Beyond the Cusp

October 7, 2014

Explosion at Iran’s Parchin Nuclear Plant and What We Might Learn

There is a very good reason why the Iranians continue to refuse to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the Parchin Military Compound and the areas they suspect is the research facility for nuclear triggers, but that is just the half of it. Today the Iranian semi-official ISNA news agency reported there were two fatalities resulting from a fire which swept through an “explosive materials production unit” which produced a “loud explosion” which was audible several kilometers away. Further reports from opposition Sahamnews outlet claimed the explosion was so powerful it shattered windows some fifteen kilometers away from the site. Any way you slice through the conflicting information, the one thing which is unavoidable is that Iran had a very bad accident in the facilities where their research for a working nuclear trigger is presumed by numerous intelligence sources to be carried out. This should get any thinking person to wondering what the Iranians would want with a complicated, sophisticated high explosive trigger which might require sufficient high explosives stored on sight which might cause an explosion even remotely close to what was reported if they are not producing nuclear weapons from their completely peaceful civilian nuclear research program. But such thinking should raise further questions such as what type of weapon would produce the need for such amounts of explosives.

If it had not been established before, it should now be evident that the Iranians are working towards a nuclear weapons arsenal and not just electrical generation for future needs and medical research and treatments. What remains is to discern is the most likely type of nuclear weapon the Iranian scientists have been ordered to research and produce for their arsenal. If one were to look back in history to the Manhattan Project we would discover that there were two completely different types of nuclear devices dropped on Japan. The program climaxed with the dropping of the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” in that order. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima by parachute at 8:15 in the morning was called Little Boy, and it exploded 2,000 feet above the city with a yield equal to approximately 12-15,000 tons of TNT as calculated by the top scientists of the project. The Little Boy bomb was not even tested before being deployed as the physicists were so completely certain of the design that they figured that it did not need to have a demonstration for proof of validity of concept. Little Boy used the Uranium-235 in a gun-style bomb where a machined bullet, projectile or plug which sits at one end of the length of the device with high explosives behind it set to explode when the detonator activates. The projectile travels at high speed into the target which is a block or sphere also made from Uranium-235. The impact speed is set at a sufficient velocity to begin a super-critical mass, initiating a nuclear chain reactive explosion. The design of a bomb of the style and engineering is considered to be so primitive in this the twenty-first century that it can be readily downloaded or found in your local library, assuming there is still a public library in your town in this Internet age. Developing a bomb such as Little Boy would not require any amount of explosives sufficient to shatter windows fifteen kilometers away or be heard over an even greater distance.

So, could the Iranians be working on another design, say the same as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki which was named Fat Man which was an entirely different design which had required a test device before it was approved for use by the military forces in the Pacific to force an end to World War II. Fat Man was an implosion-type nuclear weapon with a plutonium core. Fat Man was detonated at an altitude of approximately 1,800 feet over the city and had a yield of approximately 20,000 tons of TNT. In order to bring the plutonium-240 isotope to critical mass and initiate the chain reaction the surrounding high explosives needed to be designed carefully, crafted with care and near perfection and then detonated in an exacting sequence which places equal and seamlessly even pressure compacting the core until the bomb explodes with greater force than the entire bomb weight in high explosives could ever produce. This type of bomb requires a sufficient mass of high explosives in order to produce the device, but probably not a store of high, medium and slow explosives to have produced the explosions described occurring at the Parchin Military Base. The design for a Fat Man type device is also relatively easy to find though some of the finer points of the device are usually left out or are vaguely defined. There is a very good reason that the design for a Fat Man device are not given anywhere near as completely as the Little Boy device, though neither device’s complete design is given, is that there is another level of nuclear device which requires an implosions fission device similar but more advanced than Fat Man as the precursor in order to attain the force to attain the fusion of a hydrogen bomb, a thermo-nuclear device, a far more destructive device than any fission device by a factor anywhere from ten to a thousand times.

The making of either the gun style or the implosion type device could be developed, even given the sketchy designs available, by any physicist of any repute. Developing a thermo-nuclear device would be considerably more difficult. Such a device starts with an implosion device of sufficient yield that it can compress the entirety of the core device to force the fusion of hydrogen atoms in the core device. Even after developing a large and energetic enough to provide the compressive force, one still has to develop the inner core of the thermo-nuclear device which is never revealed with any accuracy or even imaginary measurements. This is likely wise and makes the development of such weapons of mass destruction that much more difficult which will hopefully handicap those much of the rest of the world prays never get possession of such devices. Iran has been working towards developing such a device for close to two decades. Developing a thermo-nuclear device would require more high explosives as the triggering mechanism would have to be far more sophisticated and thus more experimentation. Perhaps the suspicions of Netanyahu are more valid than the excuses from other locales where all the Israeli protestations are dismissed out of hand. Perhaps we should all simply soothe our suspicions and fears with the fact and hopes that the explosion set the Iranian nuclear weapons program back some relatively large amount. Still, we can also prove our humanity and regret the loss of life and give our sympathy to their families and pray that the Iranian nuclear research and programs never take an additional life, Iranian or anybody from anywhere on our ever shrinking planet.

