John Bolton: Israel has eight days to strike Iran’s reactor at Bushehr

posted at 4:58 pm on August 17, 2010 by Allahpundit

Why eight days? Because that’s when Russia will start loading nuclear fuel into the reactor. Hit the site after that and you’ll create the equivalent of a giant dirty bomb, spreading fallout all over the surrounding area. Important question, though: Will having the reactor up and running actually bring Iran any closer to building a bomb? Why … no, not really. Michael Rubin:

While Ambassador Bolton, quoted in the piece, is certainly right that it would be extremely destructive to bomb a plant with loaded fuel (the Osirak strike in 1981 was timed to avoid that), the problem with the Bushehr reactor was never the Bushehr reactor itself, but rather suspicion (which, in retrospect, was justified) that the Iranian government would use Bushehr as a cover to important equipment to be used in a covert program. The problem is not Bushehr, but rather Natanz, Fordo, and the once-covert enrichment infrastructure.

That said, much of the discussion about an Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons revolves necessarily about how that will change the regional balance and complicate U.S. security concerns.

Our own J.E. Dyer made the same point in an excellent post 10 days ago. Take five minutes to read it, because Bushehr going online next week will be a big deal notwithstanding its small role in Iran’s weapons infrastructure:

First, the technical reality. Bushehr is not an efficient source of weapons-grade fissile material. Lighting off the LWR would advance Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons hardly at all, in the context of any operationally significant timeline. It matters, yes; but not soon. One LWR would take years to produce a meaningful amount of weaponizable material. (The heavy-water reactor being built in the north at Arak, on the other hand, can produce plutonium – like North Korea’s plutonium reactor – somewhat more efficiently. Weaponization is a different design problem in that case, but the foreign associations of Iran’s nuclear program suggest both avenues have been pursued.)

Therefore – and this is important to understand – the change of conditions represented by Bushehr going critical is not centered on what this event means to the timeline for a nuclear weapon. Israel may well not regard it as essential to strike the reactor and prevent it from being brought online. The US certainly may not (and in my estimation, probably doesn’t). Iran’s ability to produce a weapon is based on centrifuge enrichment of the current uranium stock, combined with laboratory testing of detonators and the design and testing of warheads. Striking the LWR at Bushehr affects none of these elements of the program.

I’ve written about this subject before too, but nuclear tech is way above my pay grade. The basics are this: In theory, because Bushehr will produce spent nuclear fuel in the form of plutonium, given a long enough time frame the Iranians can harvest that fuel and build a Nagasaki-type bomb from it. I emphasize that that’s only in theory, though: Experts note that Bushehr will produce the wrong type of plutonium needed for a bomb — mostly Pu240, Pu241, and Pu242 instead of Pu239 — and if they did try to make the right kind, they’d inevitably have to tip their hand by sealing the reactor to outsiders, kicking out inspectors, moving the spent fuel, etc, in order to do what needs to be done. (An ominous caveat: According to the last section of this Global Security analysis, other experts insist that making a plutonium bomb without Pu239 isn’t as difficult as thought.)

So what’s the big deal about Bushehr then? Well, like J.E. says, if Russia presses ahead and agrees to start loading the fuel next week, it’ll be a middle finger to The One and his “reset button” efforts. It’ll also likely spook a bunch of Sunni countries — as Bolton notes, this is the first time an Islamic regime in the region will have succeeded in bringing a reactor online — which means god knows what for Middle Eastern politics for the rest of the year and beyond. As a not-so-wise man once said: Gird your loins.


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This is going to be a LONG week.

portlandon on August 17, 2010 at 5:00 PM

I’ve written about this subject before too, but nuclear tech is way above my pay grade.

The whole thing is above Obama’s.

blatantblue on August 17, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Bolton will be on Hannity,between now and 6:00PM!
===================================================

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Um, it’s now three days.

