high explosives trigger

Where Are the Dirt Photos? We Must Have Dirt Photos!

As I have noted many times, there is a prescribed, choreographed sequence for getting reports of “cleanup” activities at Iran’s Parchin site into the US news media. First, “diplomats” release information (arising from intelligence agencies or the IAEA) to George Hahn of AP or Fredrik Dahl of Reuters, and then David Albright emerges within just a few hours with an “analysis”, usually including satellite imagery. The choreography and imagery reached a comedic highpoint when Iran covered a number of buildings at the Parchin site with pink tarps last summer. Once Albright provides his viewpoint, various US media chime in to tell us how devious the Iranians are being with this military site that might house work that could somehow, one day, sort of help Iran produce a nuclear weapon.

Now, however, the cycle appears to have been broken. Late Wednesday, Fredrik Dahl published an article where he reported that a “closed-door” IAEA briefing had disclosed that satellite images of Parchin dated November 7 found new piles of dirt. Whether due to the Thanksgiving holiday or a lack of enthusiasm after the embarrassment of the pink tarp photos, Albright has not yet followed up by publishing these all-important photos of the piles of dirt.

Here is Dahl’s report:

Iran has been hauling dirt to a military site U.N. nuclear inspectors want to visit, Western diplomats said on Wednesday, saying the findings were based on satellite images and they reinforced suspicions of a clean-up.

They said the pictures, presented during a closed-door briefing for member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested Iran was continuing to try to hide incriminating traces of any illicit nuclear-related activity.

The allegations come a few days after the IAEA said in a report on Iran that “extensive activities” undertaken at the Parchin site since early this year would seriously undermine its inquiry, if and when inspectors were allowed access.

Albright clearly was already aware of the new piles of dirt. From his comments (pdf) put up along with publication of the November 16 IAEA report (pdf) (clearly marked “Restricted Distribution”):

The third and final points about removal of external pipework from the containment vessel building and about a depositing of new earth where earth was removed are new observations and ones that were not previously reported by ISIS. (See previous ISIS imagery analysis on the apparent sanitization activities at Parchin here.) Iran undertook sanitization activities, including the removal of earth and deposit of new earth, at Lavisan Shian in 2004. These activities are suspected to be related to Iran hiding evidence of efforts of the Physics Research Center, a military entity linked to parallel military nuclear activities that was sited there until the late 1990s.

On the date that the IAEA provided for restricted distribution its latest report on Iran, Albright was already aware that new imagery showed the additional fill dirt being brought to the Parchin site, and yet more than ten days later, and nearly a week after being prompted by Dahl, Albright still has not given us the dirt photos. If he doesn’t come around soon, Albright will be in danger of being left out of the noise amplification loop and in the future new photos will bypass him and go directly to Barbara Starr.

Update: Ha ha ha ha. I guess George Jahn was feeling left out. He just published a diagram proving that the Iranians can calculate the yield of an atomic weapon. Quick! Prepare the fainting couch! Even Albright wasn’t too impressed with this one, as quoted by Jahn:

David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is used by the U.S. government as a go-to source on Iran’s nuclear program, said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more “to understand the process” than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.

I’m sure Barbara Starr will be along shortly to tell us how frightened we should be by this diagram.

Albright Attempts to Deflect Neutron Activation Issue at Parchin

On May 15, I pointed out that the claims associated with the cartoon published by George Jahn of AP purporting to depict a high explosives chamber used by Iran at Parchin (this is a new link for the cartoon, the AP link in the May 15 post no longer works for me) and in a report by David Albright claiming that Iran has taken actions aimed at cleansing the Parchin site were rendered baseless by the likelihood that if the accused work on a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon had indeed been carried out at Parchin, then the chamber would be rendered radioactive throughout the thickness of its steel by the process of neutron activation. Yesterday, Albright published even more photos of the Parchin site that he claims document further cleansing activity and in the discussion section of his report he finally addressed the issue of neutron activation. In order to make the issue of neutron activation go away, Albright is now proposing that  the uranium deuteride presumed to be present in the explosion would produce too low a flux of neutrons to produce appreciable neutron activation of the chamber’s steel, even though Jahn is claiming that the Iranians placed a neutron detector outside the chamber, presumably to measure the neutron flux that passed through its steel walls.

Here is the relevant portion of a 2009 report by Albright describing the neutron initiator:

If the data in this document are correct and the descriptions of the work are accurate, then this report appears to be describing a plan to further develop and test a critical component of a nuclear weapon, specifically a neutron initiator made out of uranium deuteride (UD3), which when finished (and subsequently manufactured) would most likely be placed at the center of a fission bomb made from weapon-grade uranium. This type of initiator works by the high explosives compressing the nuclear core and the initiator, producing a spurt of neutrons as a result of fusion in D-D reactions. The neutrons flood the core of weapon-grade uranium and initiate the chain reaction.

