secular Government. Zionism might not choose such a resolution – indeed it would likely try to impede it, But is there really another way?

    As someone recently said – the collapse of the Ottoman Empire left us with two invented peoples in the region, the Jews and the Palestinians. The inventions took the form of developing and conflicting nationalisms. It is those nationalisms that are the likely source of an unstable nuclear standoff, and pose the threat of actual nuclear confrontation, rather than the actual simple possession of fissile material. I am unconviced that any policy on the part of any American Administration or the Israeli Government could ever prevent Iran, which quite reasonably sees nuclear power as essential to its future when the oil runs out, being able to enrich to weapons grade – in this the article is correct.

    The attempt to block Iran is in fact Zionism’s last stand as the dominant force in Israeli, and I would suggest “Jewish” politics. The real situation of the region is not conducive to the preservation of anyone’s mythology as serving as its core history and ethos. The faculties of world history and Jewish history cannot remain separate. Separate histories are the source of nationalist confrontation, and of pseudo imperialist manifestations like “settlements”, and interminable as against resolved occupations. There is neither Gentile nor Jew. There is only one actual history and it is neutral in nature. It’s use to justify present nationalism, to create “peoples” out of mythological “pseudo history” is an abuse. If there was indeed a Davidic Kingdom it was transient and very limited in size. If there was a genuine Diaspora it was not a total dispersion of Jews from Judea and many had formed pockets in the Roman Empire for many generations already. There was likely no Exodus of Jews from what we now recognise was one part of Egypt to another province of the same administration.. Let it gently go in the way progressive Christianity is gradually letting its own myths slip away. Christianity once had theological Empires too, that of the Byzantine Empire, and that dominated by the Roman Pope through local monarchies – then others dominated by such as the Protestant King of England. All these are no more, vanished like the Ottoman Empire and the ancient Caliphate. Let them go – let the mythologies that cloak our faiths go – and let us all walk free and learn to live together, resolving our inherited inequity..

    • steven L

      Two invented people!!!! Dear blissful ignorant. People without a land are always persecuted and abused. Clearly your knowledge of history is limited!!!The Kurdish people is a prime victim of their lack of a recognized country. You clearly sound like a naive universalist.

    • Mandrake

      “Let them go – let the mythologies that cloak our faiths go – and let us all walk free and learn to live together, resolving our inherited inequity..”
      Nice fictional writing. If there were no Israel, sectarian Muslims would not be killing each other in Iraq, Siria, Egypt, and other minorities. The fastest growing religion, Islam, would not be planning a world ruled Caliphate. All because of the Jews and Israel. Iran is the only country that has openly threatened to destroy the Jewish State (a second Holocaust). The writer should go to the Middle East and proselitize with his beautifull and articulated ideas. He could save mankind.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    I’m sorry to say that nothing will be done until Tel Aviv is incinerated.

    I know how awful this statement is, but quite frankly, I don’t see any actor with the will to stop Iran -before there is a catastrophe.

  • Pakistan may prove as dangerous….soon

Algemeiner.com