ifmat - Let them enrich to 90 and call Iran bluff

Enriching to 90% is proof for the intention of building a bomb, but not for the capability to do so. Should Iran carry out her threat, she will provide the needed evidence to even enhance the sanctions and include oil export. This even will provide the justification to take military steps.


Summary

Up until now Iran declined any accusations of developing a nuclear weapon, although there is hard evidence that they did just that at least until 2003/4 and preserved all know-how, either under guise of academic studies or in the now stolen archives. There is plausible justification for enrichment to 20% and even to 60%, but enriching to 90% is definitely for weaponization.

On the other hand, enriched Uranium coming from Natanz or Fordo has a long way to go to become a bomb, let alone one that can be mounted on a missile. A weaponization group needs resources, facilities, time and expertise based on experience. The so called ”break-out time”, meaning the time Iran might need from reaching 90% until producing a bomb, is estimated by authorities which have this experience and means. Iran doesn’t have all of those. Let them prove their intentions and pay the price, there will be enough time for that.


What is it all about?

Iran is underdeveloped, has an ever-growing population, a disastrous attitude towards the environment, minorities and human rights, bad infrastructure and very high unemployment rate. Iran is a Shiite Moslem republic surrounded by Sunni countries, thus always troubled by survival issues, on a national and on an ideological level. On the other hand, Iran has vast energy resources in oil and gas. Almost all industrial countries would like Iran to be a full-scale supplier. Iran believes she needs leverage to allow her survival, meaning a means to withstand Sunni powers, a capability to invade neighboring countries for resources/ transport accessibility and security for the cleric supremacy. That is the reason for Iran striving to achieve recognition as a nuclear power, preferably as a nuclear threshold state.


What does that mean for negotiations?

The goal of Iran is to achieve recognition as a nuclear threshold state whereas the West wants to ensure that Iran will not become a nuclear threat and thus will stop being a legitimate business partner. On the other hand, a nuclear Iran will definitely dictate her terms of business. Furthermore, a nuclear Iran will not be interfered with when invading neighboring countries. If there is one relevant parallel to draw from the Ukraine invasion by Russia, this is it.


Why is enriching to 90% so important?

The most basic nuclear bomb is a device which implodes, meaning explodes inwards and by such pressuring highly radioactive material into a critical stage, when the radioactive material starts a chain reaction explosion of its own. Such a material is called fissile material. Uranium235 becomes highly fissile when enriched to 90% or more.


Does that make a bomb?

Not by far. After you have enough fissile material, you need the whole weaponization apparatus. This includes vast infrastructure and facilities that work combined and in synergy. A dispersed, clandestine project will take much more time and effort

– First you need to turn high enriched UF6 gas into metal,

– then produce two stable hemispheres, plan and produce the implosion device, the timely and efficient initiation, and most importantly, arming, fusing and safety.

A modern country with all acquisition possibilities might build up such a weaponization group within several month, and with a proven and working design, a bomb within 12-18 months. That is not the case with Iran.


What is the status of Iran’s weaponization project?

Iran ran a significant nuclear weapons program up until about 20 years ago. At that time the project included explosion test sites, research on neutron generators, acquisition of several designs and development of one suitable for Iran, as well as casting and machining of surrogate materials as training. After stopping in 2003, Iran continued relevant research at least until 2015. All in all, should Iran decide to return to a weaponization project, she would not start from Zero. None-the-less, most facilities from that era are known and one should doubt their relevancy after twenty years. One main issue remains: at the time Iran had foreign help and almost no-one suspected what they were after. If Iran enriches to 90%, everybody will know.


Why not keep the pressure on enrichment?

Although this is the most profound and relevant nuclear activity Iran focuses on in recent years, it is not the most relevant or the most complex, not by far. IAEA has provided access and monitoring capabilities and by such lured the West in believing that a grasp on enrichment will provide control over nuclear weapons ambitions of Iran. They have been proven wrong.

Should Iran choose to go for a nuclear weapon or not, she will not do that because of what the West does, but because of what the supreme leader always wanted. Should she choose wrongly, she will supply the needed justification for “taking every step necessary” to stop Iran, including sanctions on oil exports and military measures.