Understanding Iran’s Nuclear Program
By Craig Campbell
It must be past someone’s bedtime when it comes to a nuclear accord with Iran to lift sanctions without full inspections. We all know Iran is purifying Uranium 235 to a 20 % level with the use of thousands of centrifuges they own. We all know that if they keep purifying Uranium 235 to 90% they will have a nuclear bomb. What you may not know is that it takes many years to make enough nuclear material to make one bomb using centrifuges. It is a very slow process.
You can make a nuclear bomb with Uranium but you can also make a nuclear bomb with plutonium.
What you may not know is there are four steps to Iran becoming a major producer of weapons grade plutonium.
Step 1. Uranium oxide fuel
Step 2. A facility to manufacture heavy water
Step 3. A heavy water reactor power plant to generate electricity
Step 4. A hot cell
Iran has step 1. The good thing about a heavy water reactor power plant is that it can use an easily produced uranium oxide fuel. The bad thing for the world is that Iran is now producing uranium oxide fuel at its Esfahan conversion and fuel fabrication facilities.
Iran has step 2. Iran already has an operating heavy water production plant near the city of Arak
Iran will have step 3. Iran’s heavy water reactor will be operational in 2014.
What about step 4? A hot cell is used to chemically extract plutonium from the spent material from the heavy water reactor. Don’t let the last step fool you. This type of facility is called a hot cell because it is a box containing hot radioactive material. It consists of a glove box that will shield the worker from radiation while they chemically extract the plutonium from the spent material. A hot cell is about the size of a refrigerator and is just a shielded box. Pretty simple.
When Iran has all 4 steps operational, they will be able to produce 4 nuclear bombs a year with little effort.
The surprise is that Iran has been working on a heavy water reactor and all the side dishes since 1980. Have our leader’s been asleep all these years?
A nuclear bomb casing without the nuclear material is just an unregulated conventional bomb. It could be purchased off the shelf at a Korean Wal-Mart.
Iran already has the most successful delivery system for a bomb which rivals our best cruise missiles. It consists of a backpack and a mind to deliver it.
In a few years the USA will have to take Iran’s huge inventory of nuclear bombs like a martini. There are only 2 ways. Shaken or stirred but surely down the hatch.
About the Author:
Craig Campbell has a Masters degree in chemical engineering from University of South Carolina as well as an undergraduate degree from Clemson University in SC also in chemical engineering. Campbell is also a licensed engineer. His career has been in hazardous and toxic waste. Craig has worked for SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the US Corps of Engineers. Campbell was born in 1954 so he has watched the environmental industry grow from its infancy.
- Shorter White House: We’re so close to a deal with Iran, we can taste it (hotair.com)
- MP rules out Arak heavy water reactor closure (theiranproject.com)
- A Nuclear Expert Explains, in Very Basic Language, the Science at the Heart of Iranian Nuclear Talks (carnegieendowment.org)