Akzed on August 17, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Wow.. Iran and Russia in communistic bliss. Who would have thunk that? Can we have our Firefighting equipment back now?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:03 PM

OT: South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman attacks Nikki Haley over receiving a giant fake cardboard check at one of her fundraisers

Here is the news report of her fundraiser: http://www.heraldonline.com/2010/08/17/2386528/nikki-haley-to-rock-hill-make.html
Here is a photo of the cardboard check: http://3.ly/8sMy

Here is the press release: http://networkedblogs.com/6WWSl

Here is a screenshot of the attack just in case they take it down: http://yfrog.com/bfcardboardcheckattackj

ninjapirate on August 17, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Yes, LWRs are nearly useless for creating nuclear fuel in normal operation. Thy are good for supporting a nuclear industry and nuclear scientists, engineers, and technicians.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 5:05 PM

OT: South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman attacks Nikki Haley over receiving a giant cardboard check

Here is a photo of the cardboard check: http://3.ly/8sMy

Here is the press release: http://networkedblogs.com/6WWSl

ninjapirate on August 17, 2010 at 5:05 PM

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Hey… OT, but did you see Palin endorses Angle?

MeatHeadinCA on August 17, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Wow.. Iran and Russia in communistic bliss. Who would have thunk that? Can we have our Firefighting equipment back now?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:03 PM

upinak: No kiddng,USSR-Iran,in co-hoots!:)

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Hey… OT, but did you see Palin endorses Angle?

MeatHeadinCA on August 17, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Hey did you see this?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Bolton is on now,Hannity Radio Show!!

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Sorry Bibi, can’t squeeze that in, gotta tee time in Martha’s that day, get with Axelrod and see if you can get something late in September. Toodles!

NoDonkey on August 17, 2010 at 5:08 PM

The world has fiddled whilst Iran developed the means to burn that same world.

The time for diplomacy ended a long time ago…but nobody seems to have told the White House.

A fait accompli is much harder to deal with than plans and intentions.

Unless Israel has a brilliant game plan that is in depth, with a number of non-Israeli players willing to go along or at least support them, this could be a pretty awful month…or, we will see a nuclear capable Iran thumbing their nose at the rest of the world, and the rest of the Islamic world taking note and eventually doing likewise.

coldwarrior on August 17, 2010 at 5:08 PM

You know what this calls for, don’t you…

… Another vacation for Imam Obowma.

Seven Percent Solution on August 17, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Hey did you see this?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:07 PM

No, I didn’t.

MeatHeadinCA on August 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

… Another vacation for Imam Obowma.

Seven Percent Solution on August 17, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Anywhere in particular this time? Say New England?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

This could be Reactor Attack number 3,
if Israel proceeds,so far,they are 2 for 2,
in taking reactors out!!

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:11 PM

And I thought being broke was bad.

kingsjester on August 17, 2010 at 5:11 PM

No, I didn’t.

MeatHeadinCA on August 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

No worries. Time to step back, wanna join me?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:11 PM

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Bushehr?

coldwarrior on August 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Off-topic/breaking – the Blago jury has reached a verdict, and is expected to announce it in the hour.

steveegg on August 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM

OT: South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman attacks Nikki Haley over receiving a giant cardboard check

Here is a photo of the cardboard check: http://3.ly/8sMy

Here is the press release: http://networkedblogs.com/6WWSl

ninjapirate on August 17, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Nikki should offer to endorse the cardboard check over to the DNC so they can take it to the bank and try to cash it. This has great viral video potential written all over it!

WisRich on August 17, 2010 at 5:13 PM

Bolton. Makes waves.

maverick muse on August 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

T – 3 days

carbon_footprint on August 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Bushehr?

coldwarrior on August 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM

I am tired, what does this mean? Other then being a city in Iran?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

You know what this calls for, don’t you…

… Another vacation for Imam Obowma.

Seven Percent Solution on August 17, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Seven Percent Solution:It would be interesting if Obama went
on vacation,and Israel took out the
Reactor!!:)

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

No worries. Time to step back, wanna join me?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Heh. I was never solidly in her camp. Just preferred her over some of the others in the race… like some say, she’s the best of the bad.

MeatHeadinCA on August 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

As John Bolton says ” the Israelis have lost the opportunity”, actually more than the Israelis have lossed the opportunity. The ominous state of the world is sure no time for an amateur in the WH.

fourdeucer on August 17, 2010 at 5:15 PM

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world.

faraway on August 17, 2010 at 5:17 PM

Bushehr?

coldwarrior on August 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM

*facepalm* OMG nevermind. LOL!

