Tag Archives: Natanz

Explaining Bibi’s Red Line (With a Bit of H.S. Chem.)

Uranium enrichment: Reaching the 20% U235 is the uphill-tough-sledding part. To then go from 20% U235 to 90% U235 is really the downhill-easy-run part. And Israel is a one bomb country.by Mark Langfan
This essay will attempt1) to explain what Bibi’s Iranian “Red-Line” actually means,

2) to show why Bibi’s Iranian Red-Line is reasonable, and

3) enable a reader using only trivial math to actually calculate the Iranian Red-Line status from the newspaper. To do this, one needs to first see what Bibi has actually said, read some additional news reports and expert analysis, and then add some basic high school chemistry principles.

Quotes:

1. On January 11, 2012, former IAEA Iranian weapons expert Mr. Olli Heinonen, wrote in an article titled “The 20 Percent Solution”:

“Over the last few days, Iran has begun operating two enrichment cascades at Fordow. Furthermore, Iran is completing installation of two additional cascades, with their planned operation already announced. Once the four cascades at Fordow, in addition to the two Natanz ones, are operating, Iran will be able to produce 15 kg of 20 percent enriched UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) per month. This process uses as feed 3.5 percent enriched uranium, which is produced currently at a rate of 140 to 150 kg UF6 per month at Natanz.”. .

“If Iran decides to produce weapons-grade uranium from 20 percent enriched uranium, it has already technically undertaken 90 percent of the enrichment effort required. What remains to be done is the feeding of 20 percent uranium through existing additional cascades to achieve weapons-grade enrichment (more than 90 percent uranium). This step is much faster than the earlier ones. Growing the stockpile of 3.5 percent and 20 percent enriched uranium, as Iran is now doing, provides the basic material needed to produce four to five nuclear weapons. With IR-1 centrifuges, it would take half a year to go from 3.5 percent enriched uranium to weapons-grade material for the first nuclear device. More advanced centrifuges would cut the time required in half. If, however, IR-1s are using 20 percent enriched uranium as a feed, 250 kg UF6 with that level of enrichment can be turned to weapons-grade material in a month’s time.”
2. On September 27, 2012, PM Netanyahu said at the UN General Assembly:

“This is a bomb; this is a fuse. In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages. The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium. The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium. And the third and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb. Where’s Iran? Iran’s completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they’re 70% of the way there. Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichments rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

3. Iran has disclosed to the International ATOMIC Energy Agency (IAEA) and which the IAEA has confirmed, in the IAEA Board of Governors Report dated 30 November 2012, the IAEA stated:

“10. Since Iran began enriching uranium at its declared facilities, it has produced at those facilities approximately:

• 7611 kg (+735 kg since the Director General’s previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235, of which: 5303 kg is presently in storage; 1226 kg has been fed into the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and 1029 kg has been fed into the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) for enrichment up to 20% U-235; and 53 kg has been fed into the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) for conversion to UO2; 14 and 232.8 kg (+43.4 kg since the Director General’s previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235, of which: 134.9 kg is presently in storage; 1.6 kg has been downblended; and 96.3 kg has been fed into the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) for conversion to U3O8.15.”

4. On February 10, 2013, Myra MacDonald and Fredrik Dahl reported in Reuters the following:

“While scientists differ about how much uranium is needed to have the ability quickly to make a bomb, analysts say the Israeli figure is believed to be 240 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent; at that concentration, the material is nine tenths of the way to the weapons-grade of about 90 percent, since most of the unwanted isotopes have been separated out by then.”

“’Israeli officials, in private, widely use the 240 kg figure,’ said Shashank Joshi, a Research Fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). ‘The figure is so specific and so widely used that they must understand the implications of drawing this red line: that Iran is free to produce anything up to that amount, but that producing any more would force Israel to choose between humiliation or war.’”

5. On February 18, 2013, PM Netanyahu further explained that:

“They say it. They move forward. They’re progressing. They’re getting closer to the red line that I had set at the UN. They’re building rapid centrifuges: that is centrifuges that enrich uranium needed to make nuclear bombs at three times the pace so that they could cross that red line and get to a high enrichment to a sufficient amount of 90% enriched uranium within a much shorter time. They’re doing all that. So far, they’ve not been stopped. And the sanctions themselves – even tougher sanctions – will not stop them.”

