David Sanger's recent interview with
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), has resulted in a New
article about "virtual nukes."
What is a "virtual" nuke?
Well, apparently, it's a nuke that doesn't yet exist, but conceivably could,
Sanger claims that if a state can convince the world that it quickly "could
screw together a workable, deliverable nuclear weapon" then a potential invader
will be as deterred from invading as if that state already had nukes.
Quoth Sanger, "In an age when centrifuge components and bomb designs are on
the black market, and when technology has made bomb-building much less expensive
and time-consuming, it doesn't take much for the world to take you seriously."
Sanger must have gotten this hopelessly naïve idea from the neocons.
The neocons would have you believe that having a nuclear power plant – even
one whose operation is subject to IAEA Safeguards, like Iran's – is tantamount
to having a plutonium-239 implosion nuke.
Or that having a uranium-enrichment facility – even one whose operation is
subject to IAEA Safeguards, like Iran's – is tantamount to having a uranium-235
Now, in the 1980s, before signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, South
Africa did develop indigenous technology for increasing the uranium-235 concentration
in uranium ore – from 3/10ths of a percent to 3 percent – for use as nuclear
power plant fuel. And did "divert" some of the 3 percent enriched uranium to
a nearby secret facility for further enrichment to 90 percent uranium-235.
Over a period of years, they produced about 750 pounds of 90-percent uranium-235
from which they constructed six "gun-type" nukes – the kind we dropped
on Hiroshima. Each nuke weighed about a thousand pounds and was, therefore,
not deemed deliverable by South African aircraft or missiles.
However, South Africa decided to sign the NPT, so they secretly obliterated
their nuke facility, dismantled the 6 gun-type nukes they had fabricated, and
blended the recovered 90-percent uranium-235 back down to 3 percent.
Meanwhile, Iraq was also secretly attempting to produce 90-percent uranium-235.
They failed to even produce significant quantities of 3-percent uranium-235.
So making hundreds of pounds of 90-percent uranium-235 is not a "slam-dunk."
Now, almost anyone having 120 pounds of uranium-235 can construct a gun-type
nuke. But you can't make a gun-type nuke with any amount of plutonium-239. You
have to make an implosion-type nuke and that means you have to develop a high-explosive
implosion system. And that certainly is no "slam-dunk."
So, the 6-10 sub-critical pieces of plutonium-239 the North Koreans have is
not tantamount to having real or "virtual" nukes.
Nevertheless, the neocons realize that China would never allow Bush to launch
a preemptive strike against North Korea's "nuclear" facilities. So,
they've adopted a new approach to effecting 'regime change' in North Korea.
The official Korean Central News Agency rather well characterized their new
approach in this editorial of Nov. 27, 2004.
"A far-fetched assertion is a main leverage employed by the U.S. to
implement its strategy to dominate the world and it, therefore, used to launch
aggression and war on its basis.
"It is the U.S. brigandish logic and mode of action to rob
others of their properties and charge their owner demanding their return with
theft and pressurize themIt is an irrefutable and stark fact that the U.S. invaded
Iraq last year on the basis of the sheer lie and far-fetched assertion that
it possesses 'weapons of mass destruction.'
"The U.S. deliberately assesses and finds faults with the human rights
performances in other countries by its own human rights standards and interferes
in their internal affairs, another manifestation of its brigandish method.
"The U.S. has abused the name of the UN and unlawfully kept South Korea
under its occupation for more than half a century while committing all sorts
"This is a clear proof of the unreasonable and criminal nature of the
far-fetched method employed by it.
"However, it is now busy with the false propaganda aimed to stifle
the DPRK by force of arms and realize its ambition to dominate the whole of
"The U.S. does not hide its intention to use the human rights issue,
missile issue, the issue of reduction of conventional armed forces and the religious
issue as pretexts for stifling the DPRK even after the settlement of the nuclear
"This clearly proves how frantic the U.S. has become in its moves to
provoke the second Korean War. The U.S. far-fetched assertions will get it nowhere."