Persian Gulf Junk

On the eve of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Undersecretary of State John Bolton met with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. According to Ha’aretz, Bolton told the Israelis he had "no doubt" that "America will attack Iraq," soon, to disarm Saddam Hussein.

The Israelis reportedly told Bolton they were much more worried about Iran having nukes than Iraq.

Bolton told them that Iraq had to come first; "it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran, and North Korea, afterwards."

Well, Bolton was right about one thing. America did attack Iraq a few months later.

But Bolton and the neo-crazies were wrong about everything else.

The disastrous application of the Bush Doctrine to Iraq doesn’t seem to have chastened Bolton at all.

According to Bolton, "The United States strongly believes that Iran has a clandestine program to produce nuclear weapons." And when asked if the U.S. might use force to destroy the Iranian program, Bolton reportedly replied, "No options are off the table."

The neo-crazies had been alleging since 1995 that Iranian nukes would be plutonium-239 based. But they changed their tune about two years ago.

Under an Additional Protocol to their Safeguards Agreement – to which the Iranians agreed to adhere – the Iranians were required to disclose all sorts of things they had not been required to disclose before.

In particular, the Iranians had already constructed hundreds of gas centrifuges, as well as a pilot plant to check out their operation in cascades, and a partially underground plant for full-scale uranium-enrichment activities. Before, the Iranians did not have to disclose any of that to the IAEA until shortly before actually introducing Safeguarded materials into them. However, under the Additional Protocol, Iran had to inform the IAEA as soon as the decision was made to eventually introduce Safeguarded materials into them.

Suddenly, the neo-crazies were alleging that the Iranian gas-centrifuge program – not the reactor at Bushehr – was the basis of the Iranian clandestine program to produce nukes.

Well, first of all "clandestine" does not mean illicit or illegal or prohibited. Under their old Safeguards agreement, if the Iranians wanted to spend a zillion dollars clandestinely producing thousands of gas centrifuges, that’s none of Bolton’s beeswax.

Or if they clandestinely bought thousands of parts for gas centrifuges from Persian Gulf or Southeast Asian junk dealers, that’s none of Bolton’s beeswax, either.

In any case, under intense pressure from the United States, the European Union got the Iranians to suspend – temporarily – their entire gas-centrifuge program.

Not satisfied, Bolton and the neo-crazies have demanded that Iran suspend it, forever. Or else.

The Iranians will probably have a good laugh and eventually accede to the neo-crazies’ demand. You see, one of the things the EU has promised Iran is access to enriched-uranium reactor fuel at market prices.

The Iranians have insisted all along that the goal of their gas-centrifuge program was to ensure themselves a supply of enriched-uranium fuel for the two reactors Russia is building at Bushehr, as well as half-a-dozen more whose construction is currently being negotiated with China and/or Russia.

Although there are a few World War II-era gaseous-diffusion uranium-enrichment plants still in operation, most enriched uranium today is produced by gas centrifuge. And most of that by plants at Russian institutes or those in Europe operated by Urenco.

The IAEA brought in an expert from Urenco to take a look at the centrifuges the Iranians were producing. He reportedly told them they were practically identical to the Urenco first-generation gas centrifuges.

The aluminum-tube-rotor type the Pakistani metallurgist A.Q. Khan stole from Urenco circa 1975? The type – renamed the Pak-1 by Khan – of which Pakistan had to make a hundred rotors in order to get one that passed the spin test? The type Pakistan replaced with the second-generation Pak-2 centrifuge, which used a maraging-steel rotor?

The first-generation Pak-1 centrifuge that Pakistan offered for sale to Iraq, Iran, Libya, and perhaps North Korea?

Yep, that’s the one. The hundreds of gas centrifuges the Iranians have been building are the Pak-1 types they either built themselves or bought from some Persian Gulf junk dealer.

The IAEA did find engineering drawings for the Pak-2 maraging-steel-rotor gas centrifuges and some components. But the Iranian private sector entity that had been given the job of constructing a few for evaluation purposes essentially gave up on it years ago.

So now, thanks to the neo-crazies, Iran will be assured a supply of reactor fuel at market prices, probably produced by Urenco.

It’ll certainly be a lot cheaper. You see, Urenco now employs sixth-generation gas centrifuges.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.