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Iranian Heavy Water Nuke Plant Goes Online Today 820

avtchillsboro writes "According to an article in the NYT, an Iranian heavy water nuke plant goes online today. From the article: 'An Iranian plant that produces heavy water officially went into operation on Saturday, despite U.N. demands that Tehran stop the activity because it can be used to develop a nuclear bomb. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the plant, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. The announcement comes days before Thursday's U.N. deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment — which also can be used to create nuclear weapons — or face economic and political sanctions.'"
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Iranian Heavy Water Nuke Plant Goes Online Today

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  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:41PM (#15986512)
    The real problem is that Iran is not letting international inspectors see their installations. Remember what happened to Iraq in a similar case?
    • by legoburner ( 702695 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:47PM (#15986529) Homepage Journal
      I would be very suprised if mosad/delta force/sas are not already in Iran keeping an eye on things due to the lack of UN inspectors, so I imagine some non-Iranian govt somewhere has a realistic idea of what is going on in Iran.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:49PM (#15986777)
        Mossad: "Let's ignore international law and destroy their nukes."

        Delta Force: "Let's ignore international law and steal their oil."

        SAS: "Why are there no fucking pubs in this bloody desert?"
      • A prominent journalist asks, "Should the UN negotiate more with Iran, or impose sanctions because of its failure to comply?" The answer to the question hinges on the following assertion.

        ASSERTION: If the Iranians build nuclear weapons, then the Iranians will use them without reservation.

        If the above assertion is false, then the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should proceed playing word games with the Iranians and allow them to continue using delaying tactics. Of course, the Iranian Muslims are

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AvitarX ( 172628 )
        Is this a joke?

        I really can't tell. All I do know is that I have no ecpectation that the western world knows anything about the middle east (based on failure to discover 911 and the certain discovery of WMDs in Iraq).
    • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:50PM (#15986545)
      I think they're just goading the Israelis to take out the facility, gain more support in the Arab world, and rid themselves of the problem while they secretly create a more clandestine program.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ezratrumpet ( 937206 )
        I remember reading an account of some military manuever that concluded with, "And you know what? The Israelis got the blame for the whole thing."

        If something happens to the Iranian facility, either the U.S. or Israel will be blamed, even if another country's ambassador throws a stomping fit in the middle of the UN General Assembly and screams, "We did too blow it up!"
      • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:00PM (#15986832)
        I think they're just goading the Israelis to take out the facility, gain more support in the Arab world, and rid themselves of the problem while they secretly create a more clandestine program.

        Reading this reminds of Bush's Axis of Evil speech. Convenient, simple-minded, defined by a narrow-enough perspective that appeals to voters, and effective in removing the complexities of the situation so as to allow everyone to move forward without thinking. A few bullet point for thought.

        Iran is a sovereign country. Irrespective of what anyone's opinion of their current leadership (or the public rhetoric of their leadership), I think that is A Good Thing. Remember that they had to overthrow the US-supported Shah to get their country back. Hardly surprising they view the US with contempt and distrust.

        Iran is surrounded by nations with nuclear capabilities, and most of those nations are perceived, to one degree or another, as a threat. They fought a long, brutal war with Iraq only to have the US move in and set up camp. Hardly a stretch to consider that they, too, have legitimate defense needs. Notable among the list of those nations is Israel. Think what you want about Israel, but the folks in Lebanon most certainly view, and justifiably so, Israel as real threat. I doubt the the folks in Iran intend to wait to be bombed to rubble for them to justify their concerns to the western world.

        The US doesn't talk directly with Iran. Or with Syria. Or with North Korea. Or with many other nations for that matter. So much for the diplomatic process, and so much for the extent of US influence in the region.

        Iran sits on a lot of oil. Our economy depends on that oil continuing to flow. The bluster about taking direct action, or hinting to Israel that they direct action on our behalf may work for the voters, but balancing "national security" concerns includes ensuring the US economy continues to grow.

