Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Iran - why the nuclear programme ?

  1. Jan 17, 2006 #1
    Hi All,

    I'm not much for world politics, but I was wondering if someone could tell me in blunt terms why Iran would start a nuclear program when they clearly know it's going to cause these kinds of problems. Is there some alternate reason other than weapons that I don't know about, or are they simply trying to build up an arsenal so that people think twice before attacking them?

    Thanks
    Warrick
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 17, 2006 #2

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To directly answer your question, Iran does it because no one really knows what the UN or US or EU will do if Iran makes nuclear weapons. If they are able to stall long enough and actually build the weapons, then you have a huuuuuuuuuuge bargaining chip in world affairs. It's like, why have a big economy when oops, you have a nuclear weapon. Give me what I want or Israel goes up in a puff of smoke, etc etc.
     
  4. Jan 17, 2006 #3
    you mean aside from energy? this is their official policy, not weapons.
     
  5. Jan 17, 2006 #4
    A naive first image analysis suggests Iran seeks to increase its power vis a vis its neighbors and particularly balance against Israel. This tracks well with what official statements I've read. At the third image, if there is any misperception on Tehran's part of Europe and US' ultimate intentions regarding a continued Iranian nuclear program, they likely stem from the discontinuity between US Near East policy the European public's view of the state and prefered course in the region. Those last considerations don't appear to affect Tehran's final calculus insofar as Iran's nuclear destiny goes, but it should have some impact on the timing. Telegraphing direct defiance of IAEA by breaking the seals likely follows Tehran's judgement that Europe will not hasten to act and that the US cannot afford to at this time.

    I wouldn't try to guess what Iran's intentions are beyond acquiring nuclear weapons, just that they likely perceive their value particularly in light of the events of past four years.
     
  6. Jan 17, 2006 #5

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Iran could have a nuclear program without the enrichment facilities. Russia has offered VVER (Russian PWR) technology with a fuel supply, which is what Russia did in Eastern Europe before the Iron Curtain came down. All Iran has to do is buy the reactor and the fuel.

    Just because Iran has enrichment, doesn't mean they are making weapons, but they would probably want to do so - no surprise there.

    VVER/PWR fuel is enriched up to a max of about 5% U-235. That is way too low for weapons. Even 20% would be too low. 90% U-235 would be a concern. Also, it would have to be metal, rather than oxide form.

    The bigger concern is that Iran would start irradiated U-238 targets from which they could extract Pu-239, which requires a reprocessing facility, and that is a whole different matter.
     
  7. Jan 18, 2006 #6

    SOS2008

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    This thread probably should be combined with the Attack Iran thread. In any event...

    Though Iran is the fourth largest producer of crude oil, they are now off-peak. Iran's economy relies heavily on oil export revenues (around 80% of total export earnings, 40%-50% of the government budget, and 10%-20% of GDP). Nuclear energy to produce electricity for domestic use would allow for more export of oil/gas, and at the same time begin diversification of energy sources for the time when oil reserves dwindle.

    With the aggressive behavior seen from the Bush administration, as exemplified by the unprovoked invasion of their neighbor Iraq, no doubt Iran is interested in deterrence capability. With that said, the U.S. must now consider this:

    <http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/ne...Z_01_L18188832_RTRUKOC_0_UK-NUCLEAR-IRAN.xml>

    [Bold added] http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?050124fa_fact

    So the “rumors of war” continue to circulate, the most recent being that the US is working to gain commitments from our allies for another “coalition of the willing” in an attack against Iran.

    Here are the options:

    1) Maybe a grand bargain can be struck - an offer that combines economic aid from Europe, and diplomatic recognition and relaxation of currents sanctions by the US.

    2) Accept that there is an Islamic theocracy that possesses nuclear weapons.

    3) Initiate another war of attrition, driving U.S. deficit and foreign debt even higher, further increasing alienation with much of the world, and causing suffering to the Iranian people.

    When countries like Pakistan have nuclear weapons, somehow #2 doesn’t look as bad as #3 to me. But #1 would certainly be the best.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2006
  8. Jan 18, 2006 #7

    EnumaElish

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Under a U.N. convention (may be the same as non-proliferation treaty, but I am not sure); Iran has a right to build nuclear facilities and fuel to provide for their energy needs, just like any other nation.

