Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Was Saddam Really Working On A Bomb?

I just ran across an article on the proliferation risks of fusion and a few paragraphs caught my eye.

Some proponents of nuclear fusion power falsely claim that it would pose no risk of contributing to weapons proliferation. In fact, there are several risks including the use of tritium as a fusion power fuel which raises the risk of its diversion for use in boosted nuclear weapons, or, more importantly, the use of fusion reactors to irradiate uranium to produce plutonium or to irradiate thorium-232 to produce uranium-233.

Fusion power has yet to generate a single Watt of useful electricity but it has already contributed to proliferation problems. According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq's weapons program in the 1980s: "Iraq took full advantage of the IAEA's recommendation in the mid 1980s to start a plasma physics program for "peaceful" fusion research. We thought that buying a plasma focus device ... would provide an excellent cover for buying and learning about fast electronics technology, which could be used to trigger atomic bombs."
The device he mentions is a Dense Plasma Focus fusion generator.
A dense plasma focus (DPF) is a plasma machine that produces, by electromagnetic acceleration and compression, short-lived plasma that is so hot and dense that it becomes a copious multi-radiation source. It was invented in the early 1960s by J.W. Mather and also independently by N.V. Filippov. The electromagnetic compression of a plasma is called a "pinch".
So where is the fusion?
Intense bursts of X-rays and charged particles are emitted, as are nuclear fusion neutrons, when operated in deuterium. There is ongoing research that demonstrates potential applications as a soft X-ray source for next-generation microelectronics lithography, surface micromachining, pulsed X-ray and neutron source for medical and security inspection applications and materials modification, among others.

For nuclear weapons applications, dense plasma focus devices can be used as an external neutron source. Other applications include simulation of nuclear explosions (for testing of the electronic equipment) and a short and intense neutron source useful for non-contact discovery or inspection of nuclear materials (uranium, plutonium).
OK. So just as the article on Saddam's program stated. It is a good device for checking out electronics for a bomb program.

You can read more about it in:

Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon

Which may not be an entirely reliable source.

So what are the odds of a Dense Plasma Focus device generating power any time soon? The device has a couple of problems. In 20 years of research no one has figured out how to reduce the losses sufficiently and because the experiments pulse Mega Amps of current into relatively small devices, electrode erosion is going to be a severe problem. The 20 year deal is significant because small Dense Plasma Focus devices have plasma characteristics very similar (+/- 10%) to large devices.

I still like Polywell.

You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Anonymous said...
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passingthrough said...

You will never see this in the news. Why? Because it does not fit with the "Bush lied" mantra. These are the facts (IAEA INVO factsheet).

Iraq had 160 Tons of yellowcake. 139,000 kg came from Niger (calling Joe Wilson!!!). This was sold to a Canadian firm after the war but was not make public until it was actually moved. Then it got only the slightest bit of attention lest the left have to admit Bush, Clinton, and a host of other countries intellegence agencies were right.

Iraq had centrifuges to process the yellowcake into enriched uranium. Read "A Bomb in my Garden". It too is on Amazon. It details how an Iraqi buried centrifuge parts in his garden. The US also fished some out of the Tigris River.

Also in the INVO factsheet, you will find a blurb about casted/machined uranium hemi-spheres. The simplest implosion (atomic) device is a sphere of "critical mass" that is slammed together under sufficient pressure.

Finally, remember the truck convoys leaving Bagdad before the invasion going to Syria/Lebanon in 2003? What was in the trucks? Is it strange that Israel bombed a complex in the Syrian desert in 2007? Syria then bulldosed the entire complex before anyone could inspect it. The IAEA later found traces of radioactive materials in the soil samples.

Sadam packed up all his WMD materials and sent them out of the country before the war. That is why they were not found. Does anyone believe that Syria, a third world nation, with no economy, could do the equivalent of a Manhattan project in 4 years? Do not kid yourself.

Did I just blow your mind? Chances are you have never heard this.

Sleepy Old Bear said...

Is this 'pinch' that device played with by the Cockney lad in Ocean's Eleven, with which he blew out the lights in Vegas?

Anonymous said...

passingthrough said:
"Iraq had 160 Tons of yellowcake"

I thought it was 500 but not to quibble. That amount didn't count though because the UN knew about it and had their special seal on it which means that using it, either to enrich it or to use in a dirty bomb would be against the rules and Saddam would never have done that. I think I just strained my sarcasm muscle.

Forget the media, even regular people I know who would normally be more conservative than me by several orders of magnitude are so trusting of the media that even if Saddam were to come back from the dead and say "the Democrats were right in the late nineties when they said I would never give up on developing WMDs - I was always trying and I let AQ train in Iraq with a wink and a nod." they still would not be convinced.

If you are used to trusting the news anchors and newspaper editors and have little exposure to new media or are comfortable in the left-wing of the blogosphere, realizing just how bad today's journalism has become is beyond many people's comfort zone.

I mean, say it out loud: "The media is made up of ideological zealots and partisan lackeys who believe that manipulating public perception is more noble than truth and objectivity and they support a Marxist/fascist system and absolutely hate Israel and Jews while loving demagogues like Hugo Chavez, the Castro brothers, Putin and Ahmadinejad, merely for being anti-American."

If you were not paying attention over the years this would seem nuts. And most people have not been paying attention. There are still lots of people who don't even know about the fake photos and fabricated sources and made up news stories that have inundated our society in the last few years.

Hopefully this is changing. I have heard anecdotes about how, as sixties Marxist professors retire the universities are slowly becoming a little less left wing (on average with lots of counter examples) and maybe journalism school will reform itself and return to teaching ethics and professionalism instead of having students wright essays on Che. Hopefully the Internet is exposing kids to unfiltered and non-fabricated information. But if not, well... a toboggan ride to Hell is still a toboggan ride. Enjoy it while it lasts.

LarryD said...

... the use of fusion reactors to irradiate uranium to produce plutonium or to irradiate thorium-232 to produce uranium-233.

That horse left the barn a long time ago, 30-40 years in fact. Commercial neutron generator + yellowcake = some amount of plutonium oxide.

There must be some good reason why no one has done that before.

I don't mind that DPF is getting funded, it's not like they're going to cost billions to figure out it won't work, and the DPF might be workable. Polywell looks like the faster horse, though.

M. Simon said...


I agree. Even if DPF is a total scam as far as power generation goes the cost of the experiment (current stage - under $1.5 million) is quite small. And who knows? We might learn something.