        To my mind, the only possible outcome is for the US, and by extension, its allies, is to move toward acccepting the eventuality that Iran will in due time have nuclear weapons and nothing anyone says or does is going to change that. Once the US learns live with that, maybe the Iranians will get over their hatred of the US and it's involvement in their own country, and its continuing involvement in the countries that surround it.
        • by Grave ( 8234 ) <awalbert88.hotmail@com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:59PM (#15987450)
          Sovereign states may have whatever weapons they wish, but when their leadership pronounces that their goal is to wipe out a neighbor state (Israel), it no longer becomes acceptable to the international community to allow such weapons programs to go forth. If Iran does develop a nuclear bomb and uses it against Israel, the retaliatory strike from Israel would result in casualties that are simply beyond anything any previous war has shown us. Yet Iran's leadership may well be foolish enough to do it anyway, if only to ensure that the rest of the middle east would destroy Israel. Never underestimate the blind arrogance of religious zealotry.

          The US cannot learn to live with another nation developing nuclear weapons who wants to destroy another nation. Say what you will about current US foreign policy, but we go out of our way to minimize civilian casualties and avoid use of excessive force. Terrorists do the opposite, as seen on countless occasions. After 9/11, two options were available to the Bush administration - nuclear strikes on al Qeida bases in Afghanistan, and special forces teams. There was no possibility of ground invasion for some time. Would the leadership of Iran, placed in the same situation, be so reluctant to use nuclear force?

          There is no economic gain to an attack on or invasion of Iran. None that would be realized within 15-20 years at least, and by that time the need for oil would have reduced as alternative energy options come online. Any time the slightest conflict erupts in the middle east, oil jumps another $10/bbl. That said, our economy has continued to grow despite a doubling of the price of gasoline in the past five years.

          In regards to your comment about Israel/Lebanon, I am a bit taken aback. Israel acted with extreme restraint in the face of continuing Hezbollah attacks launched from Lebanon. They had pulled out of Lebanon in 2000 after the UN adopted a resolution stating that a UN force would disarm Hezbollah and enforce a peace. The UN and Lebanon both failed to do so over the course of six years. When terrorist attacks increased, Israel did what any sovereign nation has a right to do - retaliate and disarm. Were civilians killed? Yes. Were Israeli civilians killed by Hezbollah attacks? Yes. The difference is that Israel wasn't targeting those civilians. Terrorists like to hide in civilian areas in order to cause casualties like CNN was so happy to show.

          The situation in the middle east is perhaps unrepairable. The rest of the world can't tolerate dictatorships bent on the destruction of each other and the acquisition of nuclear arms. The people of the middle east can't tolerate the rest of the world interfering and apparently can't tolerate each other's differences enough to get along under a democratic system of government.

          I see no real solution short of allowing them to obliterate each other, which means we need to stop using their oil.
          • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:04AM (#15987791)
            In regards to your comment about Israel/Lebanon, I am a bit taken aback. Israel acted with extreme restraint [...] The difference is that Israel wasn't targeting those civilians.

            Thoughtful and reasoned replies I've found are always more useful than the knee-jerk reaction I was expecting. The only thing I can say in response to any They Did This Because of That is that the Middle East has a long history of action/reaction, and the continuation of the cycle, while grotesque and unfathomable to us outsiders, has support from both sides. My own opinion is that like everything in life, there are two sides to every story, and in this story, both are sides are equally culpable.

            My motive, if there was one, was to highlight the possibility that an average person or family in Lebanon doesn't have to an extremist to view the destruction in his country as something more than the abstract interplay of geopolitical forces, or the calculated military maneuverings of their respective militaries. Put another way, if someone bombs your neighbourhood in the ground and kills most of your family or neighbours, chances are you'd view the person who did the bombing as a dangerous threat. If you're smart, you flee the country (as many did). If you're angry and armed, you take up weapons and fight back. If your're angry and without arms, you do throw rocks and molotov cocktails like the poor in the Palestinian territories.

            As for Iran, I think we'd all agree their rhetoric is alarming, but then I find the speeches of Bush, Cheney & Co. alarming as well. I can say that and laugh, but I don't live in the Middle East. If I was an Iranian citizen, I wouldn't be laughing, but I would be proud that my country wants to extert its influence in the region (the Shia crescent), and find a perverse but perfectly-human satisfaction that my country could snub its nose at a greater power. Not unlike a typical US citizen who feel proud when the US goes out to remake the world in its own image, or thumping their chest when the conversation involves United Nations, the WTO, or internal treaties of any sort.

            I'm afraid that the US will, for the time being, continue to prosecute its bogeyman theories, while the bogeymans themselves (Russia, Cuba, Iran, and so on), will continue on despite, or perhaps in spite. One thing is certain if not a constant in each case. Someone is Really Pissed Off. Doesn't hurt to ask, or consider why that is.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tcoady ( 22541 )
            What about the Algiers Accord [wikipedia.org]?

