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Iranians Surprised Centrifuges Unnecessary For Making Weapons Grade Uranium

Iranian Run For Fun Initiative Ends At Beirut Table

Tuesday Mar. 3rd, 2015:

TEHRAN -- The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, was surprised to learn this evening from his military commanders that massive centrifuge complexes are not actually necessary for making weapons grade uranium. Somehow, there was an inexplicable miscommunication between the Islamist jurists and their own nuclear physicists, leading the guardians of the revolution to pointlessly provoke Western powers with the pursuit of decades old technology.

"What are you talking about?" asked Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari, Commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard, interrogating their working group of nuclear engineers over the off-handed comment regarding third-generation enrichment technology, "The West has put us through hell over these centrifuges. You are telling me we do not actually need them?"

"It has not actually been necessary to use vast centrifuge cascades for a long time now," lead engineer Rashid Mahdi explained indifferently, "we have known that ever since we began attending the International Conference on Nuclear Engineering every year. We pass ourselves off as former Iraqi weapons scientists."

"Well, I mean, we would. Nobody ever asks." He added, "The methodology is pretty obsolete. These days you do not even need facilities that can be spotted by satellites."

Apparently, when the group first began collaborating with the international scientific community and its free exchange of ideas, they were casually informed of modern techniques for uranium enrichment as though it was common knowledge in the field. The strange custom of open access to knowledge, even subjects as sensitive as nuclear engineering, had proved remarkably informative.

"While the ore itself is purified with industrial acid, enrichment methods traditionally make use of the slight mass ratio between isotopes," Mahdi recalled from the public symposium, "except that is not actually necessary. Centrifuges are more efficient than gaseous diffusion, certainly, but there have always been other ways of separating the species of uranium hexafluoride gas."

One of the other scientists remarked, "Remember that demonstration the Australians did with the lasers?"

"Ah, yes." Mahdi chuckled, "We were so impressed. They took pity on us poor, backwards 'Iraqi' scientists. It turned into this big discussion about how Iranian weapons scientists could make highly enriched uranium without anybody knowing about it."

"The General Electric reps showed us their SILEX prototypes. They use lasers to excite only the Uranium-235 isotopes, separating them from the gas feed with electromagnetic fields. It is so much less intensive than what we do, much easier to hide from weapons inspectors." Mahdi remarked how irrelevant it was to the seething Jafari, given that their own nuclear program is peaceful.

"There was that one year when they went over the broad outlines of the technical specifications. Carbon dioxide lasers are used on a cold UF6 gas stream at 10.8 micrometers, then amplified to 16 microns in a Raman conversion cell with high pressure para-hydrogen gas. Separating the spin isomers of hydrogen is no big deal," Mahdi elaborated without effort, "and then they pulsed the laser at a 50 Hertz frequency. That was a pretty inefficient method, but that's just their lab equipment. It is not that difficult to scale up."

"Their Nuclear Regulatory Commission only lets them enrich to 8% for commercial purposes. You would only need a few more cascades to have weapons grade purity." He added, "They have been doing that for a few years."

"The Westinghouse guys were making all these dark jokes about how vulnerable it was to industrial espionage, since it is the only privately held information classified under their Atomic Energy Act. 'Just keep making a bunch of noise about centrifuges, drag that bullshit on as long as possible,'" Mahdi quipped to the Islamist commander, "'and develop the laser technology on the side. Call it 'optics research', or whatever.' He showed us where they keep it on Google Maps."

"Then he said, 'You only need 20% enrichment for an implosion bomb. When they start going off in Tel Aviv, who will everyone have to blame?'" "'Pakistan!'" exclaimed another scientist, shaking his head laughing. "We were like, 'Huh.'"

Fortunately, the international community has remained oblivious to the high-level executions now taking place within the Iranian nuclear weapons complex, given its potential to exacerbate the tense diplomatic situation in the Middle East. It would be almost as disruptive as pointing out to Western policy-makers that some thermal nuclear plants, especially graphite and heavy-water reactors, can be constructed with existing technology using uranium that is not enriched at all. In the light of a peaceful nuclear energy program, there is absolutely no reason to use centrifuges.

Not that it matters, note casual observers. The plutonium byproduct is inherently weapons grade, as long as it is extracted early enough in the process. When asked for comment on these points, Secretary of State John Kerry replied, "Wait, what?"


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