Botching the Bomb | Foreign Affairs

If you’re the sort of person beset by bad management and/or who regularly is undermined by corporate leadership, do yourself a favour and register for Foreign Affairs, have a read about how bad management is hampering the proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide, and feel happier about it all…

Botching the Bomb
Why Nuclear Weapons Programs Often Fail on Their Own — and Why Iran’s Might, Too

The chronic problem of nuclear proliferation is once again dominating the news. A fierce debate has developed over how to respond to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear activities, which most experts believe are aimed at producing a nuclear weapon or at least the capacity to assemble one. In this debate, one side is pushing for a near-term military attack to damage or destroy Iran’s nuclear program, and the other side is hoping that strict sanctions against the Islamic Republic will soften it up for a diplomatic solution. Both sides, however, share the underlying assumption that unless outside powers intervene in a dramatic fashion, it is inevitable that Iran will achieve its supposed nuclear goals very soon.

Yet there is another possibility. The Iranians had to work for 25 years just to start accumulating uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is not even weapons grade. The slow pace of Iranian nuclear progress to date strongly suggests that Iran could still need a very long time to actually build a bomb — or could even ultimately fail to do so. Indeed, global trends in proliferation suggest that either of those outcomes might be more likely than Iranian success in the near future. Despite regular warnings that proliferation is spinning out of control, the fact is that since the 1970s, there has been a persistent slowdown in the pace of technical progress on nuclear weapons projects and an equally dramatic decline in their ultimate success rate.

Botching the Bomb | Foreign Affairs.

One Reply to “Botching the Bomb | Foreign Affairs”

  1. Hmm. The thing about enrichment is that it’s an iterable process; once you have the process going, you can keep at it until you have the quality of material you desire. Granted, there’s the matter of efficiency, wastage and time; continuous diffusion is much more efficient than the batched centrifuges Iran is using, for example, especially when the small mass difference between U235 and U238, and the small percentage of U235 in natural Uranium, is considered.

    There’s a whole bunch of other issues to address, though, even once you have enough U235 to make a critical mass – I’m still pretty convinced that the North Koreans haven’t actually cracked these problems yet. Principal among these, is constructing a portable mechanism which will put the critical mass together, and keep it all together in one place for long enough for it to go critical, and working the U235 to make everything fit. I’d expect the Iranians to look to get hold of an AQ Khan design, by some means, but they may have other ideas…

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