6. Finally, on February 21, 2013, BBC News reported that:
“Iran had informed the IAEA in a letter on 23 January that it planned to introduce a new model of centrifuge called the IR2m, which can enrich two or three times faster than current equipment.”

Explanation and Analysis:

Given these news reports, in short, Bibi clearly meant his “Red-Line” to mean Iran’s having 240 kilograms of Uranium Hexafluoride (UH6) gas enriched to a 20% U235 level (“medium enriched uranium”) so that the Bibi-described “second stage” would be “completed.”

“Completed,” as Bibi meant it, in the sense that there would be enough of the medium enriched uranium 20% U235 stockpile from which the Iranians could then quickly further enrich enough 90% U235 enriched uranium (“highly enriched uranium”) to arm one uranium Hiroshima-type gun-type nuclear bomb.

Therefore, given this further information, more specifically, this article will attempt to explain why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu considers his Iranian “Red-Line” to be Iran’s having stockpiled approximately 240 kilograms (kgs) of UF6 Uranium Hexafloride gas where the UF6 gas containing 20% U235 isotope/80% of the U238 isotope, and why Bibi’s Iranian Red-Line is reasonable.

Remember, U235 is the uranium isotope that is more atomically “fragile” than its U238 cousin, and hence, good for making a uranium gun-type nuclear bomb. Consequently, it is bad for Iran to have enriched that much of the specific U235 isotope to a much higher pre-weapons-grade 20% concentration.
So, what is 240 kgs of UF6 gas containing 20% U235? And why is this amount of stockpiled UF6 gas the likely magic “Red-Line” across which Israel fears Iran will quickly obtain a nuclear bomb?

Let’s get really basic. What does “UF6 20% U235” mean to begin with?
Firstly, UF6 gas is the gaseous medium through which one relatively easily enriches and separates the various uranium isotopes from each other by spinning the UF6 gas containing the mixed uranium isotopes through high speed centrifuges. In nature, mined naturally occurring uranium ore usually contains about combined average amounts of .7% of U235 and 99.3% of U238. The enrichment goal for a nuclear bomb is to change the natural state of uranium from low235/high238 to weapons-grade state of high235/low238 by repeatedly, in a cascade, separating and enriching the higher grade of U235. When mined in nature, the relative percentages of natural uranium containing both U235 and U238 isotopes is about 1 U235 atom for every 150 U238 atoms. After high level enrichment to the weapons’ grade, the ratio is approximately 10 U235 atoms for every 1 atom of U238.

How difficult is it to first enrich UF6 with .7% U235 to UF6 with 20% U235? And then how hard to go from 20% U235 UF6 to 90% U235 UF6?
To accomplish this enrichment of the U235 uranium isotope, the atomic scientists chemically bind one uranium atom to 6 fluoride atoms which then becomes Uranium Hexafluoride or UF6 gas (which stands for one atom of Uranium for every six atoms of fluoride which form one molecule of Uranium Hexafluoride) under certain pressures. In the gaseous UF6 form, the heavier and lighter uranium isotopes are easier to separate from each other by spinning the UF6 gas in high-speed centrifuges. In this process of enriching the U235 isotope from its heavier U238 isotope cousin, the original UF6 gas first contains the same U235/U238 ratio as natural uranium. But as the enrichment process proceeds, the enriched UF6 gas slowly contains a much greater ratio of U235 to U238 and hence a greater percentage of the UF6 contains the U235 atom.

Bibi’s “low enriched uranium” is 3.8% U235 UF6 gas. Bibi’s claim that once the “medium enriched uranium” level of 20% U235 UF6 gas has been reached, 90% of the total enrichment effort necessary to bring the uranium from .7% to weapons’ grade 90% U235 has been expended, jibs exactly with Mr. Heinonen’s published January 2012 analysis. Again, Mr. Heinonen stated that once the 20% U235 enrichment has been achieved, Iran “has already technically undertaken 90 percent of the enrichment effort required” to “produce weapons-grade uranium.” That’s because, anti-intuitively, to go from .7% U235 to 20% U235 enriched uranium takes 90% of the total enrichment effort. But for the enrichment process to go from 20% U235 to 90% U235, it takes only 10% of the total enrichment effort.

