Have Nuclear Bombs Permanently Contaminated Steel?

Have Nuclear Bombs Permanently Contaminated Steel?

Founder at ReliScore, Navin Kabra recently shared with the world his insights, on how the nuclear bombs exploded in the 1940s-1960s have permanently contaminated steel production since then. Let’s see how does this impact us now.

Crux of the Matter

The Nuclear Connection
Steel is an alloy of iron with a few tenths of a % of carbon to improve its strength. All steel in the world is divided into 2 categories: Pre-1945 steel and Post-1945 steel.

What Does This Mean?
Nuclear bombs and their tests create radioisotopes that are not found in nature. Eg: Cobalt-60 is a radioactive version of Cobalt-59. They have dispersed in the atmosphere since the 1945 Trinity test.

What Is The 1945 Trinity Test?
Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device. It was conducted by the United States Army as part of the Manhattan Project. 

How Is Steel Manufactured?

  • Via a blast furnace, with iron ore as the main raw material.
  • Via an electric furnace, with sponge iron or scrap iron as main raw materials.

How Is Post-1945 Steel Made?
Manufacturing steel involves atmospheric air or oxygen. So Cobalt-60 gets pulled in too. This means post-1945 steel is contaminated as it has embedded in it such radioisotopes.

Why Worry About This?
The emissions from the contaminated steel would interfere with the measurements of devices like Geiger counters, medical devices that check for radioactive contamination.

What About Pre-1945 steel?
Also called low background steel, it is non-contaminated. That’s why particle physicists look for both steel and lead in sunken shipwrecks for dark matter experiments.

Radioactive Isotopes Test For Forgery
Using radiocarbon dating, counterfeit artworks can also be uncovered using small samples of canvas and paint chips.

Curiopedia
  • Nuclear warfare strategy is a set of policies that deal with preventing or fighting a nuclear war. The policy of trying to prevent an attack by a nuclear weapon from another country by threatening nuclear retaliation is known as the strategy of nuclear deterrence.
  • The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations was a U.S. Department of Defense document publicly discovered in 2005 on the circumstances under which commanders of U.S. forces could request the use of nuclear weapons. The document was a draft being revised to be consistent with the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack.
  • Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics and is among those who are credited with being the “father of the atomic bomb” for their role in the Manhattan Project, the World War II undertaking that developed the first nuclear weapons.

Why US Left Iran Nuclear Deal – And The Aftermath

Why US Left Iran Nuclear Deal - And The Aftermath

Finally, after going through Iran’s nuclear enrichment restart and the Iran nuclear deal, let us look at the equations from 2018 onwards when Trump made the US pullout from the deal and the strain present in the Middle East since.

Crux of the Matter

Trump Campaign
Donald Trump was elected as the US President in 2016. He had criticized the nuclear deal in his campaign for being too ‘soft’ on Iran. On 8 May 2018, Trump pulled out the US from the deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.

If you missed our coverage on Iran’s 2015 Nuclear Deal, read it here.

Other members did not leave and criticized the US for withdrawal.

Analysts claim that the withdrawal was part of Trump’s undermining of Obama’s decisions including the Iran deal, Paris Agreement, Obamacare, etc. The other major reasons cited are as follows:

Deadline For Restrictions In The Deal

  • Restrictions on centrifuges count (5,060 under the deal) valid only till 2025.
  • Restrictions on Uranium enrichment level (3.67% in the deal) valid only till 2030.
  • Trump and other Republicans claimed that Iran may covertly develop nuclear program enough to rapidly develop weapons once restrictions end.

Lack Of Coverage Of Iran’s ‘Other Activities’

  • Trump claimed that the deal did not cover Iran’s regional terrorism and missile programmes.
  • Iran backs Hamas, Hezbollah and others labelled ‘terrorist organizations’ by the US since long.
  • However, experts differ by claiming that the way forward was to build on the deal to cover other activities and not the withdrawal.

Role Of Middle-East Neighbours

  • US allies and Iran nemeses Israel and Saudi Arabia were against the deal.
  • Israel PM Netanyahu had called it a “bad mistake of historic proportions”.
  • Saudi initially backed the deal but believed to be covertly against it – openly lauded Trump’s withdrawal in 2018.

Middle-East Equations

  • Iran backs Hamas – Palestinian organization committed to ‘destruction of Israel’.
  • Israel, in turn, backs People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran – organization against Islamic extremism in Iran.
  • Iran-Saudi conflict over respective sects of Shia and Sunni of Islam as well as Islamic world leadership.