Below are pictures depicting before and after the explosion:


Picture explosion at Parchin Military Base in Iran

Before/After Parching Military Base explosions


Beyond the Cusp

April 25, 2013

Middle East One Year After a Nuclear Iran

Everyone has given their picture of the horrors which would follow a nuclear armed Iran. Most of these warnings point to the possibility of Iran distributing their nuclear capabilities to their closest allies Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon. They explain how Iran might choose to attack Israel with a nuclear device smuggled into Israel by Hezballah in the north, by Hamas from the southwest, or Bedouins or others from within the Sinai Peninsula in the south. They mention that Iran could threaten Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, and Bahrain with severe and dire consequences while loosing the Shiite populations in each country to serve whatever ends the Ayatollahs decide. Where these scenarios are troubling enough, they completely miss a far worse situation which is actually more likely. There have been some who have hinted at these problems but they warrant retelling.


All of the Sunni nations in the Middle East are fully aware of the threat they would face should Iran become a nuclear armed nation. The struggle for supremacy between Shiite and Sunnis Islam would become far more competitive with Iran having nuclear weapons with which to threaten the major Sunni powers who currently enjoy a measure of preeminence provided by their oil wealth. What has been omitted from many explanations of a future after Iran goes nuclear is that when Pakistan faced a nuclear armed India they went on an emergency nuclear weapons development program. This was an exceedingly costly program far beyond anything the Pakistani government could ever have afforded. Enter the ever helpful but not too egalitarian Saudis with all the cash that Pakistan would need. There was a very simple price for the assistance of the Saudis, the promise of nuclear weapons on demand should Saudi Arabia ever find themselves on the wrong end of a nuclear situation, say like Iranian threats. This agreement would provide the Saudis with a number of operative nuclear weapons along with the plans for building their own weapons once they put the processing and other required productions into place. There have been numerous conjectures to the number of weapons which would be provided the Saudis on demand with a dozen being the median figure which would be more than sufficient to keep Iran in check while the Saudis brought their own nuclear weapons program online. But the Saudis are but the first in a line of new nuclear powers which would result from a nuclear Iran.


There are other countries who would feel compelled to reply to a nuclear Iran by immediately developing their own nuclear arsenals. The idea that every nation in the Middle East, and even further, would be satisfied to rely on the United States nuclear umbrella to keep them safe is a foolish and silly belief. For starters, any nation which currently views themselves as being major players in the Middle East would take a nuclear armed Iran as an unacceptable challenge to their place in the order of the Middle East. Of these the first two which come to mind are Turkey and Egypt. Turkey and Egypt both have sufficient technology available to them to produce their own nuclear weaponry within a nominal amount of time, likely less than three years from inception to production of their first two or three devices. They would require negligible research times as access to plans for a nuclear weapon are readily available to any nation with sufficient money. The readily available sources for such plans are well known and include but are not limited to North Korea, Pakistan, China, Russia, and other former Soviet countries. Even without any assistance from a current nuclear power the designs for a simple nuclear device are readily available on the internet though not necessarily in sufficient detail to assemble one straight off those plans. But with sufficient engineering and nuclear physics expertise, nuclear weapon designs require mere months to successfully develop. With computer aided design it becomes even more readily accomplishable. But who else might decide they were in need of a nuclear arsenal should Iran complete their nuclear weapons plans?


The first suspects would likely be many European countries; especially Germany, Poland, Romania, and very likely all of the rest would either desire their own or would ally forming treaties of mutual protection with neighboring countries that were developing such weapons. England and France would likely resume building nuclear weapons and update any nuclear weapons they currently hold. Once any of the nations of North Africa developed nuclear weapons they might start a nuclear arms race through the rest of Africa. South Africa was once a nuclear power and who knows where those plans are now. Then one needs to reevaluate the equation even if only three or four nations in Africa manage to go nuclear and also look to Asia and South America. If Iran is allowed to go nuclear then the entirety of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty goes out the window and a truly horrific domino theory will come to fruition. Such a world becomes the most ominous threat condition from which mankind may cease to exist along with near extinction event enveloping the world. Many of the nations which would become nuclear armed and enabled were either nonexistent or uninterested in the last World War and may not have taken the lesson of Nagasaki and Hiroshima to heart as those nations involved in World War II.


The United States and allies faced off against the Soviet Union and its allies in a nuclear standoff in which great care and mechanisms were built in to assure that no accidental confrontation would occur. Even with these precautions there were a number of times when the two sides came perilously close to the brink but fortunately never went beyond the cusp and committed their nuclear response. Once even one-third of the nations of the world possess nuclear weaponry the possibility of either a mistake or an intentional use of nuclear weapons would simply become a matter of time. Once one nation utilized nuclear weapons then either the attacked nation and the nations with which they have mutual defense treaties either respond in kind leading to an ever escalating nuclear conflagration or they stand down at which point every other nations’ nuclear deterrent becomes just one small bit less effective. Once a nation and their allies allow a nuclear attack to go without a response in kind then it becomes a measured consideration which would make the offensive use of nuclear weapons just a small amount more tempting. Since mankind has always used the weapon of previously unequaled destruction which ended the previous war to start the next war, how long before nuclear weapons become the first strike weapon of choice? Look at the evidence, the Ancient Greek used the Phalanx which was perfected by the Romans. World War I brought into use tanks and aircraft and World War II revolved around armor, bombers, and fighter aircraft. World War I used dreadnaughts which were the follow-up to the ironclads and metal warships of the American Civil War and the other wars between then and the outbreak of World War I. It may have been inevitable once mankind invented the nuclear weapon that it would be the weapon of initiation for World War III which may very likely be World War Last until the next intelligent species rises from the mire left afterwards. Maybe we should press for more actions to be committed for preventing Iran or anybody else developing and building nuclear weapons.


Beyond the Cusp


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