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:18 PM

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:18 PM

We understand. We’re all tired.

kingsjester on August 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Bushehr?
I am tired, what does this mean?

In Farsi, it means “I blame Bush.”

Emperor Norton on August 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Bushehr?

coldwarrior on August 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM
================================================
I am tired, what does this mean? Other then being a city in Iran?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

upinak: Its a play on words,sticking Bush`s name in there,
tongue and cheeck!!!
=====================================
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Bushehr

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/bushehr.htm

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Obama’s having kind of a bad week but I don’t expect him to man up enough for this. Israel will do what it needs to do and probably with with silent approval of the Saudis.

Cindy Munford on August 17, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Hey did you see this?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:07 PM

How ’bout that.

maverick muse on August 17, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Not important enuf to delay the cheese and wine. Situation papers can wait until Thursday or Friday.

Limerick on August 17, 2010 at 5:21 PM

canopfor: queue Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys.

carbon_footprint on August 17, 2010 at 5:22 PM

*facepalm* OMG nevermind. LOL!

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:18 PM

upinak: Yes,tired,Hopey is sucking the life out of the
world!!

Obama,is like a perpetual ‘GroundHog Day Movie’!:)

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:22 PM

3 Days

jake-the-goose on August 17, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Here’s the ultimate question: Does Netanyahu have the balls to hit an active nuclear installation? A Chernobyl-style incident with fallout would be devastating, of course, but in comparison to potential obliteration of Israel, is it worth an attack? More importantly, if he had the balls, would the UN expel Israel, taking far more of an aggressive attitude with the country it is largely responsible for creating, than with any country that has threatened a peaceful people?

MadisonConservative on August 17, 2010 at 5:24 PM

In Farsi, it means “I blame Bush.”

Emperor Norton on August 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM

I nominate this for winner!

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:24 PM

MadisonConservative on August 17, 2010 at 5:24 PM

I have a feeling he may. All we can do is watch and then watch the Obama-masses response of OMG we are all going to DIE of Nuclear dust particles or some BS like that.

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:25 PM

A Chernobyl-style incident with fallout would be devastating, of course,

MadisonConservative on August 17, 2010 at 5:24 PM

There’s no need for that kind of contamination; it’s a completely different design. But since it’s not one of their important facilities, it’s only getting bombed when a bunch of other stuff is.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 5:28 PM

canopfor: queue Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys.

carbon_footprint on August 17, 2010 at 5:22 PM

carbon_footprint: U-Betcha,with an IDF Boomb Iran!!:)
==========================================================

Barbara Ann The Beach Boys

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynoCrgl2gj0
———————————————

bomb bomb iran
IDF

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb6nR_kdk9w

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Reactor grade plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons.

My understand (limited) is that they are more radioactive and tend not to last as long as higher quality weapons. A 1962 test was carried out and proved that it was in fact possible. Not sure if it requires more skill to produce such a weapon or not. Some have suggested this is what North Korea did when they produced the bomb that fizzled.

BTW, Chernobyl has largely recovered so I don’t think it is unthinkable to strike the reactor afterwards.

sharrukin on August 17, 2010 at 5:28 PM

It is never to late for The Ezekiel Option as written by Joel C. Rosenberg.

fourdeucer on August 17, 2010 at 5:30 PM

So,there worried about fallout,really!

Two Words!

*Depleted Uranium!!

*(Btw,I support,any US weapon system,and
I do support the use of DU!!)

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:31 PM

OT: Blago guilty of corruption in office and lying to investigators…

d1carter on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Why eight days? Because that’s when Russia will start loading nuclear fuel into the reactor.

Other sites are saying Bolton has changed his eight days to three days. This Friday.

Tav on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Some have suggested this is what North Korea did when they produced the bomb that fizzled.

sharrukin on August 17, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Quite possible. That’s how bombs contaminated with the other Pu isotopes fail. Our people can make an (unsatisfactory) implosion bomb with contaminated material, but that’s advanced.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Unfortunately for all of us, this is not one of those things Obama can handle with a Beer Summitt.

kingsjester on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

It is never to late for The Ezekiel Option as written by Joel C. Rosenberg.

fourdeucer on August 17, 2010 at 5:30 PM

fourdeucer: The last option,in case,Israel is about to be
over run!!