 In short, reaching the 20% U235 is the uphill-tough-sledding part. To then go from 20% U235 to 90% U235 is really the downhill-easy-run part.

What makes uranium, U235? Or uranium, U238? And, how is the difference exploited in enrichment?
So, 20% U235 UF6 gas really just means 20% of the UF6 gas contains the lighter U235 uranium isotope, and 80% of the UF6 gas contains the heavier U238 uranium isotope with the 3 extra neutrons in its nucleus. Both the U235 and U238 isotopes still both have 112 protons, U238 just has 3 extra neutrons where each extra neutron weighs about one atomic mass unit (AMUs). So the atomic weight of the U235 isotope is about 235 AMUs for each molecular unit of U235; the atomic weight of the U238 isotope is about 3 AMUs heavier than U235 for a total 238 AMUs per molecular unit of U238. This is because each neutron weighs about one AMU. The nuclear scientists exploit this slight difference in atomic weight between U235 and U238 to separate the two isotopes and enrich the U235 to a weapons’ grade uranium percentage of 90% U235/10% U238.

The mixed U235/U238 UF6 gas is fed into the high speed centrifuges where the UF6 gas molecules containing the heavier U238 isotope spin outward faster than the UF6 gas molecules containing the lighter 235 UF6 isotope. The heavier U238 UF6 gas molecules are sucked out of the outside rim of the centrifuge and reprocessed upstream, while the lighter U235 UF6 gas molecules are sucked out from the center of the centrifuge to be fed downstream into the next centrifuge to be yet further enriched.
How much weapons-grade 90% U235 can you get from a kilogram of UF6 20% U235 gas, or more specifically, from 240 kilograms of UF6 20% U235?
The reason I plied you with all this basic high school chemistry science (which you have probably not seen since then) is that it is a vital jigsaw piece to understanding the real debate. That’s because the key thing to understand is: What exactly does 240 kgs of 20% U235 UF6 gas represent and get you in terms of net-net actual 90% U235 weapons-grade bomb-type uranium?

The key fact is the molecule of UF6 simply means one atom of uranium (either the U235 isotope or the U238 isotope) is bound to 6 atoms of fluoride. Since fluoride has an atomic weight of about 19 AMUs for each atom of fluoride, you multiply 6 times 19AMUs for about 120 AMUs worth of the element fluoride are in one molecular unit of UF6. Add the 120 AMUs of fluoride to the approximate 235-238 AMUs of the element uranium (mix of U235 and U238) atom and you get about 337AMUs of atomic weight for one molecular unit of UF6 gas. Hence, the fluoride represents about one-third the actual weight of the resulting UF6 gas, and the mixed U235/U238 isotopes of uranium represent about two-thirds of the actual weight of the resulting UF6 gas.

Consequently, we now apply this relative fluoride/mixed U235/238 uranium relative weight analysis to Bibi’s Red-Line amount of 240 kgs of 20% U235 UF6 gas. So, you multiply 240 kgs of UF6 gas times 66% and that yields you about 160kgs of netted total mixed U235/U238 uranium where 20% is the U235 isotope and 80% is the U238 isotope. Therefore, you further multiply 160 kgs of the total netted uranium times 20% (or one-fifth) because the U235 is 20% of the total netted uranium. That net-nets you down to about 32 kgs of pure bomb grade U235. Since one only needs 90% U235 that means 160 kgs of 20% U235 net-nets you to about 35 kgs of 90% weapons-grade uranium. See graphic www.marklangfan.com/240kguh6bomb.html

It is widely assumed that you only need about 25-30 kgs of weapons-grade uranium to make one uranium gun-type Hiroshima type nuclear weapon. Hence in “nuclear proliferation lingo,” 25 kilograms of 90% 235 uranium is called a “Significant Quantity” or “SQ” of weapons-grade uranium. Hence, you can make a quick calculation of the amount of weapons-grade U235 in any amount of 20% U235 UF6 gas by just multiplying the total 20% U235 UF6 gas kilograms by one-fifteenth or 1/15.

How fast can 240 kg of UF6 20% gas be processed to get a bomb’s worth weapons-grade U235?

