Sunday, May 27

Iran and the bomb, part gazillion

Dateline: Iran

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency says it found traces of uranium at an Iranian nuclear site that had been enriched to 27 percent--a level considerably higher than Iran had previously reported.

To build an atomic bomb, natural uranium must be "enriched" in the active isotope, from the two percent found in the natural element to around 90 percent.

The report avoided any suggestion that Iran was intentionally increasing the level of its uranium enrichment, and said the Iranians dismissed the discovery as a "technical glitch."

The Associated Press took care to reassure readers that the find didn't constitute any threat or problem, adding that "Analysts and diplomats said [the "glitch" explanation] seemed plausible."

The report cited a May 9 letter from Iranian officials suggesting any enrichment at 27 percent was inadvertent. The letter said the particles were produced "above the target value" and could have been for "technical reasons beyond the operator's control."

Iranian officials said the discovery of highly-enriched uranium was blown out of proportion for political reasons.

Okay, I'm just a lowly engineer, but I don't know of any way to 'accidentally' enrich uranium to 27 percent. The enrichment process involves repeated runs of feedstock through a centrifuge line or cascade, with each run increasing the percentage of the fissionable U-235 isotope by a small amount.

Unless your target was 26 percent, it seems astronomically unlikely that an operator could have reached the reported 27 percent by accident.

What's more interesting is that the IAEA guys surely know this, and the Iranians must know they know. And yet they rolled out this bullshit excuse anyway.

Now that worries me more than the particle that was found.


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