Let’s Go Nuclear!

Our friends in Iran have continued with their eternal quest for more nuclear technology by installing some 6000 new centrifuges to their previous level. These will combine with the 3000 original centrifuges Iran previously operated, bringing their current level comparable to many other nuclear-equiped nations. Interestingly, many if not most of the new centrifuges Iran is installing are a new, highly productive model that nearly doubles the output of more popular versions.

Ok, so how is this important? Well centrifuges are kind of the key to modern nuclear technology. In order to produce anything from a toasty neighborhood reactor to a nasty warhead, you need to purify raw uranium. This is done using extremely intricate centrifuges. The operation is so precise that poorer nuclear-seeking nations like Iran have historically purchased uranium that was previously enriched by someone else. Because the enrichement process is delicate (and the fact that uranium must be used carefully and soon after), it has always been relatively easy to monitor the transaction of enriched uranium from one body to another.

But those days are soon over. Nuclear technology is experienceing a bit of a surge in demand internationally. Suppliers have increased production, and Iran can apparently afford some fairly progressive equipment. In case you didn’t see this coming, Iran has been labeled by the US as a “loose cannon”, and the installation of new enrichment equipment has a few people at the pentagon worried. So are these new centrifuges a sign that Iran is looking to churn out their own brand of nuclear weapons?

No, at least, not these centrifuges. The 6000 new centrifuges are increadibly productive, but will almost certainly be monitored by the international energy community. Most people who argue Iran is/will produce nuclear weapons don’t realize that Iran would never produce the same type of weapon a nation like the US would. When the US, Britain and China produce nuclear weapons, we churn out highly tactical devices that are rugged and built to last. Iran can’t afford an expensive nuclear-delivery system. If these people were to use nuclear weapons, they would be small and dirty. When the Iranians destroyed their nuclear weapons program a while ago, they actually destroyed uranium samples that were more than good enough for a likely weapons program.

Nuclear energy requires more sophistication than any level of weaponry, which would explain the need for more productive centrifuges. Even nuclear energy is not productive enough to monopolize the energy markets from cheaper alternatives like coal. In my opinion, these centrifuges the Iranians are installing are to reduce the long-term costs of nuclear energy, not build nukes.

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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