"SILEX": Iran's Undetectable Nuclear Enrichment Technology?
"Laser uranium enrichment is so attractive that that it will be implemented --- and Iran will become the test case. What must be demanded is the complete opening of the country to appropriate inspection. Anything else would be too little – much too little." Hans Ruhle
German nuclear weapons expert Hans Rühle warned in the daily Die Welt May 21 that Iran can enrich uranium using laser technology that is much harder to detect than centrifuges. Rühle headed the German Defense Ministry's policy planning staff during the 1980s. In a widely-discussed commentary last February 17, he argued that Israel has the capacity to cripple Iran's nuclear weapons program. He also presented evidence in Die Welt that Iran may have tested a nuclear weapon in North Korea.
"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadihejad announced in 2010 the 'good nuclear news' that Iran then possessed laser technology for uranium enrichment. Iran would not use this technology immediately, Ahmadinejad insisted, but his extremely positive characterization of the new technological option casts strong doubt on Iran's intentions and suggests that Iran's voluntary restraint on enrichment is an attempt at diversion," Rühle wrote in his May 21 analysis.
"Laser enrichment is the silver bullet in this field," Rühle continues. "By the estimate of Australia's leading expert, laser enrichment is sixteen times more efficient than earlier enrichment technologies. This begs the question of why this sensational enrichment procedure was not put into effect earlier. The answer is that laser enrichment was long considered to be the technology of the future, too expensive and complicated for practical application."
As an alternative to mechanical separation of fissile uranium-235 through centrifuges, laser separation has been used experimentally since the 1960s, without bringing the new technique into industrial application. But the major nuclear powers had little incentive to invest in a new technology, Rühle argues, because their centrifuge installations could enrich uranium at comparatively low cost.
All that changed in 2006, Rühle adds, when an Australian laser enrichment technology, the "SILEX" method, began official tests. A billion-dollar laser enrichment facility is planned in the United States, large enough to provide enough fuel for 60 large reactors filling the energy needs of 60 million households. The facility could also produce enough highly-enriched uranium for 1,000 warheads per year.
Iran may have acquired laser enrichment technology from Russia, Rühle argues, starting with support for Iran's nuclear weapons program under agreements dating back to the Yeltsin administration. "It was no great surprise," Rühle argues, "that in the spring of 2000, America's spy services discovered a pilot program for laser enrichment between Iran and the D.V.-Efremov Institute in St. Petersburg. American diplomats at the time demanded that Russia cease this activity, on the stated grounds that "there can be no doubt that this installation can and will be turned to military nuclear applications in no time at all."
The project came up in talks between Presidents Clinton and Putin in September 2000, Rühle reports, and the Russians assured the American side that the project would be suspended pending an investigation: "That was a favorite Russian formula to remove controversial issues from current discussions and avoid potentially disadvantageous decisions, while shifting the project quietly to industrial and scientific institutes."
Ahmadinejad's boast that Iran possesses laser enrichment technology has a factual background, Rühle concludes. During the past year, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded on several occasions that Iran explain its laser enrichment program, with no response from the Iranian side.
If Iran has acquired this technology, it can enrich uranium far more cheaply and quickly, in inconspicuous facilities that are far harder to detect than centrifuge installations, Rühle warns. Laser enrichment requires a quarter of the physical space and much less energy than centrifuges. "For the international community's negotiations with Iran, this implies that what must be demanded is the complete opening of the country to appropriate inspection. Anything else would be too little—much too little."
Both in Germany and the United States, Rühle adds, the professional associations of nuclear physicists have warned about the consequences of uncontrolled dissemination of "SILEX" laser enrichment technology. "Despite all the experience of the preceding decades, this warning went heard," Rühle concludes. "Laser uranium enrichment is so attractive that it will be implemented—and Iran could become the test case."
Comment on this item
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Khaled Abu Toameh
There is growing concern in Ramallah, Cairo, Riyadh and Dubai that the U.S. Administration is working to prevent the collapse of Hamas.
"The Americans mistakenly think that moderate political Islam, which is represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, will be able to combat radical Islam. The Americans are trying to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to the region." — Palestinian official, Ramallah.
The Iranians, with whom the U.S. is now negotiating on nuclear weapons -- amid fears in the Middle East that the U.S. will capitulate to Tehran's demands if it has not effectively capitulated to them already -- have now joined Qatar and Turkey in opposing any attempt to confiscate Hamas's weapons.
The Paris conference was actually a spit in the face to the anti-Hamas forces in the Arab world. By failing to invite the Palestinian Authority to the conference, Kerry indicated that he does not see any role for Abbas and his loyalists in a post-Hamas Gaza Strip.
by Amir Taheri
According to Küntzel, German leaders have at least two other reasons for helping Iran defy the United States. The first is German resentment of defeat in the Second World War followed by foreign occupation, led by the US. The second reason is that Iran is one of the few, if not the only country, where Germans have never been looked at as "war criminals" because of Hitler.
by Malcolm Lowe
Go to Nazareth and you can easily find the mini-mosque. It displays a large poster of Koran quotations denigrating Christianity and urging Christians to convert to Islam.
Overlooked is a fundamental difference between the two regimes. Israel is a state governed by the rule of law. The Palestinian Authority, like most other states in the region, is a personal dictatorship. Arafat started the fashion of simply disregarding the laws.
What is needed in Israel is a central policy unit with the brief of developing long-term policies both to integrate Israeli Christians and to engage with the great variety of Christians in foreign countries.
by Peter Huessy
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler not only invents points the Cheneys did not make, he then casually dismisses "uncomfortable points" they did make. How many Pinocchios is that worth?
Kessler evidently assumes that when intelligence assessments differ, the correct version is only that which differs from the points made by the Cheneys but not by their critics.
Most senior Democratic members of the Senate at the time voted -- twice -- for giving the President the authority to take down Saddam Hussein. How else can Democrats say they made a mistake voting for the war if they cannot now make the case that they were "fooled"?
The U.S. took down Saddam Hussein's regime because on balance the threat-intelligence could not be ignored.