|Archimedes' 'Weapon of Mass Destruction', circa 211 BC|
Did the Athenians 'just give away' their trade secrets in making their ship-battering triremes to the Spartans and Persians and forfeit their naval superiority to their mortal enemies 'just for the heck of it'?
These were the sort of thoughts that rumbled through our heads as we were talking with someone who is far more adept at understanding and explaining the intricacies of nuclear energy as it pertains to the Obama Iran Nuclear Deal recently completed.
What kind of sense does it make to give one of the worst sponsors of terrorism around the globe, Iran, with the stated purpose of destroying America, Israel and western civilization as we know it, the pathway and the money to building a nuclear weapon, period?
Perhaps adding salt to the wound is the fact that it was done by the single action of one person in this country, President Barack Obama, through an executive order. He did not do this even as a treaty with US Senate concurrence as called for in the US Constitution.
If you can think of a single instance in human history where any country, superpower or not, has willfully armed its adversary with the most powerful military weapon at the time, we would like to hear about it.
Because we simply can not think of another precedent anywhere close to the Iran Nuclear Deal.
What does an oil-rich nation need nuclear energy for anyway? They have one of the lowest costs of production of oil in the world to power their nation's needs. Iran could perhaps more than most other nations try to harness solar energy in the deserts of Iran.
Why do they 'absolutely have to have nuclear energy' in the first place and 'why now' in the second place?
Here's a very short beginner's primer in the steps in developing the capacity for nuclear energy according to this double Ph.D in the sciences, although he did admit he was not a nuclear engineer or physicist:
- You need about 5Kg (about 11 pounds) of plutonium 239 or 15Kg (33 pounds) of uranium 235 to make a nuclear weapon.
- Problem is, plutonium is virtually non-existent in nature … so you have to create it . The process of creating P-239 is pretty involved.
- We get P-239 as a byproduct of a nuclear reaction (i.e., you need a reactor to do it) involving uranium 238 and a chemical separation process. The process yields impure plutonium that is graded (according to percent contamination by plutonium 240 created in the reactor) roughly as follow: < 3% = super grade, < 7% = weapons grade, < 18% = fuel grade, other = reactor grade.
- The uranium 238 required to make plutonium 239 is mostly what we find in nature, but is not fissile. We need a different type of uranium to fuel the nuclear reactor that will be used the production P-239 from U-238. This other type of uranium is U-235. In nature, U -235 is the only fissile material and it is found mixed in with U-238 in concentration of about 0.7%. In high enough concentration, U-235 can also be made into a weapon. The trick is to get higher concentration of U-235 than is found in its natural mix with U-238. The process of increasing the concentration of U-235 is called enrichment. There are several processes that can be used to enrich uranium (diffusion, laser, and most commonly centrifuge). In high enough concentrations, U-235 can be used to make a bomb (about 90% U-235 would work)
- Enrichment is a technical challenge. (Go read the history of Oakridge,TN and their electromagnetic enrichment process during the Manhattan Project. It required so much electric power that the government had to build the TVA to supply it, and it took nearly every ounce of silver held by US Mints to construct low impedance conductor bars.) It takes MANY centrifuges (very complex technology) a long time to yield highly enriched (weapons grade) uranium in sufficient quantities to be a nuclear threat.
- Commercial nuclear power is, today, a natural pathway into weapons development.
- Commercial reactors need fuel that is moderately enriched … of course it is also obtained from centrifuges. Once in place, centrifuge technologies can in principle be extended to reach weapons grade enrichment, or simply used to fuel a reactor that processes spent commercial fuel (which contains lots of U-238) into plutonium in a breeder program. It is very difficult to monitor production of reactor fuel because of the fuel’s small dimensions and the materials isolation needed to ensure safety.
- It all begins with uranium, and you would think that the source mines (there are very few on the world) could be managed. Problem is, there is a lot of U-238 out there loose in the world because of the viability of 60 years of commercial nuclear energy. A lot of U-238 is in the form of low grade waste from spent nuclear reactor fuels, and unused fuel grade material that is produced the power industry.
It is the fact that we have eliminated the embargoes that have held up to $150 billion out of the leaders of Iran's hands for the past 35 years to fund more terrorism around the world.
Know what Secretary of State Kerry said on January 21?
"I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists," he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented'.
Wow. For a minute there, he had us worried that he didn't think any of the money was going to go to fund terrorism! Talk about a Pollyanna-ish, Panglossian view of the world and human nature that would have been for a US Secretary of State!
Former Secretaries of State Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Clay, Webster, Seward, Hull, Marshall, Acheson, Rusk among others must be rolling in their graves thinking about how the US under President Obama has just given the green light to one of our worst adversaries ever in American history to develop the bomb.
Imagine if we had 'just given' the Bomb to Adolf Hitler had we had it before 1939. 'Sure he is a bad guy...but he is going to get it anyway so let's just give it to him now! (which is why our parents and grandparents, not us, fought in World War II in the first place: to destroy Hitler and the murderous Nazi regime)
We have not even given our former adversaries and now long-term proven solid economic and strategic allies, Germany and Japan, direct capabilities to make their own nuclear weapons after 81 years of peace and stability with them! (Given their history, do you really want a re-militarized Germany or Japan with nuclear bomb capability?)
But today, right now, we are giving the keys to a nuclear bomb to one of our most staunch adversaries and advocates of terrorism, Iran?
That doesn't make any sense at all, does it? At least our parents and grandparents crushed the life out of the completely evil and destructive Nazi and Japanese regimes in 1945 before we helped rebuild both countries into the economic and democratic societies they are today.
Shouldn't we at least make 100% sure that Iran: 1) Will not sponsor any more terrorism; 2) Support the right of Israel to exist and 3) Stop killing Americans around the globe before we give them any pathway to possessing a nuclear bomb?
It is easier to fight and subdue a rogue nation before they gain nuclear capabilities. Not after.
Just ask the professor who gave us the primer above. Or go back in time and see what the Syracusans would say about 'giving' Archimedes' secrets for making war machines to the Roman invaders.
They would say we are crazy to do so.