Data Narratives

iran enrichment study

The next International Atomic Energy Agency report will be publicly released next week at the quarterly Board of Governors meeting. Restricted copies are already circulating. You can find one, here: iaea iran feb14

Data show the Geneva deal is already reducing the stockpile of Iran’s most sensitive material. The accord foresees elimination of the 20% stock by July. That’s good news for people worried about Iran’s “breakout” capacity.

Hans Brinker & the IAEA

Then he saw a very small hole in the dike! Now every child in Holland knows what that means…”The Silver Skates

Hans_Brinker_Madurodam If leadership is found in preparation for unforeseen events, then it is good that the International Atomic Energy Agency is seeking an “Emergency Communications Specialist.” The agency’s well-documented communications failures after the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdown needed repair. Because reactor meltdowns are international incidents and sovereign states want facts to assess risk, the IAEA is perceived as the best-placed organization for information in times of need.

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EBW Resources — Literature Review

ebw cross

While the IAEA reported in 2011 that there are “limited civilian and conventional military applications” for exploding bridge wire detonators, the open source literature shows the technology is widely used in the mining, aerospace and defense industries. A Google Search sans reference to “nuclear” or “Iran” turns up 85,500 hits including patent specifications, commercial literature and even an EBW-maker’s online video.

EBW detonators sold by Aberdeen-based Spex-Innovation fire in 5.38 microseconds (0.00000538 seconds) with the standard deviation of blast simultaneity using multiple EBWs of 0.125 microseconds, according to online literature:

“EBWs do not use any Primary Explosive so are therefore safer to use than standard electric detonators. The major difference between EBWs and standard electric detonators (blasting caps) is the application of energy to the bridge wire. The bridge wire is made of gold and to achieve optimum functionality a large amount of energy is rapidly applied to cause vaporisation. The rapidity of this process is such that the material phase change to the vaporisation stage is restricted by inertia. When this inertia is overcome, vaporisation of the wire occurs in the form of an explosion and generates thermal energy and a shock wave. This combination is sufficient to initiate the main output charge within the detonator …This power requirement ensures the EBW is safe from radio frequency and stray voltages, or any other electrical interference. Consequently, normal communication systems can still be utilised during the explosives operation.”

The ability to use normal radio frequencies without triggering an accidental explosion would come in handy for somebody looking to conduct a nuclear test inside a 400 meter shaft from 10 kilometers, as the agency suggested in its 2008 report. Then again, that sense of security would come in handy on offshore rigs when explosions are detonated  simultaneously in a well casing. With the world’s fourth biggest proven oil reserves and second biggest natural-gas reserves, wonder how many well casings wellheads Iran blows a year?

Torrance, CA-based Chemring Energetic Devices, Thousand Oaks, CA-based Teledyne Technologies, Simsbury, CT-based Ensign-Bickford, Torrance, CA-based Chemring Energetic Devices and Houston-based Core Laboratories are among companies that sell EBWs.

EBW patents going back to the 1960s and running through the 1980s are also widely available.

Iran – new developments: Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW)

The following are excerpts from IAEA Safeguards reports since 2008 posted for the assistance of journalists covering the newest developments in the Iran file following talks in Tehran 8 and 9 February.

They were compiled for Atomic Reporters by Tariq Rauf, former Head, Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to the IAEA Director General, 2002-2012, who worked on high priority safeguards issues including, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, South Korea,  and Syria.

“While the IAEA-Iran track on implementation of Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement is a separate one,”said Rauf, “now it is somewhat related to the EU3+3 and the Iran track.”

“There  needs  to be better coordination between the EU3+3&Iran and the Agency. In its work, the IAEA’s normal practice is to go about its business in accordance with its confidentiality rules and requirements of safeguards and the Agency’s Statute and report developments to the Board of Governors”.

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Details of IAEA-Iran 7-Point Agreement

After two days of “constructive technical meetings,” the IAEA and Iran announced they’d agreed on a 7-point plan running to May 15. Reported details include:

  • Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd;
  • Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Ardakan concentration plant;
  • Submission of an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor;
  • Taking steps to agree with the Agency on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the IR-40 Reactor;
  • Providing mutually agreed relevant information and arranging for a technical visit to Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Centre;
  • Providing information on source material, which has not reached the composition and purity suitable for fuel fabrication or for being isotopically enriched, including imports of such material and on Iran’s extraction of uranium from phosphates; and
  • Providing information and explanations for the Agency to assess Iran’s stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.

Polonium? You’ve Gotta Be Joffeing!

Joseph Joffe yelling at Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Munich Security Conference on February 2, 2014
Joseph Joffe yelling at Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Munich Security Conference on February 2, 2014

Only a journalist like Josef Joffe, at a forum like the Munich Security Conference, would be allowed to ask an error-laced question intended to lead policymakers into tripping themselves up. The irony of what transpired on Feb. 2 in the Bavarian city was that Joffe tripped not the quarry but the hunter in his intended game. Let’s unpack what happened:

Josef Joffe, who inhabits a space somewhere between academia and journalism, but who can always be counted on for cringe-inducing questions and overly-clever observations which, in fact, aren’t always that clever, was chosen to “clarify some facts” from the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during this year’s final panel. The Munich Security Conference is, of course, that Who’s Who event of trans-Atlantic foreign- and defense-policy decision-makers. The fact that much of the world’s great events seem to be transpiring outside Nato’s realm has made the conference increasingly quaint.

Continue reading Polonium? You’ve Gotta Be Joffeing!