            Essential to the Algiers Accords and reportedly a non-negotiable requirement of Iran that the Carter Administration reluctantly conceded was Point I: Non-Intervention in Iranian Affairs. It reads "The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            The difference is that Israel wasn't targeting those civilians.

            Nice troll, but two days before the massacre in Qana the Israeli military told the press that they considered civilians in southern Lebanon a legitimate target.

          • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:31PM (#15990116)
            Sovereign states may have whatever weapons they wish, but when their leadership pronounces that their goal is to wipe out a neighbor state (Israel), it no longer becomes acceptable to the international community to allow such weapons programs to go forth.

            Who is this "international community"? Would it be ok if they didn't announce it first?

            If Iran does develop a nuclear bomb and uses it against Israel, the retaliatory strike from Israel would result in casualties that are simply beyond anything any previous war has shown us. Yet Iran's leadership may well be foolish enough to do it anyway, if only to ensure that the rest of the middle east would destroy Israel.

            The leaderships of Israel and the US don't exactly qualify as sane but even they might reconsider attacking a nuclear armed state.

            Never underestimate the blind arrogance of religious zealotry.

            No shortage of that with the Israeli and US Governments right now.

            The US cannot learn to live with another nation developing nuclear weapons who wants to destroy another nation.

            Why should the US care about Asian countries pointing nuclear weapons at other Asian countries? Why would a nuclear exchange between Iraq and Israel be worst than one between India and Pakistan...

            Say what you will about current US foreign policy, but we go out of our way to minimize civilian casualties and avoid use of excessive force.

            The simplist way to do this would be not to invade other countries.

            After 9/11, two options were available to the Bush administration - nuclear strikes on al Qeida bases in Afghanistan, and special forces teams. There was no possibility of ground invasion for some time.

            Actually there were plenty of things the US Government could have done, but did not do.
    • The problem in this case is that unlike a few years back with Iraq, the Iranians have this time created such a well-timed diversion (Lebanon) that the Israelis aren't in much of a position for a repeat performance of 1981. Or at least, they're in a worse position. For them to destroy the plant in Iran would almost certainly guarantee that they'd receive the blame for providing the spark to reignite hostilities on the northern border, and I'm not sure if they have the stomach for that at the moment.

      The situation in Iraq makes any US action that might be perceived as risking our troops a political impossibility; and the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese aren't interested in doing anything about Iran's nuclear ambitions in general, because they know they won't be the first targets of any weapons they produce.

      Thus, the overall stage seems set for Tehran to continue as long and as far as they can: with Israel tied up because of Lebanon and the US pinned due to Iraq, there's no reason not to go for the bomb.

      Unless there's a major shift in attitude and pressure, I think it's really only a matter of time before Iran goes nuclear; already a pariah state, they have little to lose and much to gain. And once they have it, it seems to be only a further interlude before it's used on the obvious target, Israel, whether directly or by proxy.

      The real question is, what happens then?

      • by Konster ( 252488 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:05PM (#15986609)
        Don't underestimate Israel's ability to do what they feel is neccessary to keep themselves safe.
        • by Simon Garlick ( 104721 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:39PM (#15986734)
          And noone can argue with them, because--bottom line--Israel has nukes.

          This is the lesson that developing nations around the world have learned.

          Noone fucks with you once you have nukes.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by insomnyuk ( 467714 )
            Noone fucks with you once you have nukes

            This is patently untrue. See 9/11/2001 for examples. This leads us to an interesting problem. Is Iran willing to nuke Israel through a terrorist proxy? If yes, goto Israel nuking Iran pre-emptively.
        • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:40PM (#15986742)
          Don't underestimate Israel's ability to do what they feel is neccessary to keep themselves safe.

          Don't under estimate the ability of the Iranians to defend them selves. I'm no fan of the Iranian regime but don't assume that just because they are Islamic fundamentalists they must also be idiots. These people have managed to keep US made F-14 jets in full use with spare parts made in Iran (or procured from corrupt sources in the US military) for over 20 years. They have even upgraded and re-manufactured significant amount of the military gear they got from the Americans prior to the revolution (and let's not forget all the toys they got from President Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal). The Iranian military leadership was trained US instructors some of whom also trained the Israelis. They have also forged some very cozy relationships with Russia and more importantly China who supplies them with high-tech weapons some of whom, ironically enough, incorporate technology that is Israeli in origin.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Exactly. For example, Israel could use nuclear weapons developed under it's cladestine nuclear program to destroy Iran's clandestine nuclear program.

