cue the lightning bolts

the only question that matters: is it true?

Iran has signed the NPT. As a signatory to the NPT, Iran may rightfully, legally, use nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes. Iran has submitted to and passed repeated IAEA inspections. The US intelligence community (NIE) does not consider Iran a nuclear threat. Israel refuses to sign the NPT. Israel has an estimated several hundred undeclared nuclear weapons. Russia and China have warned that an attack on Iran will have global consequences. That's the situation in a nutshell. Where to next, people? Where to?

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? - Galatians 4:16

9.17.2009

from 2/2009: truth about enriched uranium

by Cheryl Rofer, 2/20/09

As I put the tea water on to boil and turned on the tv this morning, I was assaulted by the claim that seems to be everywhere. Maybe you've seen it in the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times, or heard the same CBS report that I did, or even read it on Kevin Drum.

It's a lie.

Much as I hate to do so, because psychology tells us that repetition will help to fix the erroneous message in our minds, I will quote the most egregious statement of this "news."

Iran has enriched sufficient uranium to amass a nuclear bomb – a third more than previously thought – the United Nations announced yesterday.

Ah yes. And if you live in Boulder, Colorado, or in Connecticut, or New York City, you have enough U-235 under your house (or perhaps block) to amass a nuclear bomb! Or, Kevin, all that sea water lapping up against the California coast has uranium in it too! I have a call in to the IAEA to inspect your homes!

The issue here is concentration. Mining uranium concentrates it from the ore. Purification and conversion to UF6 concentrates it further. The purpose of the enrichment centrifuges is to concentrate the fissionable U-235.

Concentration is not that hard to understand, but in our science-challenged society (yes, we all hated chemistry, where it was discussed in the first week), it seems not to be a consideration. See also this post from earlier this week.

The concentration of U-235 is 3.49% in the enriched uranium that the Natanz plant is turning out. The IAEA has found no evidence (Download Iran 0902) that any higher enrichment is being produced. 3.49% is not enough to make a bomb. Iran is not in a position to make a bomb, unless there is a bunch of hidden stuff that nobody has found, involving big buildings that can be seen by satellite surveillance.

It would take a reconfiguration of the Natanz facility that the inspectors would notice to produce bomb-grade uranium (concentration of U-235 of 90%). The inspectors also take environmental samples to verify the concentration of U-235. They would have to be kicked out of the facility and their video cameras taken down for Iran to do this.


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