Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned on Sunday the framework Iranian nuclear agreement being sought by international negotiators, saying it was even worse than his country had feared.
Israel has mounted what it terms an “uphill battle” against an agreement that might ease sanctions on the Iranians while leaving them with a nuclear infrastructure with bomb-making potential. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
“This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem as the United States, five other world powers and Iran worked toward a March 31 deadline in Lausanne, Switzerland.
UPDATE – The details of the framework agreement have been released. It has 5,060 centrifuges and not 6,500. This means 25 bombs and not 32.
In order to enable atomic bombs, the 0.7 percent U235 fraction of natural uranium needs to be enriched to 10 percent or more. This is typically done using centrifuges, and the amount of effort required by such systems to accomplish a given amount of enrichment is measured in Separation Work Units, or SWUs. The table below shows the number of SWUs needed to refine an initial feedstock of 100 metric tons (100,000 kilograms) of 0.7 percent U235 natural uranium into smaller amounts of more enriched materials.
Under Obama’s proposed treaty, Iran will be allowed
6,500 5060 centrifuges to enrich uranium from its natural level of 0.7 percent U235 to a reactor grade of 3 percent to 5 percent, but not to higher grades that would be useful for making bombs. However, we see that close to 80 percent of the total effort required to turn 0.7-percent-enriched natural uranium into 93-percent-enriched, top-quality bomb-grade material is spent on the first step, to 4-percent-enriched reactor grade stuff, which, as noted, the treaty will permit. Only the last 20 percent is forbidden.
Iranian centrifuges now have a capacity of 5 SWU per year each. The regime is working on upgrading this to 24 SWU each, a figure that would match American centrifuge performance. Even if we assume that they will remain unable to reach that goal, the 5,060 centrifuges permitted by the treaty will still give Iran a capacity of 25,000 SWU per year. Examining the table above, we see that while producing 17 bombs from 0.7-percent-enriched natural uranium would require a total of about 75,000 SWU, if the first step of enrichment to 4 percent has already been accomplished, then only 17,000 SWU would be required. Thus, after allowing creation of a large stockpile of 4 percent U235, the 25,000-SWU-per-year enrichment capability that the Obama treaty will grant Iran would allow it to transform that stockpile into first-class nuclear bombs at a rate of 25 per year.
The current cost of natural uranium is about $100 per kilogram, while the cost of one SWU is about $140. Therefore, if all Iran wanted was 4-percent-enriched reactor fuel, it could buy the 100,000 kilograms of natural uranium for $10 million, and have France or Russia enrich it for them at a cost of another $8 million, for a total price that is insignificant compared with the cost that current international sanctions are imposing on the country.
SOURCES – National Review, Youtube, Reuters
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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