          The irony would be fit for a Shakespearean tragedy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sgt_doom ( 655561 )
        Holy Crap! That sounds so geopolitically sophisticated...

        That is, if someone has the brain and knowledge base the size of a worm --- or a Dan Quayle, Richard Perle, Bill Krystol, Paul Wolfowitz (Oh no, he's running the World Banko..)!

        Of course, should one choose to apply a little knowledge to the situation to elucidate it: the Israelis have sold nuclear technology to the Chinese (plus other weapon systems), which the Chinese have sold to the Iranians, while the Soviets have sold the Iranians their SS m

      • by ph1ll ( 587130 ) <ph1ll1phenryNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:22PM (#15986920)
        Am I the only Westerner who thinks that Iran getting nuclear weapons is no bad thing?

        Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is what prevented the Cold War from warming up. It might take the current crisis in the Middle East off the boil as well.

        Consider this:

        • They've already had the West topple their democratically elected government before. This was pure and simple an attempt by us to get our greedy mitts on their oil (google for Operation Ajax [nytimes.com]).
        • The Iranians (perhaps rightly) fear unprovoked aggression from America. It's now clear that the claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction used in the current Iraq campaign were just propaganda to allow the invasion of an oil-rich nation. Why should Iran not think we want to do the same thing again?
        • The US was sabre rattling against Iran by calling it part of the comically titled "Axis of Evil" even when the moderate Mohammad Khatami was president (and, yes, Iran is. at least nominally, a democracy...)
        • All the horror expressed in the America media about oil-rich Iran's claimed civilian programme sounds somewhat hollow when their so-called fellow Axis-of-Evil partner North Korea has happily admitted to a military nuclear programme (total oil reserves of North Korea in millions of barrels: 0).
        • Israel already has them (google for Mordechai Vanunu [wikipedia.org] who served 18 years in an Israeli prison for leaking information about their nuclear programme to the British Press. Awfully long sentence if the programme didn't exist, don't you think...?) .

        For this last reason, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's beligerent stance towards Israel is largely regarded as rhetoric. Afterall, Mutually Assured Destruction is, well, mutual.

        I for one think Iran having nuclear weapons will make us stop taking ill-advised decisions when it comes to meddling in the affairs of small, oil-rich countries.

        • by eshefer ( 12336 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:13PM (#15987212) Homepage Journal
          mutualy assured distruction works* becoase you have two rational powers with nuclear capabilities threatening each other - both know and fear the result of a strike.

          What we have here is one side which is a secular democratic power who have never actually stated they have nuclear capabilities. on the other side you have a theocracy who glorifies honorable death, and has publicly stated it's will to distroy the other side.

          * thanks to what we know now of Curtis La-may's recomendations during the kuba missle crises - I think it's pretty obvious that we had more luck then brains with MAD. Most people don't know how close we were to distructions back then.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by molo ( 94384 )
            secular democratic power who have never actually stated they have nuclear capabilities.

            Israel is anything but secular.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Omeger ( 939765 )
      I remember what happend. Iraq didn't make any weapons of mass destruction.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Depili ( 749436 )

      With Iraq it was mostly case of "prove that you DON'T have any WMD's" other than "let us see if you have any", and as common sense dictates, it is way harder to prove that something doesn't exist than offer proof of somethings existence. There hasn't been any discoveries of WMD's in Iraq since the invasion...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The real problem is that Iran is not letting international inspectors see their installations. Remember what happened to Iraq in a similar case?

      The real problem is that the USA has pissed off all its allies with the result that none of them will contribute to any US led invasion in the middle east or any place else. Perhaps after the next US presidential election but not as long as GWB sits in the white house. The US has also used up a great big chunk of it's resources on the war in Iraq, it has
  • Right. (Score:4, Funny)

    by daeg ( 828071 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:42PM (#15986515)
    Future conversation:

    UN: Stop enriching uranium or face political and economic consequences.
    Iran: Do so and we will stop selling you oil. China will buy it if you don't. Continue your threats and we will use our position in OPEC against you.
    UN: Uhhh....
    • Oil economics (Score:4, Informative)

      by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:18PM (#15986651) Journal
      If Iran sells the oil to *someone*, it makes no real difference who. It just means that whoever would have sold to China, would sell to whomever Iran is now not selling to. This extra constraint on the distribution network just adds a small price per barrel. That's just as empty a threat as the UN's.
    • Re:Right. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Millenniumman ( 924859 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:23PM (#15986673)
      US: You do realize that enriching uranium can result in accidents.
      Iran: We have safety personnel, etc.
      US: Not those kind of accidents...
      Iran: What kind?
      US: The kind that fall out of planes.
      UN: That's mean!
      Iran: And we still have that oil, we'll stop selling!
      US: Yeah... Ever heard of Alaska?
      Iran: Touche.
    • Re:Right. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p 10link.net> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:38PM (#15986728) Homepage
      so china gets its oil slightly cheaper and the west slightly more expensive big deal

      oil is a commodity, an expensive one but still a commodity. As such a single supplier cant really threaten a single customer (they can stop exporting thier oil altogether but that would hurt all oil customers as well as thier own pockets)
  • by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:48PM (#15986536)
    Anyone care to bet whether the reason why this was announced the day before the deadline was to goad the UN and make sure they'll impose sanctions?

    Iran has money to burn, and UN sanctions don't seem to be particularly effective ways to convince to governments; it's the proletariat who suffer. In the meanwhile, Iran's government gets to play the "it's us against the (non-Muslim) world!" card again. Jihad, anyone?

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:50PM (#15986546) Homepage Journal

    With Israel a known (suspected within 99.999%) holder of nukes, Iran sees themselves as the logical counterpoint. They do mean to make weapons, of this I have no doubt.

    Peaceful purposes? The iranian prez has said Israel should be wiped off the map. He doesn't strike me as a man with peaceful intentions.

    • Seconded. If 'peaceful research' was really their goal, the design of their plant is rather suspect. I'm sure the Indians would have been happy to share with them their designs for a Thorium, non-weaponizable breeder system, or any number of countries would have appreciated an infusion of petrodollars into their existing R&D programs in return for setting up a facility in Tehran. Heck; with the amount of money they're burning, they could have become the world leader in any area of research that they want.

      Nothing about their whole program says anything besides "bomb development," and that doesn't bode particularly well for regional stability, particularly with their president regularly sounding like the second coming of Heinrich Himmler.

      That said, I'm not sure, given the number of nuclear weapons that are floating around in the world today, that it's practical to assume that we'll keep the Iranians from acquiring them indefinitely. In fact, it's starting to look more and more like the worldwide non-proliferation age is over. The question isn't whether a nuclear weapon will be used in the Middle East, and it's hardly even a question who it will be used against. The question is where, and when, and what the response will be.
    • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:21PM (#15986666) Journal
      No, no, no!

      When he said he wants to "wipe Israel off the map", what he *really* meant was that Israel's military aggressiveness should be wiped off the map. And when he said Jews are evil, what he *really* means what that militaristic Zionism is evil. And when he said each and every Jew in the entire world should be rounded up and taken to concentration camps to be killed, what he *really* meant was that he wants to kill the spirit of hatred that resides in the hearts of Israel's policymakters!

      Don't read him out of context!
    • by LainTouko ( 926420 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:28PM (#15986951)
      Peaceful purposes? The iranian prez has said Israel should be wiped off the map.

      A better translation, with context:

      'When the dear Imam [Khomeini] said that [the Shah's] regime must go, and that we demand a world without dependent governments, many people who claimed to have political and other knowledge [asked], 'Is it possible [that the Shahs regime can be toppled]?'

      'That day, when Imam [Khomeini] began his movement, all the powers supported [the Shah's] corrupt regime and said it was not possible. However, our nation stood firm, and by now we have, for 27 years, been living without a government dependent on America. Imam [Khomeni] said: 'The rule of the East [U.S.S.R.] and of the West [U.S.] should be ended.' But the weak people who saw only the tiny world near them did not believe it.

      'Nobody believed that we would one day witness the collapse of the Eastern Imperialism [i.e. the U.S.S.R], and said it was an iron regime. But in our short lifetime we have witnessed how this regime collapsed in such a way that we must look for it in libraries, and we can find no literature about it.

