Getting Iran\’s nuclear stuff wrong again

The latest report is that Irtan is now running a heavy water plant.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, a US think tank, if the heavy-water plant reaches full capacity, it would produce about 20lb of plutonium a year.

No, just no.

A heavy water plant produces heavy water. This can then be used in a particular type of reactor. One that uses natural uranium rather than enriched. And the wastes from that particular type of reactor then contain rather more plutonium and tritium than is usual from other types of reactor. And then you\’ve got to extract the plutonium from those wastes.

The country still lacks the technology to reprocess plutonium and use it for a weapon.

That heavy water plant does not produce plutonium at all.

It is one of the steps along they way to being able to produce it, yes. But it\’s also one of the steps along the way to a possible civilian nuclear programme too.

My personal view is that yes, of course they\’re trying to make a bomb or three. But I do wish the technical details of the reporting about it were better.

12 comments on “Getting Iran\’s nuclear stuff wrong again

  1. On a strict point of accuracy, the reaction products from a heavy water moderated reactor wouldn’t be “wastes” in this case. They d be the desired product.

    Nuclear “waste” in journalistic terms,is so often synonymous with the contents of the plant manager s waste paper basket

  2. Tim, a pity you didn’t supply a link so we can tell if the scientific illiteracy is on the part of the reporter or the think-tank, the latter being the scarier scenario.

  3. The Telegraph screws up in the copy although the video seems (to me) error-free:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9896389/Irans-Plan-B-for-a-nuclear-bomb.html

    The Telegraph’s James Kirkup et al may have gotten some of their story from:

    http://www.nti.org/facilities/175/

    And they may have taken the 20lb (9kg) fact from here:

    http://www.isisnucleariran.org/sites/facilities/arak-ir-40/

    With limited time I couldn’t find a recent press release on the ISIS site that may have prompted the NTI and Telegraph stories.

  4. I still have never heard an explanation of what principle it is that says the Iranians aren’t allowed a nuclear bomb or three. It seems rather like the Romans telling the Germans they aren’t allowed ballistae, or something. If you can enforce that, it’s practical, but in this modern world of “equality” and shit like that, I don’t see what principle is being applied here.

    I’ve heard tell that it’s because they might lob one at Israel. Yet, Israel have a nuclear deterrent, and we are assured that mutual nukes prevent wars.

    So, I don’t know what the beef is. What is it?

    Tim adds: This one is easy. Iran has signed a treaty promising they won’t try to build a bomb. Israel (and India, Pakistan) have not.

    There’s something called the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Like all of them is very long, complex and boring. Hoiwever, there are two basic ideas in there. If you sign you:

    1) Get everyone else’s help to build a civilian nuclear industry. You’re allowed power reactors, other people have to allow you to buy them, you can buy uranium fuel and so on and on. But! If you don’t sign the treaty then no one is allowed to trade with you in anything nuclear.

    2) You have promised not to build a bomb.

    So, Iran’s problem, a problem that Israel, India and Pakistan do not have, is that they’ve signed a treaty promising not to build a bomb. And the treaty does say that you’ve got to let the inspectors in to have a look at your nuclear bits to see if you are trying to build a bomb.

    Yes, I know, might seem odd that everyone’s so wound up about international law but there is the reality of it.

  5. “I do wish the technical details of the reporting…were better.”

    It’s a general fact, that if you read in the legacy media about something you actually know about, you can be fairly sure the reporting will be inaccurate to put it midly.

    Doens’t inspire confidence in all those other news stories, does it?

  6. “It’s a general fact, that if you read in the legacy media about something you actually know about, you can be fairly sure the reporting will be inaccurate to put it mildly.”

    This is worthy of having a name like “Duffin’s Law”

  7. The problem of course is not that Iran has no right to build themselves a bomb or even that they have signed the NPT.

    With N. Korea, India and Pakistan having the Bomb is actually mostly willy-waving.

    Iran might actually be mad enough to use it as a first strike weapon.

  8. John,

    The Iranians want a nuke to stop the Yanks ordering them about. In order for this to work, the US must believe that the Iranians are mad enough to use it. Thus you would expect they will deliberately aim to give that impression.

  9. RLJ,

    Do you not think that the Iranians with the bomb will simply give one to Hamas or Hezbollah and it will then be driven up to the Israel border on the back of a pickup?

  10. Do you not think that if the Soviets site missiles in Cuba, the Americans will respond with a nuclear strike?

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