    As far as I understand, there are two problems. The first is general and applies to any nation: there isn't a clear demarcation line between a peaceful vs. a military technology, as Astronuc implied in his post above. (Is my statement accurate, technically?)

    The second problem is specific to Iran and the region. Not a lot of other nations or governments completely trust Iran that it will not build weapons, and either use them or threaten to use them to further its strategic goals in the region and in the world.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2006
  9. Jan 18, 2006 #8

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    There is a clear line, which has to do with enrichment - the portion of U or Pu which is fissile, and the physical form (metal, particularly metal sphere) vs some other form suitable for power reactors.

    Uranium is naturally about 0.71% U-235 (fissile), 99.2% U-238 (not fissile, but fertile), and traces of U-234, U-236.

    To make a U-based nuclear weapon, one needs high enrichment > 70%, and the higher the better - e.g. > 90%. The greater the enrichment, the lower the critical mass. And the mass is U-metal.

    The form for nuclear reactor (LWR) fuel is usually UO2 in the form of cylindrical pellets (~8.2-10 mm OD) inside a metal tubes (usually an alloy of Zr) hermetically sealed at both ends, and situated in a rectilinear or triangular (hexagonal) lattice sorrounded by cooling water, which also acts as a moderator. The U can be natural as in a CANDU system or enriched up to a maximum licensed limit of 5% form the vast majority of LWRs in the world, and in some special cases in the range of 5-20% for special reactor systems.

    Similarly, WG Pu is something like 90+% (Pu-239, Pu 240) in metal form, as opposed to RG Pu which would have enrichments on the order of 5-6% or less, and would be in an oxide form, usually PuO2 dispersed in UO2 matrix (mixed oxide, MOX).
     
  10. Jan 19, 2006 #9

    EnumaElish

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Thanks, Astronuc. I now understand that there are "peaceful" vs. "militaristic" enrichment grades. The practical question is, is there a technology that can be used to enrich nuclear fuel to, say, a max of 20% (but not above)? Or have some other strict constraint (e.g. shape of the solid that comes out of the process) that would preclude making a nuclear weapon?

    Also, do you think whether someone could use low-grade nuclear fuel to manufacture a "dirty" conventional weapon?
     
  11. Jan 19, 2006 #10

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I agree. The idea of any of the three, N. Korea, Pakistan, or Iran, having nuclear weapons isn't very comforting, but both N. Korea and Pakistan are more of a threat than Iran.

    When it comes down to it, any country capable of making a nuclear weapon has a right to do so. It's also unrealistic to think you can prevent knowledge and technology from spreading. You can only slow it down enough that your own technology is always ahead of other peoples, not stop it - hopefully slow the spread down enough that the US actually gets some kind of working missile defense before any of our enemies get both nuclear weapons and a way to get them here.
     
  12. Jan 20, 2006 #11
    Why is Pakistan a threat? They are just as much a threat to world peace as the US is, and judging by recent war mongering by the neocons, they are more peaceful.
     
  13. Jan 20, 2006 #12

    Lisa!

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I have a fair question: why do you think all countries that get nukes and are no fan of US are a threat to world?(better to say a threat to US)
    Don't you think that why these countries are a threat to US? what's wrong with US that these countries might want to attack it?
    Anyway I think you should think of solving the problem between the countries not thinking of how US can stop a war against itself by getting more and more developed weapons!:rolleyes:
    Somehow I think it's US threat to its enemies which lead them to think of getting nukes. And Us thinks they could be kind of threat to them since US is a threat to them.
     
  14. Jan 20, 2006 #13

    SOS2008

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Exactly. What is the criteria -- where is a line supposed to be drawn and why? I think BobG is saying that furthermore, once the technology is out, what can we realistically expect?
    Once again, exactly. If the U.S. does not want other countries to arm themselves, than the U.S. should stop threatening them in the first place. If the U.S. is concerned with terrorism, the U.S. should stop it's bias toward Israel and stop meddling in other countries in self-serving ways.
     