      'Imam [Khomeini] said that Saddam [Hussein] must go, and that he would be humiliated in a way that was unprecedented. And what do you see today? A man who, 10 years ago, spoke as proudly as if he would live for eternity is today chained by the feet, and is now being tried in his own country... '

      'Imam [Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.' This sentence is very wise. The issue of Palestine is not an issue on which we can compromise.'

      When you see a quote attributed to someone who was unlikely to have been speaking English, remember to maintain a healthy degree of scepticism.

  • by sien ( 35268 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:51PM (#15986554) Homepage
    If you want to understand Iranian's reasons for wanting nuclear power you may want to read this interview [theage.com.au] with Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Larijani.

    One quote that might interest people from the interview is this:

    Mohammad Saeidi is a practical man. Sidestepping the political, ideological and historical aspects of the nuclear dispute with the West, the vice-president of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation is focused on a set of problems that must be solved logically if the country and its people are to develop to their full potential. "The country's oil and gas reserves will last a maximum of another 25 or 30 years," he says. "Therefore we have to provide other resources."

    If you are an American, please don't support your current administrations drive to cause yet another war by believing their propaganda about Iran. Really, you should trust your politicians as soon as they find the WMD that they told you existed in Iraq.

    Please don't let Bush plunge the world into the Realm of $200 a barrel oil prices by attacking Iran.

    • by babbling ( 952366 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:09PM (#15986626)
      I'd like to hear someone justify the US having nuclear weapons, especially taking into account that they are the only country to have used them to attack another country...
      • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:56AM (#15988032)
        Or rather three different ways of looking at it:

        One is the grandfather clause. Basically when the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed it allowed those nations who already had nukes to keep them. So the US can have them for the same reason as Russia, the UK, France, and so on. That would be the legalistic view.

        Another would be because the US has a stable government with excellent protections against accidental launch, or deliberate launch by a rogue person. You can Google around for the details if you wish, but what it comes down to is that GWB can't just wake up one day and decide to nuke a country for the fun of it. He lacks the authority and the ability. The US also cares for the lives of its' citizens to a high degree, and has a stable government that doesn't get overthrown all the time. That's the somewhat moral view.

        Finally, there's the simple matter that nobody can stop them. They've got the biggest military, and the amount of nukes they have is such that they can annihilate anyone they wish. There's no possibility of any sort of invasion or strike that could take out even a fraction of the US arsenal before they could retaliate. So there's simply nothing anyone can do about it. That's the practical view.

        You can take it any way you like but it really isn't comparable to Iran getting nukes. The US is allowed, under internal law, to have it's nukes, they are not (despite some ranting on Slashdot) run by extremists that can launch them at any time, and there's just really nothing anyone can do to take them away. Iran isn't allowed to develop nukes, there is a concern that they would use them given that there are no controls in the country stopping their hard line government from doing so, and as it happens they can be stopped.

        I'm not saying that they should be stopped, that's a different argument. However trying to say "The US has nukes so Iran getting them is the same thing," isn't the case, regardless of what level you choose to look at it on.
  • I alway wondered if radioactive oil is as useable as the clean crude. I suppose we could always use it to lube the current nuke plants ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OakDragon ( 885217 )

      As an American, I am in favor of invading Iran to steal their nuclear power plants, as the US is sorely lacking this natural resource.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Iranian Heavy Water Nuke Plant Goes Online Today.
    How long before it feels the slashdot effect?
  • Iran will win this one becasue they have the oil, so easily it's not even worth having the contest.

    The Iranians and Osama could both just crush Bush in any contest physical or mental, not that Bush could ever find either of them. Iran (any OPEC country) or China (who has all our money) can completely and totally destoy our economy at any time.

    It's really quite depressing to be an American these days, and I can hear Hezbola (a branch of the Iranian government) laughing from here, which doesn't help.

    I for one
  • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:56PM (#15986573) Homepage Journal
    Naive of me, but did anyone RTFA? It says that Iran can now produce heavy water, not that they have a nuclear reactor. FFS, I thought the NYT had higher standards of journalistic integrity than to use a misleading headline.
    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:56PM (#15986811)
      Pick a topic you're familiar with. Computer security, IP law, file sharing, medicine, whatever.

      Read a newspaper article on that topic.

      Note how grotesquely ill-informed the reporter and editorial staff are on that topic? Notice all the basic and fundamental errors they make that shine out as eye-searing actinic flares to you, given your far greater knowledge of that field of human endeavour?

      Extrapolate this to all the topics you're not as familiar with.

    • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Funny)

      by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:03PM (#15986842) Journal
      Best chuckle I've had all day here! Thanks for that, and since you done me a good turn....I've got some oceanfront real estate here in Oklahoma I'll make you a real sweet deal on!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
      You really haven't been paying attention if you think the New York Times has any journalistic integrity! Wow. Between all the outright fraud and failure to investigate things which are dogmatically unpleasant for them over the Hezbollah attacks on Israel and Israel's response, it was hard to miss things like the overt (and poorly done) photo doctoring, staged photos, etc.
  • by Loki7154 ( 548862 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:56PM (#15986574)
    It is my understanding that Iran would like to build a uranium nuclear device. While these are impressive--and definitely make a big boom--they are not nearly as deadly or frightening as a plutonium nuclear device. The reason? Deliverability. While a plutonium nuclear explosive can be squeezed down to a pretty small size (to fit on the tip of a cruise missile, for example), a uranium device has to be pretty massive.

    Essentially, while a plutonium device is a ball of plutonium surrounded by concentric spheres of perfectly timed explosives, a uranium device is the equivalent of a 5-inch diameter gun which fires a uranium slug at a uranium target. The advantage of a plutonium device is obvious: it's small. The disadvantage of a plutonium device is the fact that it's very, very difficult to get the timing right so that you don't incinerate the plutonium before it goes critical. Meanwhile, a uranium device is dirt-simple to develop once you have the material. However, these things are huge. So huge, in fact, that you need something the size of a B29 in order to deliver it. We're talking several tons here.

    Incidentally, the US developed one of each during the Manhattan Project, culminating in the two dropped bombs: Little Boy and Fat Man (no prizes for guessing which is which). While the Plutonium devices needed to be tested to make sure it worked, the scientists didn't even bother to test a uranium explosive at full scale. They just dropped the sucker.

    Basically, this boils down to a pretty simple reality: even if Iran develops a uranium device, they can't deliver it. They can't put it on a missile, and I think it's a 100% certainty that Israel (or anyone else, for that matter, though Israel is the most likely target) would shoot down anything the size of a B29 flying in from Iran. If I had to guess, I'd wager that's why the Bush administration doesn't seem terribly worried about Iran. North Korea is a different matter, but Iran just isn't as big of a threat as everyone seems to be making it out to be.

    And as an aside, it's certainly tempting to say "well, they could just put it on a boat and hide it and float it to a port and explode it." However, there are a couple of problems. First of all, each nuclear device that Iran develops will be a sort of force-multiplier for its power in the region. So if it develops--say--three devices, that means that losing just one is going to be a dramatic blow to its power. If you say that there's a 50/50 chance that the device will actually make it to its target, there's just no way to rationalize that risk. Much better to use the threat as leverage. The Iranian leaders don't subscribe to Western modes of thought, but they're aren't utterly irrational.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kwerle ( 39371 )
      So huge, in fact, that you need something the size of a B29 in order to deliver it. We're talking several tons here.

      We're past the age of the cruise missile. We know full well that any plane can be a delivery vehicle. I know too little of the local geography, flight paths, and etc - but exactly how long would it take to fly a 737 far enough into israeli space to make it worth detonating one of these nuclear devices? With a cruising speed around 500 knots ~550 mph.

      Haifa looks to be about 20 miles south o
    • Although it's been a while since I've actually looked at the physics of it, the heavy-water reactor they're discussing constructing is what you'd need in order to produce plutonium from natural uranium, and thus have a modern, Pu-based weapon. It's heavy-water reactors like those which have produced most of the Plutonium that are in the U.S. (and ex-Soviet arsenals, although they did seem to be fond of graphite-moderated breeders as well). The heavy water acts as a moderator, which slows down the neutrons enough to induce beta-decay in the nonfissile uranium atoms, and convert them to plutonium...which, being chemically different from uranium, can be processed out of the spent fuel rods more easily than separating the various uranium isotopes.

      WP confirms this:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_water#Neutron_m oderator [wikipedia.org]

      The uranium enrichment facilities (centrifuges, etc.) which Iran was also constructing, can be seen as a parallel bomb-making process. They're all part of the isotope separation, which brings natural uranium up to the point where it can be either reacted in a light water reactor, or used in a bomb (depending on whether you go to around 3% for a power reactor or all the way up to 90+% for a bomb). On the whole, a uranium enrichment facility is a lot less problematic than a Pu-breeder reactor, as long as it's monitored. (So that you can tell how far they're enriching the uranium.)

