Iran - the Nuclear Dilemma  

AtomicKisss 59M
80 posts
6/8/2006 9:03 pm

Last Read:
12/3/2006 7:37 am

Iran - the Nuclear Dilemma

In my last blog, "Crash Course in Nuclear Physics," you learned the basics of a nuclear reaction. You also learned that there are about 108 nuclear reactor sites in the US alone and that the nuclear reactors are used to provide electricity to just about every major city. So if that's the case, what's the big deal with Iran building a reactor? If we (the US, France, UK, Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, Sweden, and China, just to name a few) do it, why can't they?

The problem is, there are different types of uranium; natural uranium - the type that is mined from the earth, and enriched uranium. The number of sub-atomic particles inside the atom (on average) dictates what type of uranium it is. The typical composition of natural uranium is: U-235 (0.72% ), and U-238 (99.27% ). U-235 has 235 subatomic particles within its atom. Likewise, U-238 has 238 subatomic particles inside its atom. In order to use the uranium in a nuclear reactor, the uranium must be "enriched" so that the percentage of U-235 is approximately 5%.

If the percentage of U-235 is kept low (below 10% ), no matter what is done during the nuclear reaction, no matter what is done to the uranium, the uranium cannot become a nuclear device/weapon. That's because the enrichment (percentage of U-235) is so low, that a very fast nuclear chain reaction cannot occur. However, if the enrichment of U-235 exceeds 85%, then the uranium is readily suitable for use as a nuclear weapon.

The debate arises over the type of uranium Iran wants to use in their nuclear reactors. Iran wants to develop nuclear reactors that utilize weapons grade uranium (enrichment above 85% ) - highly enriched uranium that has the capability to be turned into a nuclear bomb. Most of the world is opposed to this type of reactor design because of the inherent danger of nuclear proliferation. Iran insists that they are responsible, that other nations are using this design (most notably France), and that their design is much more efficient than the low enrichment designs. Iranian physicists are also quick to point out that their design creates more fuel than the reactor consumes (yes this is true -but I won't explain it here). Thus, they would be protected against a uranium embargo.

The debate over Iran's nuclear program gets even more complicated because the process of enriching uranium requires technology that Iran does not possess. In other words, other nations, namely Russia, have provided this potentially lethal technology to Iran. And, because these technology lending nations have conceivably received compensation in the way of oil contracts, they have been resistant to the UN efforts to pressure Iran into abandoning their ambitious nuclear program.

The final piece to the puzzle goes back to 1979 after the Iranian hostage crisis with the US. America, in retaliation to the hostage situation, placed an embargo on certain items, most notably spare parts for the Iranian commercial airline fleet. The embargo, along with poor maintenance, has caused the crash of several commercial airliners. Because of this, Iran has become defiant towards the US. More importantly though, Iran is unlikely to accept any American technological assistance building safer nuclear reactors (most reactors utilize US design and technology). The Iranians are afraid that if they commit to anything American, they will become susceptible to another embargo or trade sanctions.

In summary, it is clear that Iran should adopt a safer nuclear reactor design - one that does not rely upon weapons grade uranium. However, in order to achieve their cooperation, the US and the world community will need to provide definitive assurances that Iran will not be exposed to trade, economic, or even political sanctions that would undermine their power production program.

© 2006 Charles G. Patrick All rights reserved.

rm_Icewomin 48F
610 posts
7/6/2006 10:10 am

no lady bambi and mr. bambi! don't leave blogland! you are a source of inspiration to me! and that picture of your coochie, lady raises my spirits every time i see it.

rm_verriberri 80F
1849 posts
6/30/2006 11:03 am

Atomickiss... another interesting blog entry, I'm a bit pressed for time this afternoon, but I'll come back and comment further - it just occured to me, seeing the progression of your thoughts that you might enjoy a group that I'm part of, "US and International Politics"... it's a small group, but we are always looking for interesting thinkers. I'm not around much at the moment, but Rog the mod is a complex individual, and you might enjoy conversing, debating or disagreeing with him - love to have you on board. I'll be back. -v

onlyfive 70M

6/26/2006 6:37 pm

Gee, seems to me that an oil rich nation would not need nuclear power. Sorry, I don't trust them. Or the North Koreans (we should shoot their missile down IF they launch), Indians, and Pakistanis. Appeasement has been shown historically to be foolhardy. The stakes are too high to make the same mistake again.

imLadyBambi 59M/51F

6/14/2006 2:27 pm


Ya know, after reading this I think I need private tutoring lessons.

Are you game?

Lady B.

imLadyBambi 59M/51F

6/8/2006 11:11 pm


Gee, you write long blogs (actually they are essays). But I sure am glad I took the time to read what you wrote - it explains a lot of thing and puts things in perspective.

One question - why are you on this site?

Lady Bambi

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