Deterioration Of The Situation Afterwards

  • The US re-imposed heavy sanctions on Iran which weakened its economy.
  • May 2019: Oil tankers from Saudi Arabia, Norway and UAE attacked in the Gulf of Oman – US and Saudi blamed Iran blamed for the attacks.
  • 4 July: Gibraltar and British marines seized the oil tanker ‘Grace 1’ of Iran for transporting oil to Syria illegally – reportedly seized at US request.
  • 20 July: Iran seized the oil tanker ‘Stena Impero’ of Britain near Strait of Hormuz for ‘violating maritime rules’.
  • July 2019: Iran announced ‘breach’ of the 300 kg limit on Uranium.

Soleimani Assassination And ‘Brink Of War’

  • 2 January 2020: A US drone strike killed Iran military General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
  • 8 January: Iran launched rockets at the US bases in Iraq in retaliation – no casualties though.
  • The US and Iran were reportedly on the brink of war before the tension cooled off.

Iran Scientist Assassination

  • November 2020: Iran nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed – Iran blamed Israel.
  • Similar occurrences in 2010-12: 4 Iran nuclear scientists were killed.
  • Iran blames the killings on Israeli agency ‘Mossad’ (claim widely believed).
Curiopedia
  • The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project.
  • Nuclear ethics is a cross-disciplinary field of academic and policy-relevant study in which the problems associated with nuclear warfare, nuclear deterrence, nuclear arms control, nuclear disarmament, or nuclear energy are examined through one or more ethical or moral theories or frameworks

Iran Announces Restart Of Nuclear Enrichment

Iran Announces Restart Of Nuclear Enrichment

As Iran announced enrichment of Uranium to 20%, well above the level specified in a previous Nuclear agreement, let us take a look at the possible challenges posed for US President-elect Biden as well as the possible support or a lack of from his Iranian counterpart.

Crux of the Matter

Announcement
On 2 January 2021, Iran announced its plan to enrich uranium up to 20% “as soon as possible”. The announcement comes amidst the last weeks of US Presidency of Trump before Joe Biden takes over.

The announcement was made on the first death anniversary of Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian military General, who was killed by US drones on 2nd January 2020.

All Part Of The New Bill
Iran had passed the Bill on Nuclear enrichment in December 2020, aiming for enrichment to “pressure” Europe and the US to provide relief from sanctions. Iran had first informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has inspectors at the Nuclear plant. The Bill also allows Iran to “expel” those inspectors.

Previous Nuclear Deal

  • 20% enrichment of Uranium is 6 times the permissible level under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
  • The increased enrichment propels Iran near the level required for creating nuclear weapons.
  • Trump had withdrawn the US from the deal in 2018.
  • Several sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) and especially Trump under ‘maximum pressure’ policy on Iran.

The latest development has been cited by the US as Iran’s ploy to “intimidate” the world by its nuclear program. However, experts differ by labelling it as Iran’s way of pressurizing the upcoming US President Biden to restart the 2015 deal.

Possible Talks Between Biden And Rouhani?

  • Biden had claimed in his election manifesto to “re-enter” the deal and “extend” it to control “Iran’s other destabilizing activities”.
  • Also warned that the US rejoining the nuclear deal would be subject to “strict compliance” from Iran.
  • Iran President Hassan Rouhani has claimed to return to compliance with the deal “within an hour” of the US returning to it.
  • Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly warned to not “trust” the US. However, he is believed to be supporting the revival privately though.

Read more about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal here: Understanding 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

Curiopedia
  • The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project.
  • Nuclear ethics is a cross-disciplinary field of academic and policy-relevant study in which the problems associated with nuclear warfare, nuclear deterrence, nuclear arms control, nuclear disarmament, or nuclear energy are examined through one or more ethical or moral theories or frameworks

Understanding 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

Understanding 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

With Iran announcing enrichment of Uranium to 20%, let us look at the historic Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015, its specifics, and its impact on the Middle-East as well as Europe and the US.

Crux of the Matter

2015 Agreement
On 14 July 2015, the Nuclear deal with Iran was signed. The full name of the deal is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It was signed by the P5+1 (permanent UNSC members + Germany).

Meaning:
US, UK, China, Russia, France, and Germany signed a deal with Iran. The agreement has been cited as a major achievement of the Obama Presidency in the US (Biden was Vice President then).

Aim

  • To limit Iran’s nuclear development to ‘peaceful’ energy use only.
  • Achieved by signing an agreement in exchange for removing several sanctions.
  • US, EU and UN had imposed heavy restrictions on Iran for its nuclear programme prior to the deal.