In other words, what Bibi means by the “240 kgs of 20% U235 UF6 gas Red-Line” is if the Iranians get 240 kgs of 20% 235 UF6 gas, they can quickly spin and centrifuge that stockpiled gas out to make one nuclear bomb’s worth of 90% weapons grade 235. To quote Mr. Olli Heinonen, the preeminent former IAEA nuclear weapons expert, if the Iranians are “using 20% enriched uranium as a feed [for the cascade of centrifuges], 250 kg of UF6 with that level of enrichment can be turned into weapon-grade material in one month.”

How will the newly announced new generation of Iranian centrifuges affect this break out time?

What’s worse is Iran announced the installation of a new generation of even faster and better centrifuges. Hence, the time needed to “breakout” from 20% U235 to the 90% U235 of one bomb’s worth of uranium to weapons-grade enrichment level would be about two weeks.

How much 20% U235 UF6 does Iran possess at this time?

So even assuming you believe the Iranians, and the IAEA, Iran had, as of 3 months ago, about 134.9 kgs of 20% UF6 stockpiled and ready to be spun to 90% U235 UF6 gas. The “diversion” of some of the 20% UF6 gas averted Iran from crossing what would have been Bibi’s Iranian Red-Line. Had Iran not voluntarily diverted 96.3 kg of their 20% U235 stockpile to fuel plate production, Iran would have already crossed the Bibi Red-Line. We don’t really even know for sure if Iran diverted the U235 enriched UF6 gas. Let’s just hope they did.

How much 20% 235 UF6 gas is Iran stockpiling per month?

As Mr. Heinonen stated, “once the four cascades at Fordow, in addition to the two Natanz ones, are operating, Iran will be able to produce 15 kg of 20% enriched UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) per month.” This “15 kg” a month number is field-confirmed because the IAEA report cites, “+43.4 kg since the Director General’s previous report,” which was 3 months before. So, the Iranian stockpiling rate of UF6 20% gas is about 15kgs a month.

After they get the 90% U235 UF6 gas, what do the Iranians need to do to actually build a final workable nuclear bomb?

Once the UF6 gas reaches the enriched 90% U235/10% U238, the atomic scientists then chemically decouple the uranium atom from the fluoride atoms to get a pure uranium metal of 90% U235 purity (10% U238). This is a technically trivial part of the process. It is this enriched metal that is then shaped, and put into the actual bomb mechanism, or “physic’s package” as it is known. The Iranians are surely working on such an actual atomic bomb mechanism in parallel to their U235 enrichment so there isn’t likely going to be a huge lag time at the final assembly phase where the enriched U235 metal is installed in the actual bomb mechanism. (And remember, in 1945, the US didn’t even test its first gun-type uranium bomb before it dropped it on Hiroshima. And, Iran has surely partnered with North Korea on its nuclear tests.)

Therefore, Bibi’s attempt to draw a Red-Line where Iran could be less than one month (or now two weeks) away from a nuclear bomb isn’t war-mongering, but is peacemaking and prudent statesmanship. In fact, Bibi’s line may even be too close to the point of no-return where Iran will one morning fire off a nuclear blast and tell the world it is a fully nuclear weapons’ state.

And as Cong. Steve Southerland II(R-Fla.) correctly stated, “Israel is a one-bomb country.” So, even with one Iranian bomb, Israel’s very existence, along with its 6 million Jewish citizens, is at total risk.

For more information please visit http://www.marklangfan.com/

Obama, Israel Behind Stuxnet Worm and Accelerated Iran Cyberattacks

By Matt Peckham//

The Stuxnet virus — the computer worm designed to subvert tiny computers known as programmable logic controllers that regulate industrial systems — was co-developed by the U.S. and Israel, deployed against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but was never supposed to escape into the wild. That’s according to a new and detailed report from the New York Times, adapted from David Sanger’s forthcoming book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.

According to Sanger, the plans for Stuxnet were laid in 2006 under the auspices of a program dubbed “Olympic Games,” as the Bush administration was grappling with ways to deal with Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program. After concluding a military strike would have “uncertain results,” the administration began exploring the possibility of cyber-attacking Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant and crippling the systems that controlled its underground centrifuges. The trick: how to introduce the virus to the plant by slipping past the “air gap” — the barrier physically separating the plant’s electronic equipment from the outside world.

