Hypothetical scenario re: Iranian nuclear programme

#1
Suppose there was an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility, missile base or warhead assembly plant.

The explosion turns out to be a "dirty explosion" which scatters high purity nuclear weapon isotopes in the vicinity - say 99% Pu-239 which is pretty much undeniably weapon material. A mini Chernobyl or Three Mile Island ensues.

The world community has a smoking gun with which to condemn the Iranian nuclear programme as military in nature all along. Significant urgency comes about if it appears that the Iranian nuclear programme was further along than known and that the Iranians were well on their way to putting a plutonium warhead on a missile.

Also, due to the environmental, real estate and health damage caused by the dirty explosion, a significant public backlash in Iran occurs against nuclear power, possibly to the extent of declaring themselves a non-nuclear (civilian or otherwise) state. As we know Germany said "nein" to nuclear after the Fukushima disaster.

I do not see how it will be possible to avert war otherwise. For the Iranian leadership to back down now would significantly diminish their prestige among the rank and file citizens; judging by the Arab spring they will be keen to not give cause for showing weakness. And of course Israel, the West and the Arabs can't tolerate Iranian nuclear weapons.

What do you folks think?
 
#2
The explosion turns out to be a "dirty explosion" which scatters high purity nuclear weapon isotopes in the vicinity - say 99% Pu-239 which is pretty much undeniably weapon material. A mini Chernobyl or Three Mile Island ensues.
Mini Chernobyl? It would be the other way around! I-131 was the worst that came out of Chernobyl & Three Mile Island in any sizable quantity Radiological dispersion of Pu-239 would be a very, very bad day in Bosnia.
 
#3
I dont think the leaders of Iran care to much about public backlash should a reactor go bang. They will just crack a few heads and carry on.
Is anyone bar Israel prepared to attack yet another Muslim, oil rich country?
 
#4
Even for the Iranians there would have to be a serious number of mistakes in production to cause an explosion. If a conventional explosion took place, I doubt it would have the power to break Pu up much, most nuclear materials are pretty robust.
If the nuclear material went critical there would be a lot of questions in the Iranian nuclear science field, as to how on earth during missile/bomb production a chain reaction took place, the nuclear payload is always kept separate from the main body. You would also need to have given to correct electronic instruction to the device to start the cycle, you can't accidentally do this.

Accidents have happened with nuclear materials, see the Los Alamos criticality incidents during the early experiments with nuclear technology. Unfortunately for the Science Fiction writers it didn't go bang, but did irradiate those in the room.

Nuclear power stations are not a good example, as the material has reached superheated levels so in the event of an explosion the materials would be capable of breaking up and getting airborne.
 
#5
All you need is Mossad and a motorbike. Job done.
 
#6
The country is prone to earthquakes so a Fuke at some point is likely. I think the Iranians would take it in their stride.
 
#7
Even for the Iranians there would have to be a serious number of mistakes in production to cause an explosion. If a conventional explosion took place, I doubt it would have the power to break Pu up much, most nuclear materials are pretty robust.
If the nuclear material went critical there would be a lot of questions in the Iranian nuclear science field, as to how on earth during missile/bomb production a chain reaction took place, the nuclear payload is always kept separate from the main body. You would also need to have given to correct electronic instruction to the device to start the cycle, you can't accidentally do this.

Accidents have happened with nuclear materials, see the Los Alamos criticality incidents during the early experiments with nuclear technology. Unfortunately for the Science Fiction writers it didn't go bang, but did irradiate those in the room.

Nuclear power stations are not a good example, as the material has reached superheated levels so in the event of an explosion the materials would be capable of breaking up and getting airborne.
I doubt the Iranians care much about safeguards such as Permissive Action Links. Even the US didn't have them until some time after the first bombs were built. Accidents happen when people are rushing things. Days before the accident it could be leaked that the Iranian leadership has decided to go to the breakout stage for a nuclear warhead.

It doesn't have to be a full fledged nuclear detonation. If the Iranians are using an implosion device then partial activation of the warhead and splashing around the Pu-239 will be enough to cause domestic and international outrage.

Or, even in the absence of an explosion, a fierce fire could engulf a truck leaving a military base. The fire oxidises the plutonium or uranium metal into oxides, some of which becomes aerosolised. The clueless firefighters spray water on it which scatters/washes more into the environment.
 
#8
I don't think that there is anyone apart from the woolly-hatted sellers of Socialist Worker (ie Loons) who don't think that the whole purpose of the Iranian nuclear programme is to build a bomb.
It wouldn't matter if the entire blueprints for the Manhattan Project fell out of Ahmedinajad's briefcase in front of the UN. We all KNOW they want a Bomb.
The problem is that even if Iran became a Mid Eastern equivalent of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the locals won't all become wearers of 'Nuclear Power-No thanks ' smiley stickers. They will just blame the Joos and the Great Satan for blowing up their country (even if it was an own goal)

Don't underestimate the victim mentality of the Mid East. It's always someone else's fault. And the Iranian Government has previous for brassing up its citizens if they don't go along with the Mullah's programme.