Specifics For Iran

  • 20,000 centrifuges to be reduced to 5,060.
    Centrifuges are devices used for enriching the usable Uranium.
  • 98% reduction in the stock of Uranium to bring it down to 300kg.
  • 3.67% is the specified maximum level of enrichment of the stock.
  • Redesign Heavy-Water reactor to not produce ‘weapon-grade plutonium’ fit for a nuclear weapon.
  • Required to adhere to any International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection request within 24 days window.

Impact
As per US experts in 2015:

  • Iran was capable of having 90% enriched Uranium to build Nuclear weapon within 2-3 months with stock prior to the Agreement.
  • Agreement measures increased that time to 1 year or more.

Result Of The 2015 Deal

  • Iranian overseas assets worth $100 billion unfrozen.
  • Sanctions from the US, UK, and the UN lifted.
  • The sanctions had made Iran lose oil revenue of $160 billion between 2012 and 2016 alone.
  • Iran’s oil and other global businesses kick-started with the signing of the Agreement.

No credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material in connection with the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.

IAEA December 2015 Report
Curiopedia
  • The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project.
  • Nuclear ethics is a cross-disciplinary field of academic and policy-relevant study in which the problems associated with nuclear warfare, nuclear deterrence, nuclear arms control, nuclear disarmament, or nuclear energy are examined through one or more ethical or moral theories or frameworks

Nuclear Plant In Arab World & Contentions

The first nuclear power plant in the Arab region was initiated recently in the UAE, with mixed reactions coming amidst the recent tension in the Middle East.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Nuclear Initiation
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently announced the operation of the first nuclear power plant in the Arabian nations by initiating the first 4 reactors of the Barakah nuclear power station. Located in the Al Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi, the plant was first announced in 2009 and was expected to open in 2017. The delay occurred by several natural as well as ‘human’ reasons.

UAE Going Green
The Barakah plant is expected to provide “up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs once it is fully operational”. The UAE has also increased dependency on solar and wind energy in recent years, with the recent nuclear development aiming to further reduce the country’s dependency on oil for energy.

The recent nuclear development came 2 weeks after the UAE launched its first Mars mission named “Hope Probe”.

Conflict In The Region
Israel and Iran in the Middle East region are already in the possession of nuclear power. Israel, which operates a nuclear reactor, has an undisclosed nuclear arsenal, while Iran claims that it has only a “uranium enrichment program” for civil development. Several attempts have been made to thwart the nuclear progress of the UAE, with the most recent coming in 2017 when the Houthi rebel group of Yemen fired missiles at the Barakah plant.

Israel-UAE Relations
The UAE does not recognize Israel as a state and has banned the entry of Israeli citizens in the country. The relations between the two have been improving since the 2019 AFC Asian Cup hosted in Dubai, which was telecasted officially in Israel for the first time. Israel was also invited to the Dubai Expo 2020 fair.

Iran-UAE Relations
The UAE does not recognize Israel as a state and supports Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, both sides are reportedly on the same side against Iran, with the UAE claiming that Iran supports Shi’ites rebels in the region.

  • Iran’s control over the Lesser Tunb and the Greater Tunb islands in the Persian Gulf has been disputed by the UAE, with the conflict arising due to British control in the region and the transfer of power after independence.
  • The 2 sides have also been engaged in conflict over Abu Musa island in the Persian Gulf, with the island being under the control of Iran till 1908 before annexation by Britain. In the 1960s, Britain transferred the control of Abu Musa to the Sharjah sheikhdom, one of the 7 sheikhdoms to coalesce into the UAE. In 1971, Iran and the UAE signed an MoU for the joint administration of the island. However, the pact has been reportedly violated by Iran in its attempts to take over the islands since the 1990s, with the Oil-richness of the islands being a major source of conflict.
  • The UAE allowed France to open its first permanent base in the Persian Gulf region in 2009, which drew strong criticism from Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in conflict over Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam.
  • After the execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia in 2016, the Saudi embassy in Iran was attacked by civilians. Consequently, both the countries withdrew embassies and have no formal relations since. The UAE reportedly backs Saudi Arabia in its conflict with Iran, marking a decisive step in its relation with Iran.
Curiopedia
  • Emirates is the state-owned airline and flag carrier of the UAE. It was conceived in March 1985 with backing from Dubai’s royal family.
  • Expo 2020 is a World Expo to be hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The whole event is postponed by a year and will be held in October of 2021 now. This is the first time that the World Exposition has been postponed.
  • The 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran was a mob action on 2 January 2016 by protesters against the execution of a prominent Saudi Arabian Shi’a cleric. Mobs stormed the embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad and ransacked them. The embassy building was set on fire with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs. The attacks were later condemned by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.