The first step reportedly involved mapping the Natanz plant’s industrial setup. After successfully planting “beacon” computer code that essentially blueprinted the Natanz plant’s control systems and phoned the information home, the U.S. National Security Agency — working with “a secret Israeli unit” — began developing an “enormously complex computer worm” to sabotage the plant’s centrifuges, according to the Times. The U.S.-Israeli joint effort came about in part to tap Israeli technical expertise, but also to dissuade Israel from conducting a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, writes Sanger.

Once the computer worm (Sanger says it was simply called “the bug”) was built, it was tested on replicas of Iran’s centrifuges, acquired when Libya’s Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi turned over his own similar versions when he forfeited his nuclear program in 2003. The tests were successful almost from the outset: The rogue code instructed the replica centrifuges to speed up or slow down in ways that destroyed their fragile internal mechanisms. Toward the end of George W. Bush’s first term, the “bug” was reportedly certified ready to be deployed against Iran’s Natanz plant.

But the U.S. and Israel still faced their biggest challenge: getting the worm into the Natanz plant surreptitiously. The solution? Thumb drives, apparently:

… The United States and Israel would have to rely on engineers, maintenance workers and others — both spies and unwitting accomplices — with physical access to the plant. “That was our holy grail,” one of the architects of the plan said. “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand.”

At first, the Iranians had no idea why their centrifuges were failing, blaming it on “bad parts, or bad engineering, or just incompetence,” according to one of Sanger’s sources.

Moreover, the code would lurk inside the plant for weeks, recording normal operations; when it attacked, it sent signals to the Natanz control room indicating that everything downstairs was operating normally. “This may have been the most brilliant part of the code,” one American official said.

But by the time the Bush presidency was over, little damage had been done. As Bush was leaving office, writes Sanger, he urged Obama to continue the program — Obama obliged, continuing and eventually stepping up the cyberattacks against the Iranians.

“From his first days in office, he was deep into every step in slowing the Iranian program — the diplomacy, the sanctions, every major decision,” a senior administration official said. “And it’s safe to say that whatever other activity might have been under way was no exception to that rule.”

But by summer 2010, a new version of the worm deployed against Natanz did something it was never supposed to: escape into the wild. The reason, writes Sanger, was a coding “error,” allegedly introduced by Israeli engineers, that allowed the worm to infect an Iranian engineer’s computer connected to the centrifuges. When the computer was later connected to the Internet, the virus hopped ship and began spreading across the globe, where it was quickly discovered by security researchers, dubbed “Stuxnet” (based on keywords found in the code) and the security industry debate about its origins and intent began.

Sanger says his account is “based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts,” and that the reason no specific names are mentioned is “because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.”

The U.S. position on cyber-warfare in documents like the White House’s “International Strategy for Cyberspace” is that it reserves the right to respond in kind to cyberattacks:

… All states possess an inherent right to self-defense, and we recognize that certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners. We reserve the right to use all necessary means—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our Nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests. In so doing, we will exhaust all options before military force whenever we can; will carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs of inaction; and will act in a way that reflects our values and strengthens our legitimacy, seeking broad international support whenever possible.

Did the U.S. violate its own strategy (and international law) by attacking Iran first? Was it reacting to unspecified attacks staged by Iran against “military treaty partners”? It’s not clear from Sanger’s piece, but Sanger writes that while Obama has “repeatedly told his aides that there are risks to using — and particularly to overusing — the weapon,”

…no country’s infrastructure is more dependent on computer systems, and thus more vulnerable to attack, than that of the United States. It is only a matter of time, most experts believe, before it becomes the target of the same kind of weapon that the Americans have used, secretly, against Iran.

Playing Nuclear Chicken

It is difficult to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle in an Iran that has ambitions that involve not only the destruction of Israel and the expansion of its power in the Middle East, but its full emergence on the stage as a world power. I have read a number of respected military and political leaders, (such as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey), state that “ the Iranian regime is a rational actor.” http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/17/watch-gps-martin-dempsey-on-syria-iran-and-china/  But I believe the question must be asked; If the leadership in Iran, (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), is organized to accomplish the goals identified above, how best will they achieve their mission? Is there a rational path to power and the obliteration of one’s opponents?