Iran WILL get zapped. It will be entirely self-inflicted. And it will be blamed on anyone else except their leadership.
 
#9
Iran WILL get zapped. It will be entirely self-inflicted. And it will be blamed on anyone else except their leadership.
Who by? They seem to be mates with China at the moment so UN wont interfere. As I said earlier what country other than Israel wants to get involved with yet another Muslim country?
 
#10
Even for the Iranians there would have to be a serious number of mistakes in production to cause an explosion. If a conventional explosion took place, I doubt it would have the power to break Pu up much, most nuclear materials are pretty robust.
If the nuclear material went critical there would be a lot of questions in the Iranian nuclear science field, as to how on earth during missile/bomb production a chain reaction took place, the nuclear payload is always kept separate from the main body. You would also need to have given to correct electronic instruction to the device to start the cycle, you can't accidentally do this.

Accidents have happened with nuclear materials, see the Los Alamos criticality incidents during the early experiments with nuclear technology. Unfortunately for the Science Fiction writers it didn't go bang, but did irradiate those in the room.

Nuclear power stations are not a good example, as the material has reached superheated levels so in the event of an explosion the materials would be capable of breaking up and getting airborne.
Maybe certain hook nosed foreskinless foreigners might lend a hand in making it all go wrong.
 
#12
Who by? They seem to be mates with China at the moment so UN wont interfere. As I said earlier what country other than Israel wants to get involved with yet another Muslim country?
Well if you are talking about open war to stop the Iranian programme, let's eliminate the usual suspects based on who CAN do anything to stop the Iranian programme, the countries that could are probably: Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, USA, UK and France.

For most of those countries they don't have enough conventional power to significantly set back the Iranian programme, so they'd have to use strategic or tactical nukes to do so. In fact I think no country except the USA has the coventional power projection capability to stop the Iranians for say 5 years. A coalition of countries might be formed but let's keep the analysis simple for now. Israel may have the ability to stop the Iranians for a while with conventional weapons only - they've proven themselves to be adept at fighting and winning wars against the odds.

Of those, who might really want to stop the Iranian programme? Probably the USA, Israel, UK and France.

From Israel's perspective the Jews are scarred by memories of a madman calling for their racial extermination in the name of National Socialism...and then carrying it out while the world stood by. Now we have the same thing in the name of Shi'ite Islam, but Israel now has teeth to defend itself. I can quite understand why the Jews would do all they can to stop what happened to 6 million Jews in several years, happening to 6 million Jews in 15 minutes.
 
#14
But no, The Iranian programme is inherently peaceful, the mullahs are warm and cuddly and Ahmedinajad is beloved by all his people. All that business about wiping Israel off the face of the earth is just a mistranslation. Iran has never heard of Hamas and Hezbollah.
 
#15
Well if you are talking about open war to stop the Iranian programme, let's eliminate the usual suspects based on who CAN do anything to stop the Iranian programme, the countries that could are probably: Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, USA, UK and France.

For most of those countries they don't have enough conventional power to significantly set back the Iranian programme, so they'd have to use strategic or tactical nukes to do so. In fact I think no country except the USA has the coventional power projection capability to stop the Iranians for say 5 years. A coalition of countries might be formed but let's keep the analysis simple for now. Israel may have the ability to stop the Iranians for a while with conventional weapons only - they've proven themselves to be adept at fighting and winning wars against the odds.

Of those, who might really want to stop the Iranian programme? Probably the USA, Israel, UK and France.

From Israel's perspective the Jews are scarred by memories of a madman calling for their racial extermination in the name of National Socialism...and then carrying it out while the world stood by. Now we have the same thing in the name of Shi'ite Islam, but Israel now has teeth to defend itself. I can quite understand why the Jews would do all they can to stop what happened to 6 million Jews in several years, happening to 6 million Jews in 15 minutes.
They might want to stop it, but are they (apart from israel) prepared to go into another Muslim country with UN backing? With memories of Iraq still fresh in peoples memories, the UK will be very wary of going anywhere near Iran.

Israel can drop the whinging about what happened to Jews and trying to compare it to Shi'ite Islam, Iran has the biggest number of Jews in any Muslim country.
Being Jewish does not mean being an Israeli.
 
#16
I doubt the Iranians care much about safeguards such as Permissive Action Links. Even the US didn't have them until some time after the first bombs were built. Accidents happen when people are rushing things. Days before the accident it could be leaked that the Iranian leadership has decided to go to the breakout stage for a nuclear warhead.

