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December 14, 2009

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"The French were racked my mutinies" ?
Spell check is an imperfect device.

@chamblee54--caught it right after it went up; thanks!

Hmm...maybe that should be my new catch phrase "well, just rack my mutiny"

Welcome! Interesting post. I read The Zimmerman Telegram many year ago. I enjoy reading history because it is relaxing to be in the safety of a story tht already has an ending and doesn't effect me. I find current events very stressful. Some day this will all be history that someone else reads but rightnow I can barely stand to keep myself minimally informed.

As far as how the story ends: I have a client who seriously believes tht Obama is the Antichrist! He even thinks that fact the he generally likes Obama as an indication of the seductiveness of evil. I'm sure he would consider the "secret" of a trigger as Another Sign.

Many warm welcomes, and a fine start. :)

Do you have a link to the article in the Times UK? This is another part of blogging that would make your product more enjoyable.
When you link to a source, you show where you get your information. You also give the reader a chance to read this original source for themselves.
If you blogging software does not make this easy for you, you can use this bit of code.
zzzz Put the url of the source in the xxxx, and put the "target words" in the zzzz.
As for the post itself, I suspect that Israel is blowing up this Iran Nuclear business. The purpose of this would be to distract attention away from the shameful treatment of the Palestineans by Israel.

Interstingly the US government at first believed that the Zimmermann telegram was a British fake with the purpose to lure the unwilling Americans into the war with false info (there was a false belief that Zimmermann was a 'friend' of the US). The debate only ended when the German government admitted that the telegram was genuine (although it would have been easily possible to simply deny it).

Link added. Thanks!

OMG, not this stupid story again. It has been around for two years and was a part of the IAEA report from a couple years back. This thing has a long history going back decades.

First off it is for a Plutonium "fat Man" type weapon. Secondly it goes back to the US Operation Merlin, where the CIA gave the Iranians the plans for the neutron initiator, but the geometry was flawed just enough to set the program back years.

Lastly, it is from the Times, a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch and highly suspect at best.

I've never built an atomic bomb, but describing the neutron source as a "key final component" is over the top. An implosion bomb has many components -- fissile material, neutron reflector, specially-crafted conventional explosives, conventional detonators, and a neutron source -- all of which are essential.

Even if the documents are legit (unlike aluminum tubes, yellowcake, 45 minutes, mobile biolabs, etc...) that component doesn't do anything by itself.

Welcome to OW, Mr. Mackey! I have a layman's interest in intelligence and military history, so I'm pleased to see you here.

Regardless of this particular article, it is abundantly clear that Iran is working hard on building a nuclear arsenal. The hidden and open nuclear work and the numerous ballistic missiles all attest to this.

At least they have given up the nonsense that it's all for generating electricity.

That they're doing anything at all with nuclear initiators means nuclear weapons.

At this point in history, making a nuke is physics child-play. If you have the fissionable material, you can make the bombs. The technology is more then 60 years old now. From scratch, within six years, we formed the Manhattan Project, demonstrated the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, invented the processes and prototypes for the weapon, including the implosion 'trigger', and detonated a device in Alamogordo, New Mexico. And it went boom, without a hitch. This was all done without computers, transistors, or a world-wide network of Islamic physicists ready willing and able to share data, blueprints, and prototypes. Therefore, the only part of the Times article I'm skeptical about is the implication that Iran is still testing the component, and doesn't already have it (them) ready to go.

Nice post. Welcome!

Apparently Fred and JJ missed the fact that the report in question remains unconfirmed as well as Robert Mackey's suggestion that some intelligence agency intentionally leaked this document for its own purposes.

Reuters has begun laundering this unconfirmed claim through the press. Soon enough there will be enough stories commenting comments on comments on an unauthenticated document that the truth won't matter anymore. Soon everybody will know (evidence be damned) that we must bomb freedom into Iran.

elm: Apparently Fred and JJ missed the fact that the report in question remains unconfirmed as well as Robert Mackey's suggestion that some intelligence agency intentionally leaked this document for its own purposes.

Also, note source and timing. The Times is a right-wing rag, and the next General Election in the UK must take place within 6 months.

Welcome to Obsidian Wings. Good first post.

Staying with the subject "covert operations that involve your secret service assisting fanatical Muslim rebels may backfire in unexpected and catastrophic ways..."

As far as I remember, the only reason that the British were able to break the Zimmermann Telegram was that they had already captured a copy of the cipher. It was discovered in the abandoned luggage of the fugitive German agent Wilhelm Wassmuss, the "German Lawrence", also known as "Wassmuss of Persia", who was trying to raise a Persian jihad against the British, in what Punch called the Kaiser's "Deutschland uber Allah" policy. Appallingly bad crypto security.

I'm pretty sceptical about this Times document, to be honest.

Welcome, Robert!

At this point in history, making a nuke is physics child-play.

No, not really. I encourage you to read a description of Fat Man, for instance, and then decide for yourself whether a child could construct the neutron initiator properly, or construct a pit of delta-phase plutonium.

slartibartfast: "No, not really. I encourage you to read a description of Fat Man, for instance, and then decide for yourself whether a child could construct the neutron initiator properly"


I'm worried about you: you seem to be stuck in some kind of Rip Van Winkle-ish technological time warp. That Fat Man link describes devices built in the 1940s. By the 1970s even 2nd year college physics majors knew how to build them. In 1973 the American nuclear physicist Theodore B. Taylor wrote an alerting article about it in the New Yorker titled The Curve Of Binding Energy. He explained how easy it would be to fabricate an atomic bomb with nuclear material diverted from private industry and university labs, detailing how much of the science had been declassified and was available in libraries and physics labs world wide, making it relatively easy for even one person with technological expertise and access to the materials to build a dentonateable bomb. If you could get your hands on enough fissionable uranium or plutonium, you could make a home-made bomb as destructive as those at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

That expose was written thirty five years ago. And it's easier to build nukes now, or doesn't the name North Korea ring a bell? Iran's going to have nukes in the next year or two, and that's a reality Obama promised he wouldn't let happen... one more promise of his that's going to go by the wayside.

