Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Evening Update: "The Iranians Are Almost There"

This comes from the Times of Israel:

Since the last century, Iran has been methodically pursuing the in-house capability of developing a missile-delivered nuclear bomb. The regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now closer than ever — probably in the latter stages of perfecting an atomic bomb with a multipoint detonation mechanism, compact enough to insert into a Shahab-3 missile nosecone.

For years, the Obama administration, Western governments, the United Nations, and the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) have been fully aware of the specific details of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, down to the blueprints and names of the engineers. Whether or not Iran will complete the last leg of its decades-long journey toward a deliverable atomic bomb is still unknown.

The difference in viewing the cannon is whether you are staring down the muzzle or observing it through a telescope from a perch 6,000 miles away. Israel is peering into the muzzle, hence its assessment is different than Washington’s.

Here are the four determining factors, the dynamics of which will govern whether Israel launches a preemptive attack against Tehran’s massive nuclear infrastructure.

Four technological achievements are key to completing Tehran’s nuclear weapon: 1) accretion of enough nuclear materials, highly enriched to 90 percent, to make the bomb; 2) machining that highly-enriched material into metal for a spheroid warhead so it can fit into a missile nosecone for detonation; 3) a trigger mechanism to initiate the atomic explosion at the precise moment of missile reentry; and, of course, 4) a reliable rocket delivery system to carry such a weapon.

This lengthy article describes Iran's progress for each of these four key milestones.

1. Enrichment:

Iran is now operating at least 10,000 centrifuges, probably many more, in its slow-motion dash to acquire the vital nuclear weight it requires. The startling number of more than 10,000 centrifuges is about ten times the known arrays Iran admitted to just a few years ago in 2007. Indeed, the country has been adding centrifuges at a dazzling rate — not incrementally but in great leaps of thousands of additional machines at a time.

After years of centrifugal processing, Iran already has accumulated enough low enriched uranium, or LEU, to create five or six bombs

Hour by hour, day by day, those centrifuges incrementally crank out the nuclear material needed to create the kilograms of HEU needed for a bomb. Despite international sanctions and global pressure, the centrifuges spin nonstop. The centrifugal forces have only accelerated. The clock is ticking.

2. Warhead Design:

Indeed, that November 2011 Annex devotes an entire section, Section C.7., entitled “Hydrodynamic Experiments,” to detailing the steps Iran has taken to test the detonation of spheroidal metals. The section states that “Iran has manufactured simulated nuclear-explosive components using high-density materials such as tungsten.” It also speaks of databanks of modeling and calculations “to monitor the symmetry of the compressive shock of the simulated core of a nuclear device.”

Most alarming, states the Annex, is the discovery of a unique “large-explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments.” The vessel has been in the Parchin complex for over a decade, according to the IAEA report. So well authenticated is this massive cylindrical containment vessel, with its characteristic external piping to siphon off and register explosive results, that the Associated Press felt sure enough to syndicate a sketch of the chamber. The AP sketch of the explosion testing chamber with its distinctive yellow piping was published worldwide earlier this year.

3. Detonation:

The nuclear trigger now in the latter stages of development in Iran is the R265 system. Specifically, the R265 employs a multipoint shock generator that causes a simultaneous implosion from all sides surrounding the spheroidal weaponized material, according to the IAEA intelligence distributed to all Western governments.

As far back as May 2008, an IAEA report stated, “Iran acknowledged that it had conducted simultaneous testing with two to three EBW detonators with a time precision of about one microsecond.” Indeed, the IAEA confirmed that such testing of EBW detonators has been underway at least since February 2004 and probably since 2003 utilizing “as many as 500 EBW detonators.” ISIS states, “Iran would need only two EBWs to initiate a nuclear explosion.”

With the R265 and EBWs operational, Tehran’s device would require the final ingredient to make it a working nuclear bomb: the neutron initiator. Iran has it.

4. Delivery

Iran has it: the Shabab-3.

Iran’s main nuclear warhead-ready missile is the Shahab-3, the renamed North Korean No-Dong 1, which is based on a Russian Scud-C design. In Farsi, Shahab means Meteor. While Iran possesses various North Korean missiles relabeled with Farsi names such as the Shabab-1 and Shabab-2, the Shahab-3 is uniquely suited to deliver a nuclear bomb to Israel. The Shahab-3 is designed to carry a warhead of approximately 800-1000 kilograms, and boasts a range of some 1200 kilometers — far enough to reach Israel.

Most importantly, it can detonate not only upon impact, but in an airburst above ground. The lethal Shahab-3 missiles are truck-mobile, so they can shoot from a parking lot or a pistachio grove. No one can be sure how many Shahab-3s are held in Tehran’s inventory, but certainly it is scores, if not hundreds. Videos show Iran shooting several at once.

The bottom line?

The point of these revelations about Iran’s advanced warhead design is that they are not revelations at all. The news is that these revelations are old news. They have been known to Western governments for many months and in some cases several years. This information was not given to this writer in a Georgetown briefing by a defense official or in a Tel Aviv cafĂ© by a Mossad operative. Everything quoted here is robustly searchable on the Internet. Almost none of it is taken from media reports, but rather from governmental, official or quasi-official sources publically available. For some 15 years, Iran has been building a bomb. Government leaders know this.

To the question of when any such attack on Iran might occur, the best minds say, “He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.” But the best sense is that when and if it happens, the noise will be deafening and reverberate for a long time.


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on the dow.

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a long time.......

might as well get used to it.

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