It doesn't have to be a full fledged nuclear detonation. If the Iranians are using an implosion device then partial activation of the warhead and splashing around the Pu-239 will be enough to cause domestic and international outrage.

Or, even in the absence of an explosion, a fierce fire could engulf a truck leaving a military base. The fire oxidises the plutonium or uranium metal into oxides, some of which becomes aerosolised. The clueless firefighters spray water on it which scatters/washes more into the environment.
I personally don't believe that the Iranians are as slack and safety ignorant as you think. Building a nuclear warhead is not a simple knock together job, it is highly complicated. This is many times more complicated than building a missile delivery system. If you have the plans to another system, good engineers can reverse engineer the missile to their requirements. Nuclear warheads are a whole different issue.
Plutonium is not a material you handle lightly, I don't care if it's Bongo Bongo land, it's not a material you just hoy around, and it won't be moved in any large quantities. It is as dangerous to the user as to the enemy. I cannot see even the mad mullahs throwing caution to the wind.

Blowing up or setting fire to the stuff isn't easy, and Pu is very dense, airborne particles will always be fighting gravity.

Throwing bombs or setting fire to the building won't work either, most warheads are put together under ground, and kept in a state that they can be constructed very quickly, but there would have to be a catastrophic series of errors to start the chain reaction, even then you won't get a full explosion, due to the state the weapon is kept in.

I don't think even the tyrannical nations that hold these weapons, do so without an extreme amount of care.
 
#17
Mini Chernobyl? It would be the other way around! I-131 was the worst that came out of Chernobyl & Three Mile Island in any sizable quantity Radiological dispersion of Pu-239 would be a very, very bad day in Bosnia.
Today was a bad day in Bosnia - 4 feet of snow in 24 hours:) However I take the point.
 
#18
From Israel's perspective the Jews are scarred by memories of a madman calling for their racial extermination in the name of National Socialism...and then carrying it out while the world stood by. Now we have the same thing in the name of Shi'ite Islam, but Israel now has teeth to defend itself. I can quite understand why the Jews would do all they can to stop what happened to 6 million Jews in several years, happening to 6 million Jews in 15 minutes.
Fair enough, let this dictate the direction of their defence policy. However, it's our role as part of the international community to put them back in their box when they are pushing the US (and possibly even the UK) to war.

Linking the Iranian regime to the Holocaust is inane hyperbole. There are many other reasons why they want the bomb (and why the Arab nations and Israel don't), mainly because obtaining a nuclear weapon is essential to being a strong regional actor. Israel don't want this to happen because it challenges their hegemony in the Middle East (especially now Saddam is gone and Asad's Syria is embroiled in the beginnings of a civil war). The Gulf Arab states don't want Iran to get the bomb because they see a powerful Shi'a state as a threat to their hegemony as top oil exporters in the Persian Gulf. I.e., it would result in a massive change in the balance of power in the region. It really has little to do with the 'Mad mullahs with the bombs'. Pakistan is already a country awash with mad Sunni clerics (from the same ilk of those responsible for 9/11, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, etc. etc.) and yet we don't hear Israel talking about trying to take out their nuclear programme.

It's no secret that Zionism (note: Zionism, not Judaism) is completely dependent on the supreme Western power of the age. In the early 20th Century, it was the British Empire (who were essential in developing the nascent Jewish institutions into the foundations of the Israeli state). Now, it is the US who it is very dependent upon for security and military support. It is certainly within their interests to take advantage of our fears of Islam (the 'War on Terror' global interest of the US) to fulfill their own regional interests (knock out Iran). This has been the case since 1948 and has largely been the reason why the US isn't the most popular person at the Middle East party. If we ever want peace in the region, Western powers have got to get a grip of Israel. If we want it to be forever at war so we can exploit its resources, crack on as normal.
 
#19
Who by? They seem to be mates with China at the moment so UN wont interfere. As I said earlier what country other than Israel wants to get involved with yet another Muslim country?
It's not a matter of 'involved'. As far as the Israelis are concerned they are ALREADY involved, and have been for years. They don't want to go in and occupy. For them, it's 'Go OVER' and flatten anything potentially game changing.
Israel has already culled the Iraqi and the Syrian bomb programmes. It has the intent, it has previous, and it is more than willing to add Iran to the list.

Now, the Iranians seem to think that burying their kit in deep holes might deter the Israelis.
That's a pretty big assumption to base an aggressive foreign policy on.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#20
Perhaps Israel has something more subtle in mind than aerial assault. Perhaps there will be some sort of accident which, in its nature, makes on-site forensic investigation awkward. Even one so far underground that only the Iranians know about it, and don't want to let on because of the face they will lose.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads

Top