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May 05, 2007

Iranian Nuclear Reactor Advertisement

Something of a flurry over the pond about the Iranians running an advertisement looking for bidders to come and build two nuclear reactors. Claudia Rosett picks it up for the newspapers, Eye on the World has the ad itself, Protein Wisdom as well, more and more.

Everyone seems to think that this will aid Iran in production of a nuclear bomb and that therefore this is an extremely bad idea. However, it doesn't actually help them get a bomb very much and they have a perfect legal right to own and operate such reactors.

Here's the thing. Operating a nuclear reactor doesn't get you very far in trying to build a bomb. It's neither necessary nor sufficient in fact.

Depending upon which path to a bomb taken, there are however two things which are neccessary.

If you want to build a uranium bomb (the easier of the two) running a reactor is in fact entirely a distraction. You want highly enriched uranium (80% or so) and you don't get that out of a reactor. Rather, you get that from an enrichment plant, which the Iranians have already said they are building themselves. (You feed the reactors they are looking for on 3%, or low enriched as well.)

If you're looking for a plutonium bomb then yes indeed, you do want a reactor. However, a light water reactor, pressurised, as they are asking for, is not the type which you would optimally use to create the plutonium. In fact, one of the various offers to North Korea is that they'll be given one of these reactors as long as they close down the one they have, which is optimal for producing plutonium. Further, you can't simply take out the fuel rods and then get the plutonium. For that you need a reprocessing plant....something which they've not tried to build and which no one, not even the Russians, will sell them (it's been mooted and then rejected).

The odd thing then is that by advertising that they want to buy these reactors Iran is actually suggesting that they really do want to have nuclear reactors, not bombs.

Or maybe it's all show....a pretty cheap thing really, buying an advertisement.

May 5, 2007 in Nuclear | Permalink


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Iran's oil production is down 40% over the last couple of decades & about 40% of it is used internally thus the argument that they actually need nuclear power (which the NPT treaty says they are entitled to) is good. Doesn't mean they don't also want the Bomb but doesn't mean they do & suggests it isn't their major reason.

Come to that if they cut oil exports the west has a problem.

Posted by: Neil Craig | May 5, 2007 3:24:30 PM

Likelihood of Iranian armament from nuclear power based on available data - nil.

Likelihood of the American empire's fall cominmg from a shock in the Far East - much higher.

But trade is good. Never mind all those millons of Chinese soldiers, those Chinese nukes, all that American paper in Chinese hands and that little piece of disputed territory called Taiwan...the Chinese just want to develop! And trade!

Ahem...yes...if you say so...if we all keep syaing it, one day it might be true...

Posted by: Martin | May 5, 2007 3:59:27 PM

Oil production might be down, but that's a result of incompetence and poor investment. Seems like building a nuclear reactor to solve their oil problems is yet more evidence of the same.

Posted by: william mcilhagga | May 5, 2007 8:50:55 PM

Come to that if they cut oil exports the west has a problem.

If Iran cuts oil exports, Iran will have a far greater problem than the west.

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 6, 2007 1:14:55 AM