  15. Jan 20, 2006 #14

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Saying they are a threat to US interests is more accurate (generally) than saying they are a threat to the world as a whole. They are sometimes a threat to their neighbors regardless of US interests.

    Pakistan's and India's threat to each other is very real since they have frequent conflicts with each other over border areas. Since Pakistan's government is less secure and since people we regard as extremists are the biggest internal threat to the Pakistani government, Pakistan is the bigger threat. With both having nuclear weapons, a nuclear war would still be an unlikely turn of events.

    N Korea is more of a threat to S Korea and Japan than the US. That threat is tempered quite a bit by the fact that it would be very beneficial for N Korea to interact economically with their neighbors - at least if they could find a way to isolate economic interaction from social and cultural interaction. I think being paid to make nuclear concessions is one way they've found to do that. I think possession of nuclear weapons would make them only slightly more likely to invade S Korea and the possibility would still be slim (theoretically, if N Korea is able to nuke Japan, the world might sacrifice S Korea to avoid losing both).

    Iran is a threat based on their hostility to the US and the possibility of their interfering in Iraq (that's bad from the US point of view - from a global point of view, it would be hard to say one way or the other). A nuclear capability would make it harder for the US to prevent Iran from interfering. Iran has close cultural ties with Iraqi Shiites. Iran is not very fond of Iraqi Sunnis, since it was the Sunni Baath Party (Hussein's party) that ruled during the Iran-Iraq war. Their potential interference is a real possibility.
     
  16. Jan 20, 2006 #15

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    In answer to the first part, the enrichment process works by successive stages to separate U-235 from U-238 with the U in the form of UF6, uranium hexafluoride. UF6 is formed chemically from processed U-oxide ( U3O8 ) and is a gas at 56.5°C. In modern processes, the UF6 gas is feed into successive stages of centrifuges which separate by centrifugal force the gas molecules containing heavier U-238 from those with lighter U-235. The output of one centrifuge stage (one enrichment, richer in U-235) is the input to the next. The resulting enrichment depends on the number of stages and incremental enrichment of each stage.

    The key issue with regard to the Iranian program is "what enrichment do they plan to acheive?"

    The UF6 gas, once enriched, may be converted chemically to a green ceramic form of UO2, which with additives is then mechanically pressed and then sintered into cylindrical pellets for use in nuclear reactor fuel. Alternatively, the UF6 may be concerted to metal, e.g. by hydrogen reduction. The metal can be formed into any geometry, always of a pre-determined subcritical mass.

    Of more concern would be a reprocessing program in which Pu-239 and Pu-240 would be extracted from U-targets or spent fuel, and the resulting Pu would be formed into nuclear weapons. All modern nuclear warheads us Pu spheres (pits), which are also the triggers of thermonuclear weapons.

    So-called "dirty bombs" use radio-nuclides, which are a by-product of the fission process, i.e. fission products, such as Cs-137, Sr-90, etc. The objective there is to disperse radioactive material into the environment. Nuclear reactors provide a most practical means of producing radionulides, otherwise radionuclides must be produced by neutron activation of some inert/stable nuclide.
     
  17. Jan 20, 2006 #16

    Lisa!

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    First of all, thank you for answering my question in properly!:smile:
    You know I agree that these countries might be a threat to some of their neighbors, but I think US interference could even make the situation worse. Us Should let them solve their problems by their own or by the help of UN.( I still don't know why US politicians thinks that they have the right to interfere in everything which's going on in the world!)
    Right now US isn't going (and probably can't do anything) to do anything about Pakistan and India since they have nukes. and I'm sure 2 countries with nukes aren't crazy enough to start a war against each other and they have to put up with each other anyway.
    As for N. Korea, I'm hopeful that N. and S Korea solve the problems between themselves and after that I think there would be no need to worry about N. korea as well.(perhaps I sound very naive or optimist here! But I think UN should work on it)
    Right now the only problem is with Iran. As SOS2008 mentioned Iran and US could solve their problems.
    You say Iran is a threat based on their hostility to the US and the possibility of their interfering in Iraq, but honestly what's the reason of this hostility ? I'm sure you know the reason better than me, but anyway do you think attacking Iran could make it any better? And What makes Iran to interfere in Iraq? Don't tell me it's only because of cultural similarities. If you ask me it's only because of the threat of US to Iran. Anyway I think there are other reasons for attacking Iran and these are only excuses. Sounds like US want to have all control and power over ME!
     