Iran's going to have nukes in the next year or two

Jay, you've been saying this for many years now.

I'm worried about you: you seem to be stuck in some kind of Rip Van Winkle-ish technological time warp.

[...]

If you could get your hands on enough fissionable uranium or plutonium, you could make a home-made bomb as destructive as those at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

This is frighteningly true. Sure, in 1955 weapons-grade plutonium or uranium was a little hard to come by, but now it's available at every corner drug store.

Where is this "world-wide network of Islamic physicists ready willing and able to share data"? Are you referring to A.Q. Khan and Pakistan's nuclear program? Does this "world-wide network" go beyond Pakistan's elite?

Speaking of Pakistan, they began their nuclear weapons program in 1974 and couldn't have tested a device until 1983 or 1984 at the earliest. That's 9+ years for a national program to develop the bomb. I'd also point out that Pakistan was under no sanctions or nuclear inspections at th time. (Their first complete test occured in 1998, 24 years after beginning the program.)

India's nuclear program began in 1954 and tested a bomb in 1974. It's worth pointing out that India already possessed a Canadian-built reactor capable of producing separable plutonium in 1954.

North Korea began their program in 1989 and tested a bomb in 2006. That's a span of 17 years, even with assistance from Pakistan.

If only one of these countries had had a 2nd year student or a subscription to The New Yorker, I'm sure they could have cut that time dramatically.

I'm worried about you: you seem to be stuck in some kind of Rip Van Winkle-ish technological time warp.

Thanks for your concern, Jay, but unless you've got more than a modicum of training in physics or an applicable engineering discipline, I rather think I'm at least as current, technology-wise, as you are.

That Fat Man link describes devices built in the 1940s.

Sure. And everything's gotten less complicated since then, has it?

By the 1970s even 2nd year college physics majors knew how to build them.

Yes, as a matter of abstract theory. As you can see, though, even in those primitive devices, the engineering was rather more complicated than "an implosion device" might tend to indicate.

Sure: lots of people are now familiar with the notion of criticality achieved through explosive compression. That doesn't immediately translate into the ability to construct and set off a nuclear device, any more than a general knowledge of propulsion gets you effortlessly to the moon.

That expose was written thirty five years ago. And it's easier to build nukes now, or doesn't the name North Korea ring a bell?

Yes, they put together a whopper of a bomb, didn't they?

Jay, I've been a weapons system engineer for 26 years, now. Just the weaponization of the physics package is harder than you make an entire weapon out to be. This isn't the equivalent of stringing a roll of caps on a pin to make a firecracker.

Iran's going to have nukes in the next year or two, and that's a reality Obama promised he wouldn't let happen...

Jay, I'll donate $100 to a charity of your choice if Iran performs a successful nuclear test before midnight GMT on December 31, 2011. (The criterion is that the test is reported as fact by the BBC.) If this doesn't happen, I'd like you to donate $50 to the Red Cross and $50 to the Mines Advisory Group.

Deal?

Although I am aware that building a nuke is a wee bit more complicated than most people think (esp. imploding devices), I would not necessarily see the Indian/Pakistani/NK timespans as a counterargument. I think these countries could have built a working nuclear device in far shorter time but spend most of it in getting it small enough to fit on a missile. Neither country (caveat about NK*) had the need to just prove that they could get an uncontrolled chain reaction started. What they needed was a design that had military use. Also I think these countries wanted to develop a long time efficient capacity for the production of fissile material instead of a system that would need years to produce enough for a single device.
I could built a bomb from collected duds on New Years Eve but that would not give me credibility as a weapon trader.
Btw, if I had (lots of) Plutonium and evil intentions, I would not try to build a bomb but to get it in a water soluble form in order to poison the water supply system of a major city.

*NK could be bluffing. Kim only needs the international impression that he has nuclear capacity, so even a fizzle with no backup would serve a purpose. Iirc it can't even be disproven with 100% certainty that he did not just simply blow up a hundred tons of conventional explosives laced with fissile material.

Hartmut: To be taken seriously as a nuclear power, Iran would also need to construct reliable weapons and develop the capacity to produce a reliable supply of fissile material. As such, the data points on India, Pakistan, and North Korea are relevant to Iran.

A one-off, non-deliverable nuclear bomb may well be simpler to produce, but it wouldn't have much use to a nation. (A terrorist group could use such a device by constructing it in situ at the target or building it in a truck).

It would go against the interests of a nation to detonate a one-off, non-deliverable device, as it would demonstrate that 1) the nation in question definitely intends to build nuclear weapons and 2) the nation in question does not possess a weapon-quality device. No nation wants to look threatening and weak. (I would also point on that the Murdoch Times story conveys exactly these points viz. that a neutron initiator is used only for implosion weapons and that they have not finished testing that part).

Any Iranian nuclear weapons program would have much in common with that of India, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, and Iraq. A program that took dramatic shortcuts wouldn't produce a credible threat, so the Pakistani, Indian, and North Korean timetables are relevant evidence.

I was weighing just in on the seeming contradiction between 'nukes are easy' and 'it took those countries many years to get them'. I totally agree that (except for maybe NK, see above) a one-off nuclear device is of not much political use. The only rational use I could see for such a thing would be a dead man's revenge like hiding it in your capital city and setting it off when the enemy army enters (or even better when the enemy leader holds his victory parade there).

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