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:35 PM

Unfortunately for all of us, this is not one of those things Obama can handle with a Beer Summitt.

kingsjester on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Kingsjester: How about one on one with ImWearingADinner
JacketCrazyNutJob,and a belly-dancer!!:)

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Our people can make an (unsatisfactory) implosion bomb with contaminated material, but that’s advanced.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Well, the 1962 test was registered as less than 20 kt. My reading suggests somewhere between 5 kt and 15 kt from weapons grade Pu.

Do you know what shelf life these sorts of weapons have?

sharrukin on August 17, 2010 at 5:40 PM

The world goes psycho after Israel shoots a few terrorists on a boat, God only knows what they’d do during an attack on Iran.

Let’s be realistic, Israel cannot do this alone in the current climate. They’d have to contend with Hamas and Hezbollah rockets hitting most of the country, whilst their best pilots were risking their lives thousands of miles away.

We all know which side the gutter-dwelling media would be on too.

mudskipper on August 17, 2010 at 5:43 PM

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Sure. Scooter could invite him to dinner at Martha’s Vineyard.

kingsjester on August 17, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Well if the Glorious Stache is right, I have to say it was an extremely bad idea to announce it. I’m sure Israel knows what they have to do better than he does. If they share his concern, then there’s a lot of Israeli commandos right about now who are wishing he’d stop telling the world what they’re about to do.

JS on August 17, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Haven’t the Iranians already reached 20 percent Uranium enrichment?

Holger on August 17, 2010 at 5:52 PM

The problem is not Bushehr, but rather Natanz, Fordo, and the once-covert enrichment infrastructure.

Okay, this sentence really made me feel dumb.

RepubChica on August 17, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Since the US has spent nearly a trillion on stationing forces in the Middle East, why isn’t the US bombing the thing? Better yet, how about unmarked planes launching a strike (maybe the official report will be the the Kurds did it).

Mark30339 on August 17, 2010 at 5:57 PM

I never got the impression that Mr. President has taken Iran seriously. Will he give a press conference to address the people’s concerns? Fat chance, he’s busy campaigning.

scalleywag on August 17, 2010 at 5:59 PM

sharrukin on August 17, 2010 at 5:28 PM

From what I know, if that plutonium has been in a reactor longer than 90 days, you gotta reprocess it because Pu-240 concentrations get to high.

Holger on August 17, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Well, the 1962 test was registered as less than 20 kt. My reading suggests somewhere between 5 kt and 15 kt from weapons grade Pu.

Do you know what shelf life these sorts of weapons have?

sharrukin on August 17, 2010 at 5:40 PM

That wasn’t really spent fuel, just not weapons grade. The problem isn’t storing them exactly. The Pu-240 that makes up too much of spent fuel fissions on its own. That makes it impossible to build a reliable bomb. In a good implosion bomb, fission can only start when neutrons are created deliberately. There is an initiator at the core that does it. That’s one of the few things kept secret from the first bombs. (Except Fuchs made personal drawings for Beria, so that sucked.) And this intiator kicks the fission off at the precise point when the plutonium is compressed fully by the explosives. The bombs were radiation sealed to keep radiation out. But with too much Pu-240, fission might start at any time, and will start too soon, blowing the bomb apart without serious nuclear fun.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 6:01 PM

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 5:37 PM
===================================

Sure. Scooter could invite him to dinner at Martha’s Vineyard.

kingsjester on August 17, 2010 at 5:43 PM

kingsjester:Lol:)

canopfor on August 17, 2010 at 6:06 PM

John Bolton: Israel has eight days…

In related news: United Nations’ IPCC triples climate monitoring installations in Iran vicinity.

petefrt on August 17, 2010 at 6:06 PM

(Except Fuchs made personal drawings for Beria, so that sucked.)

exception on August 17, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Was it Fuchs who later regretted that he informed the Russkies?

the_nile on August 17, 2010 at 6:12 PM

Was it Fuchs who later regretted that he informed the Russkies?

the_nile on August 17, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I don’t think so. He moved to East Germany when he got out of prison.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 6:20 PM

Have a shave, Bolton.

aengus on August 17, 2010 at 6:34 PM

I say hit it in 8 days12 hours.
That way you whack the site, materal and the fn Ruskies.

esnap on August 17, 2010 at 6:35 PM

NEWSFLASH: Iranians working towards the bomb and no one is willing to do anything to stop them.