Albright goes on to describe the issue of producing neutrons and measuring their production:

The measurement of the neutrons emitted by this UD3 source would be the hardest measurement Iran would need to make in developing a nuclear weapon. This assumes that Iran believes it cannot do a full-scale nuclear test, although it would be expected to do a “cold test” of the full device as a way to gain confidence the nuclear weapon would perform as expected. . . The timing of the explosion and resulting shock waves would need to be perfect in order to get enough fusion to create a spurt of neutrons in a reliable manner at exactly the right instant. The experiment itself is very difficult to do. There are relatively few neutrons emitted in a brief period of time and there is a lot of noise from the electronics that interferes with the neutron measurements.

It should be noted here that although Albright is discussing a “cold test”, that means the test is carried out without the weapons grade uranium which the initiator sets off in the nuclear explosion. The uranium deuteride is still present as the primary part of the initiator and is producing the neutrons which are to be measured. Although Albright does claim that few neutrons are produced in the explosion in the latter part of the description, he refers to a “spurt” of neutrons that “flood” the weapons grade uranium in the earlier portion. The fact remains that in such an experiment, significant quantities of uranium are present and there would be neutrons released into the steel of the chamber the entire time the uranium is present, not just during the brief explosion.

As further support for the uranium deuteride initiator being the primary focus of the narrative promoted by Albright and Jahn, it should be kept in mind that Jahn mentions that the chamber is “equipped with” “a neutron detection system outside the explosion chamber to measure neutron emissions”. Jahn goes on to quote another expert who posits the use of uranium in the experiments with explosives: Continue reading

Albright Rushes to CNN With New Satellite Imagery Claims on Parchin After Debunking

Yesterday, in a post titled Rumored Satellite Imagery of Parchin “Clean-Up” Fails to Materialize, Claim Debunked, I pointed out both Gareth Porter’s debunking of the “Parchin is being cleaned up” claim and added further evidence against the claims that Parchin was being cleaned of evidence from work to develop a neutron trigger device.

It appears that David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security was unable to remain silent in the face of my statement that satellite imagery to back up the claims that Parchin is being cleaned has not been produced for inspection. My post went up before 10 am yesterday, and at 6:05 pm, CNN’s Security Clearance blog put up a post with “new” claims from Albright about satellite imagery from Parchin. Albright’s news is that he claims to have identified the building where work on a high-explosives-based trigger for a nuclear weapon is alleged to be taking place.

Albright is now trying to move the story back to trigger device research being high-explosives based, while the AP’s George Jahn’s claims that Porter was debunking relate to a possible neutron trigger. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, the concept of “cleaning” away evidence from work with a radioactive trigger device is nonsense, as traces of the radioactivity would still be left behind. The Iranians were also quick to point this out, as cited in the post.

CNN’s “scoop” from Albright:

In an exclusive interview with Security Clearance, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said commercial satellite imagery shows a building on the sprawling Parchin military complex just south of Tehran that may be the location of a high-explosive test chamber.

 Albright, who is a former U.N. weapons inspector, and his colleague Paul Brannan said in an analysis provided to Security Clearance that the building is notable because it “is located on a relatively small and isolated compound within the Parchin military site and has its own perimeter security wall or fencing.  A berm can be seen between this building and a neighboring building.”

The CNN blog post then goes on to note that although Albright and ISIS have been scouring all the satellite images they can find, they can’t confirm the claims of cleaning activity at Parchin.

Over at Moon of Alabama, b has noted that the IAEA visited Parchin twice in 2005, but CNN cuts that down to one visit: “The IAEA has had only one, limited tour of Parchin. That was in 2005.”

Also, more importantly, CNN is back to ignoring the fact that the high explosives work at Parchin is truly dual use technology. It was also pointed out by b that creation of nanodiamonds is actually the specialty of the expert the Iranians have employed in their high explosives work. CNN allows an unnamed US official to ignore the nanodiamond application and lie outright that the high explosives work can only be weapons-related:

The senior U.S. official also said the evidence is clear from this site that Iran had pursued a weapons program. “There is no other reason to conduct explosion compression in the context of Iran other than nuclear testing. There is only one thing they could be trying to simulate and that is a nuclear explosion,” the official said.

It’s so nice that CNN will allow a “senior U.S. official who would not speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the information” to promote lies that have already been disproven.

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