The Japan Option
Juan Cole argues that Iran isn't pursing a nuclear bomb, just nuclear latency:
Those who insist that Iran is trying to get a bomb have a difficult time explaining why Khamenei forbids it as un-Islamic and why the president and others all deny it. It is possible that they are lying, but their denials at least have to be noted and analyzed. The skeptics also have to explain away why the 16 US intelligence agencies say after exhaustive espionage and investigation that there is no weapons program now and that there hasn't been one for some time.
Before the Iraq fiasco, I would have dismissed this as naive hooey. I still suspect it is. But anyone not open to debate on the basic thesis has not learned from history. His hypothesis:
Those who agree with the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, as well as with the International Atomic Energy Agency, that there is no evidence for Iran having a nuclear weapons program have to explain Iran's insistence on closing the fuel cycle and being able to enrich uranium itself.
The answer I propose, which explains all the anomalies elegantly and concisely, is that Iran is seeking nuclear latency. Latency is the possession of a nuclear energy program and of reactors, which would allow the production of an atomic bomb on short notice if an extreme danger to national autonomy reared its ugly head. Nuclear latency is sometimes called the 'Japan option,' because given its sophisticated scientific establishment and enormous economy, Japan could clearly produce a nuclear weapon on short notice if its government decided to mount a crash program.
This is surely the smartest move Tehran can make. It doesn't cross the trip-wire of international sanctions; it bolsters national pride; yet it does act as an implicit guarantee if it is attacked. And it could then be used, if inspections are allowed, to highlight Israel's nuclear monopoly in the region, and engender wider support for Israel to live up to the NPT. Quite shrewd actually. But we need a through inspection regime and full engagement with the coup leaders to find out.SOURCE:xxxxxxxxxxx
From one of our sources inside the beltway.
Their uranium is highly contaminated with molybdenum hexafluoride (MoF6). All the yelowcake they bought....was contaminated and no one else wanted it for the price.
We stopped the Chinese from finishing the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), near Esfahan, that would have eventually filtered out the MoF6. The UCF was originally based on mixer-settlers for solvent extraction, not pulse columns. When the Chinese pulled out, the Iranians were left with pulse columns which are considered very crude and slow by Western standards and pulse columns take considerable expertise to run and keep running, which Iran does not have.
MoF6 has nearly the same weight and size as uranium hexafluoride UF6 (weapons grade uranium). As their centrifuges spin at 80k+ rpm, the MoF6 gets into the cascade tubing and plugs it up. That imbalances the centrifuge and it tears itself apart before the lab techs can slow down the centrifuge.
Centrifuges are so touchy that the oil residue from a wiped-off fingerprint will tear them apart.
It does not matter that they have the 50,000 centifuges they are building, or that they know how to build a bomb. They have only gone from 3.5% purity to maybe 4.4% in a year, and they are stuck at that. They have to get to 90% for a bomb small enough for a rocket.( But at 20% or so they can get an atomic bomb, crude and big, but it would work in unconventional delivery system G.)
There is also a political problem in Iran = hardliners (Ahmadinejad) vs. moderates (Rafsanjani). If Iran keeps the uranium, they will, verrrrry slowly, get weapons-grade uranium. The Mullahs know that the hardliners, led by the Revolutionary Guards, will contol the nukes and take over and radicalize the government and the entire Middle East. That whole Hidden Imam, Armageddon thing.
The Mullahs are barely in control now and they know that actual nukes will cause an internal revolution in Iran.
What about the talk of producing a plutonium based bomb instead?
Bushehr could produce 30 plutonium nukes a year.... That is, if you change the fuel rods every four months before the Plutonium 240 (weapons-grade) can break down. Russia will not sell them new rods until the old ones are at least three years old, ruining them for weapons use.