It appears that the desire of Iran to emerge from its identification as the epicenter for the dissemination of terror, its thirty year isolation and the increasingly crippling sanctions that have been/are being applied depend on its acquisition of the nuclear know-how to place its own counter demands on the region and the world. Iran watched Iraq threaten the region, invade Kuwait and participate in three wars including a long and costly war with Iran and ultimately contribute mightily to the overthrow of its own regime.

On December 14, 2001 moderate Iranian leader Hashemi-Rafsanjani made a speech that included a dire warning to Israel:

“If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.”

In the same speech Rafsanjani went onto threaten the United States and Israel with the following words:

“War of the pious and martyrdom seeking forces against peaks of colonialism will be highly dangerous and might fan flames of the World War III.”

“Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world”, Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani warned, blaming on the United States and Britain the “creation of the fabricated entity” in the heart of Arab and Muslim world. http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2001/dec_2001/rafsanjani_nuke_threats_141201.htm

These words rang somewhat hollow a decade ago in the midst of the Second Intifada at a time when Israel, the United States and Western powers knew Iran’s atomic energy program was still in its infancy. But today according to a recent study by David Albright and Andrea Stricker for the United States Institute of Peace entitled; “Iran’s Nuclear Primer;”

“Iran has produced approximately 2,400 kg of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) as of May 2010, and 17 kg of 19.75 percent uranium as of June 2010 at Natanz. Iran continues to refine its ability to efficiently produce 19.75 percent enriched uranium and to expand its centrifuge efficiency, as well as the numbers in operation.

Iran has enough low enriched uranium (LEU) to produce about two nuclear weapons, if it decided to enrich the LEU up to weapon-grade.

Other undeclared enrichment sites may be under construction. Iran announced it will begin construction on the first of 10 new sites in March 2011. But Iran lacks the capability to outfit 10 enrichment sites.

A parallel nuclear program could be used for breakout. A secret enrichment site using diverted low enriched uranium from Natanz would require approximately 2,000 P-1 centrifuges to produce about 25 kilograms to 40 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium in one year. The upper bound would require the P-1 centrifuges to operate better than they currently do at Natanz. However, Iran is working to improve the P-1 centrifuges’operation and in parallel to develop more powerful, reliable centrifuges. Operating with 1,000 centrifuges, a covert enrichment site using P-1s could produce about 40-70 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium per year, starting with 20 percent enriched uranium.

A nuclear weapon test device could require less than 20 kg of weapon-grade uranium. A nuclear warhead for a missile may contain as much as 25 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium.” http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/irans-nuclear-program,

It is clear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have done everything in their power to convince President Obama and the international community that it is serious in its willingness to launch a pre-emptive strike on the Iranian nuclear program in hopes that the international community will respond with a system of sanctions and other actions tough enough to inspire the Iranians to terminate their program and eliminate its nuclear material and capacity. All this has not moved the Iranians toward agreement in the P5 +1 talk this week in Baghdad. And to make matters worse and even more pressing the International Atomic Energy Association just announced that Iran is producing a higher level, 27%, of enriched uranium at its underground plant near Qom. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g_B4310rnMZXxogW9m4FEHRwh0Dw?docId=17f6df2bd8d644e0b682f8c1a7ffffd3

All this points to an Iranian desire to gain a “break out” capacity to produce weapons grade enriched uranium and join the Nuclear Club as a full member. Since Israel has sworn to prevent such an occurrence and has acted twice in the past, (at Osirak, Iraq in June 1981 and at al-Kibar Syria in September 2007), it is not unlikely that they will act once again by launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran before election day, (November 6, 2012), in the United States.  Given the body of information above the question is whether Iranian leaders have calculated rationally that they can withstand a strike by Israel against their nuclear facilities and that such a strike would in fact create numerous allies from the regional and international community that they would not gain in the absence of surviving such an attack. In its aftermath and by carrying out a policy of limited warfare against Israel Iran would have a green light to rehabilitate its nuclear program and to develop into a major regional and international power with support from a variety of nuclear states.

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The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.