Skip to comments.Iran Four Years From Atomic Bomb, Say Experts
Posted on 04/23/2007 9:24:40 PM PDT by blam
Iran four years from atomic bomb, say experts
By David Blair, Diplomatic Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:35am BST 24/04/2007
Iran's nuclear programme is facing such severe technical difficulties that it could take four years to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb and eight years to deploy an operational nuclear weapon, experts say.
Students hold placards supporting Iran's nuclear right
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement on April 9 that uranium enrichment on an "industrial scale" had begun was "misleading" and the time-scale for success is likely to be longer than early estimates suggested.
"It's very difficult to enrich uranium," said Norman Dombey, emeritus professor of theoretical physics at Sussex University. "It calls for several different scientific and engineering disciplines. Iran hasn't yet shown that it has mastered the problem."
Iran's underground facility in Natanz has space for 3,000 centrifuges, the devices used to enrich uranium. Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that only 1,312 have been installed so far.
Once all 3,000 are in place, the machines must be fitted together to form 18 cascades. Then technicians must introduce uranium in the form of gas into the centrifuges. The machines must then spin at 1,500 revolutions per second to separate out the uranium-235, the fissile material capable of producing the chain reaction unleashed by a nuclear bomb. Weapons grade uranium must be enriched to 90 per cent purity.
But the smallest particle of dust - even a fingerprint - can disrupt enrichment. Iran will have to spin all the centrifuges inside a vacuum without any interruption for a period of about one year.
If any machine breaks down - or if dust enters the system or if the power supply is lost - the process must halt and start again.
Prof Dombey estimates that Iran will need about two years simply to master the process of running centrifuges. Then, making allowances for interruptions caused by breakdowns, it could take another two years to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb.
Prof Dombey said: "At the moment, their programme doesn't constitute a threat. It would constitute a threat if they were enriching substantial amounts to more than five per cent and they're not. In fact they're not enriching anything very much. This talk about industrial scale enrichment is misleading."
Despite Mr Ahmadinejad's public threat to wipe it from the map, Israel also plays down the progress that Iran has made. On Sunday, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, said: "Iran is far from attaining the technology threshhold and this country is not close to getting it, contrary to statements by its leadership."
An assessment by Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, is believed to agree that Iran is three or four years away from success.
On top of these problems, Iran would still have to master the technology of building a nuclear warhead capable of delivery by a missile.
Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Authority, has said that Iran may be eight years away from a having an operational nuclear weapons system.
If so, America is unlikely to resort to military strikes against Iran in the near future. The Bush administration may calculate that time is available for diplomatic efforts.
Gary Samore, vice-president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank, said: "Washington feels it has time to play out the diplomatic hand because Iran is having trouble solving technical problems with its centrifuge machines."
"The belief in Western intelligence circles is that a large portion of these machines are likely to break if Iran attempts to operate them at high speeds necessary for enrichment."
What we worked out sixty years ago stymies some here and now. The mind reels.
is that over under
wonder if vegas has pool going
this could be fun
i say they have them, but they did not unpack them yet from the original packaging
Depending on whom you listen to Iran is two months, six months, three years whatever; a preemptive stick is in order. Then the question disappears.
Is this solely a technical problem for high grade enrichment or low grade enrichment for the power plant?
A sign written in English? yeh, right.
1 1/2 years. Not 4.
AQ according to their "Seven Steps to..." plans a 2010 hit. Iran will be ready to collaborate with them by then. Two years and they'll have a functional device. One year to smuggle it in.
That's what the "experts" said 4 years ago. In all probability, they have several now. Does anyone really believe that Paki-Stan's Mullah mafia hasn't sold any to their Iranian "brothers in Jihad, all the world is for Allah" fundamentalist nutjobs?
I was under the impression that U235 isn’t the only nuclear material that nukes can be made from, that other types and grades can and do make fine nuclear bombs.
There are only really 2 types of Nuclear weapons: Uranium and Plutonium.
Uranium bombs are big, heavy, require well over 100 pounds of U235 enriched to 90-95%, have relatively low yields (20 kilotons) and are highly radioactive. On the plus side they are very simple in design, and pretty much guaranteed to work every time.
Plutonium bombs, on the other hand, can be made very small, light, and boosted yields can be up to 100 kilotons. The downside is that they are very complicated, and require sophisticated shaped charges and nanosecond timing to detonate properly. North Korea demonstrated how hard this type of weapon is to get right, by messing it up.