  18. Jan 21, 2006 #17

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Why isn't a cultural tie enough to spur interference in another country's affairs? What strategic advantage does the US gain by supporting Israel? If anything, US support for Israel, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, has made it a lot more difficult to deal with other Arab countries. If oil were the only concern of the US in the Middle East, they would drop support for Israel entirely. A closer and more open relationship with Saudi Arabia would be more beneficial economically and strategically than a close relationship with Israel.

    The main reason the US has a closer tie to Israel than Arab countries in the Middle East is because there is a lot larger Jewish population in the US than Arab and Muslim population (assuming Asian Muslims would be more sympathetic to Arab countries than to Israel).

    Global politics is more than just a game of chess. A lot of decisions are made for irrational and/or emotional reasons that directly conflict with purely logical reasons.
     
  19. Jan 21, 2006 #18

    SOS2008

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Though the U.S. does want as many military bases and allies possible, especially in the Middle East because of oil, I agree that cultural or religious ties are a factor.

    Why Israel? Yes, the Jewish constituency is larger than the Arab constituency in the U.S., but it is also more powerful (via business/money). But it’s largely due to the “Judo-Christian tradition” and that the U.S. is primarily a Christian nation, many of whom believe prophecies in the Bible as instructing them to defend Israel. While Arab countries are wary of Infidels placing military bases on holy land, Israel receives U.S. aid equivalent to a total taxpayer cost per Israeli of $23,240/year. So naturally the Israeli’s are U.S allies.

    The U.S. installed the Shah to prevent nationalization of oil in Iran. During the Shah, Iran served as a base for the U.S. in addition to Israel. However, since the overthrow of the Shah, the U.S. has found itself unhappily dealing with an Islamic theocracy in Iran. The irony is Iraq could well become an Islamic theocracy too as a result of the invasion and removal of Saddam. Yet no one is debating what the U.S. would actually achieve if we attack Iran as well. Also, what might be done to improve relations with other Arab countries? Somehow I don’t think attacking Iran is going to improve relations with any country (except Israel).
     
  20. Jan 22, 2006 #19

    Lisa!

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, I laways think that US support Israel because American Jews are very rich and powerful(as SOS mentioned). And Sounds like they have lots of supporters in US administration.
    But as for Iran, I was just saying that cultural tie couldn't be the only reason for interference. not so many years ago, Iraq attcked Iran and Iran always claims that it was US encouragemnet and support which made Iraq to do it.
    Let's face it: US and Iran have no good relationship and for sure US's been plans for getting rid of the Iran current administration from so many years ago. And for sure if US would be able to do it by Iraq, it could be alot better. But what if the Iraq government would have a good relation with Iran? So US is trying to
    Anyway I think cultural tie isn't the main reason of interference, but it could be a very good help for Iran to get its goals.
    Hope both US and Iran let Iraqies to decide about their own country.

    And as you know Israel and US relations is already good(perhaps even more than enough).
     
  21. Jan 22, 2006 #20

    SOS2008

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I am re-posting this post from the thread that is locked. Once again, based on information originally posted by Art, I believe it is very important that we (the U.S. in particular) look at the big picture when considering options in relation to Iran.

    http://www.antiwar.com/orig/berga.php?articleid=8416

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/st...ectID=10364757

    http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/nov03/middleEast.asp

    I’ll repeat earlier suggestions.
    1) We impeach Bush immediately, sending a clear message to the neocons in his administration and the Pentagon that they can no longer put our country at risk.
    2) We begin to work on our outrageous deficit, first scaling back military spending in Iraq, etc., focusing on ways to increase exports of finished goods, and ways for Americans to remain employed with incomes in keeping with cost of living increases.
    3) We begin sincere work toward energy diversification and ending dependency on foreign oil.

    To the neocon slogan of "Four more wars! Four more wars! Four more wars!" I say NO!
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Iran - why the nuclear programme ?
  1. Iran and nuclear weapons (Replies: 10)

Loading...