I have been reading this story for how many years?

Wake me when the mushroom cloud rises over Tel Aviv.

tommylotto on August 17, 2010 at 6:48 PM

OT: South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman attacks Nikki Haley over receiving a giant fake cardboard check at one of her fundraisers
ninjapirate on August 17, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Gotta say it took me awhile to figure out “what” exactly was the problem with the large fake check.

And when I did, I though “no one could be that stupid”.

I was wrong

DSchoen on August 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM

Anywhere in particular this time? Say New England?

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

upinak on August 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Bushehr?

coldwarrior on August 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Bushehr sounds like a lovely place to take a 10 day vacation:)

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 17, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Where the heck is Hillary? Shouldn’t she be meeting with Medvedev/Putin reminding them of our generosity in sending fire fighting equipment to help protect their nuke base from the fires? That in return we would like a guarantee that they won’t fuel Bushehr?

I mean, she is all gung ho to tell Pakistan/Afghanistan officials that they know where Osama is and they better produce him but she can’t tell Russia to keep the fuel at home?

journeyintothewhirlwind on August 17, 2010 at 7:37 PM

“Because that’s when Russia will start loading nuclear fuel into the reactor. Hit the site after that and you’ll create the equivalent of a giant dirty bomb, spreading fallout all over the surrounding area.”

Wrong. Unless this facility is entirely different from most power reactors, it is loaded with U-238 and a small percentage of U235 to start the fission process with a neutron source installed. The fuel is not “radioactive” until low power testing starts where a small amout of fissions take place with the resulting radioactive fission products; bombed then could produce a radioactive “cloud”.

Power reactors use U238, it’s cheaper, which absorbs a neutron to become PU239 which is fissionable like U235. Using a separation process the PU239 can be separated and concentrated to become bomb grade material. At one time it was believed that India did this with their used fuel as NoKo supposedly has/is doing.

amr on August 17, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Iran is one of those small countries according to Obawa. Nothing to fear.

angryed on August 17, 2010 at 8:50 PM

The fuel is not “radioactive” until low power testing starts where a small amout of fissions take place with the resulting radioactive fission products; bombed then could produce a radioactive “cloud”.

Even then that’s not a problem if it’s disabled by destroying everything except the containment structure.

Power reactors use U238, it’s cheaper, which absorbs a neutron to become PU239 which is fissionable like U235. Using a separation process the PU239 can be separated and concentrated to become bomb grade material. At one time it was believed that India did this with their used fuel as NoKo supposedly has/is doing.

amr on August 17, 2010 at 8:33 PM

But Pu-240 is also produced, in too high a percentage to use in bombs.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM

What was the fueling status of the (French) Osirak Iraq reactor when it was destroyed?

aritai on August 17, 2010 at 10:00 PM

John Bolton: Israel has eight days to strike Iran’s reactor at Bushehr

Why eight days? Because that’s when Russia will start loading nuclear fuel into the reactor. Hit the site after that and you’ll create the equivalent of a giant dirty bomb, spreading fallout all over the surrounding area.

Making the surrounding area radioactive would make the reuse of the site infeasible and would memorialize Iran’s failure and Israel’s fierceness. However, it would not do as much as destroying Tehran. Destroying Tehran would make it impossible for the Iranians’ rulers even to think of taking revenge or restarting their project.

Kralizec on August 17, 2010 at 10:05 PM

What was the fueling status of the (French) Osirak Iraq reactor when it was destroyed?

aritai on August 17, 2010 at 10:00 PM

The fuel was about to be shipped to Iraq from France.

Unlike Bushehr, Osirak would have been excellent for producing weapons grade plutonium. It was the only use Iraq could have for it.

exception on August 17, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Accidents can happen. I know I am praying for one.

johnnyU on August 18, 2010 at 4:49 AM

yah, Hillary is slipping up. She’s good at running. Running for Prez and Running from responsibility.

johnnyU on August 18, 2010 at 4:52 AM