The Persian Osirak

Once again, thumbing his nose at the West and the UN, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the start of a new phase in the drive to make the Arak 'research reactor' fully operational.  The facility, which Reuters euphemistically calls a 'heavy water project,' is located 120 miles southwest of Tehran.

Arak is, in truth, a breeder reactor for weapons grade plutonium, and will probably be operational much sooner than the previous estimate of about four years.  The reactor itself is actually a modernized version of Saddam's old French—built Osirak 'research reactor' at Al—Tuwaitha, southeast of Baghdad.  Notably, the Arak facility is also protected by batteries of anti—aircraft guns, just as Osirak was when it became operational in the late 70s.

A heavy water reactor is  not a pressurized reactor and simply has the fuel elements in a reactor pool.  This design is much better suited for clandestine production of plutonium, since the reactor does not need to be shut down to rearrange the configuration of the fuel elements or to change them out completely.  This, and the fact that parts of the program are located underground, makes it much more difficult to monitor on the ground by inspectors and by overhead imagery.  Already, inspectors have been denied access to the underground portions of the facility.

Ahmadinejad now has the capability to have a functional plutonium breeder reactor that enables the mullahs to have the option of designing either a simple gun—type weapon with enriched uranium or a more complex implosion design with either plutonium or uranium.  Saddam's French—built Osirak reactor was an obvious primary target of Israeli fighter—bombers during Operation Opera in 1981.  Once Osirak was knocked out, it forced Iraqi scientists to abandon the breeding of plutonium, and required them instead to develop means to enrich uranium in order to fuel their bombs.  The attack likely prevented the US and its allies from confronting a nuclear armed Saddam during Desert Shield/Storm.

The mullahs are clearly upping the ante, and an accelerated plutonium breeding program seems to indicate that should a weak anti—terror US administration take office in 2009, they'll be ready.

Doug Hanson   8 27 06

Once again, thumbing his nose at the West and the UN, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the start of a new phase in the drive to make the Arak 'research reactor' fully operational.  The facility, which Reuters euphemistically calls a 'heavy water project,' is located 120 miles southwest of Tehran.

Arak is, in truth, a breeder reactor for weapons grade plutonium, and will probably be operational much sooner than the previous estimate of about four years.  The reactor itself is actually a modernized version of Saddam's old French—built Osirak 'research reactor' at Al—Tuwaitha, southeast of Baghdad.  Notably, the Arak facility is also protected by batteries of anti—aircraft guns, just as Osirak was when it became operational in the late 70s.

A heavy water reactor is  not a pressurized reactor and simply has the fuel elements in a reactor pool.  This design is much better suited for clandestine production of plutonium, since the reactor does not need to be shut down to rearrange the configuration of the fuel elements or to change them out completely.  This, and the fact that parts of the program are located underground, makes it much more difficult to monitor on the ground by inspectors and by overhead imagery.  Already, inspectors have been denied access to the underground portions of the facility.

Ahmadinejad now has the capability to have a functional plutonium breeder reactor that enables the mullahs to have the option of designing either a simple gun—type weapon with enriched uranium or a more complex implosion design with either plutonium or uranium.  Saddam's French—built Osirak reactor was an obvious primary target of Israeli fighter—bombers during Operation Opera in 1981.  Once Osirak was knocked out, it forced Iraqi scientists to abandon the breeding of plutonium, and required them instead to develop means to enrich uranium in order to fuel their bombs.  The attack likely prevented the US and its allies from confronting a nuclear armed Saddam during Desert Shield/Storm.

The mullahs are clearly upping the ante, and an accelerated plutonium breeding program seems to indicate that should a weak anti—terror US administration take office in 2009, they'll be ready.

Doug Hanson   8 27 06