      So you're correct about the uranium devices being somewhat less problematic than the plutonium devices; they tend to be bigger and have a lower power for their size and weight, and I don't think they can be as easily used as the initiator of a hydrogen (fusion) bomb. However, the reason the whole heavy water thing is news, is because it shows Iran is going for the smaller weapons as well.

      As other people have pointed out though, right now they're working on making the heavy water that would go in a breeder reactor, it's not clear that they actually have the capability yet. The real showdown will happen once they actually have a reactor built and fueled which is capable of breeding plutonium from natural or low-enriched uranium. Allowing them to have that capability would be tacit acceptance of an Iran which is not only nuclear, but has the capability of producing nuclear cruise missles, and perhaps thermonuclear weapons as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Detritus ( 11846 )
      Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

      See the W33 [wikipedia.org] for an example of a light and compact nuclear weapon that uses HEU and gun assembly.

  • Possible options (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @07:58PM (#15986584) Homepage Journal
    1. Diplomacy, so far has failed.
    2. Air strikes, don't know where all the facilities are and many of those we do are located so far underground that conventional weapons are useless. Not only that but Iran would no doubt cut off oil supplies which would cause an oil crisis.
    3. Military invasion, not enough troops because of our excursion into Iraq. The only possible alternative is a draft.
    4. Leave it for the next administration to sort out, the most likely scenario.

  • Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jasonditz ( 597385 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @08:00PM (#15986592) Homepage
    This is not a nuclear power plant that's online (yet), but merely a facility that produces heavy water.

    It's fun to get people worked up with such a headline (and almost all the AP wire sites did so), but on closer examination, it's hard to get too outraged at Iran for manufacturing something that you can buy on eBay.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:10PM (#15986864) Homepage Journal
    Iran started its nuclear program back when the Shah was still a US puppet [google.com]. Of course, I don't expect to hear anything about that from the Bushes, who put the Iran in "Iran/Contra" [google.com].

    It's always been a bad idea to proliferate nukes in the Mideast, a part of the world controlled by politicians defined more by death's rewards than life's opportunities. Reading more of the history of Iran's nukes helps explain why the French are so deeply involved, and how the roles of the US and Russia are so "complicated".
  • by neo ( 4625 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:13PM (#15986880)
    Doesn't it seem stupid to have only a handful of countries with nuclear weapons?

    My solution would for the US to build one ICBM for each country in the UN. If you're in the UN, here's ONE nuke. You only get one.

    * You want true equality around the world, there it is. Every country is now equal.

    * You want to end wars, you've done it. No one can invade anyone else or risk getting nuked.

    * Talk about one world government? Now it's really possible.

    Give them all nukes.
    • by deanj ( 519759 ) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:54PM (#15987098)
      Sorry, but you presume everyone's reasonable. That's already proven not to be the case.

      You also presume that every country will have the same capability of deploying those things.

      They don't.

      Once one of those countries realizes it, they'll use it on the people the don't like, and that'll be the start of something much much worse.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:22AM (#15988122) Homepage

    A heavy water plant is not a nuclear reactor. Nothing in a heavy water plant is radioactive. Or, for most processes, even toxic. Here's a tutorial on heavy water plants [cns-snc.ca]. They're not very complicated or especially large. This is the easy step in the process.

    The next step is a nuclear reactor fueled with natural uranium and moderated with heavy water, which can be used, with difficulty, to produce plutonium. This is the route Pakistan took. Here's Pakistan's heavy water plant [isis-online.org] and its companion nuclear reactor [isis-online.org]. Israel's Dimona reactor [globalsecurity.org] is also of this type. So this is the standard route to nuclear weapons for small countries. This step is much harder and riskier, but the technology is half a century old.

    There are other approaches. The United States initially used water-cooled graphite-moderated reactors fueled with natural uranium for plutonium production, as did Russia. Britain used air-cooled graphite-moderated reactors. (Bad idea. The Windscale reactor had a fire in 1957, releasing a considerable amount of radioactive material.) Once both countries had uranium-enrichment capability, newer reactors mostly used low-grade enriched uranium. Both the US and the USSR got so good at plutonium production that both now have tons (literally) of the stuff in storage, in addition to the weapons using it. A nuclear weapon requires about 5Kg.

Air is water with holes in it.