Sunday, October 29, 2006

New Fisk

Mystery of Israel's secret uranium bomb

Update: More here. Its not any sort of fission weapon, but rather enrisched (but not weapons-grade) uranium seems to have been used in the place of DU. This could be a mistake, or Israel could be turning its nuclear waste into weapons and effectively dumping them on its neighbour's territory.


Fisk really is trying to make a huge fuss here.

he should write a story complaining that uranium based weapons should be illegal and title it the rather less exciting "various countries still using uranium".

but it goes down better if one says "Jews may still be using missiles" or somthing like that.

Not sure if that helps or hinders the cause to make such weapons illegal. probably hinders - but at least it sells newspapers.

Posted by Genius : 10/29/2006 09:30:00 AM

peoples heart felt beliefs in the long run tend towards those things that line their pockets (or gathers them adulation).

Even the barons of polluting capitalism or crazy despots have heartfelt beliefs that they are doing the right thing. thats the lovely thing about human psychology.

Posted by Genius : 10/29/2006 05:28:00 PM

It's highly unlikely that anyone would use enriched uranium in a penetration/incendiary device.

The main reason is that it's really expensive - why would you spend a fortune on enrichment and then use it in a kinetic energy weapon, when there is a large amount of cheap depleted uranium available? If one wanted to make a radiological weapon, a gamma emmiter like Cobalt 90 (unchecked) would be much more effective and cheaper.

There is also the problem that if you used high-enriched uranium in a non-fission weapon, you'd have the risk of a criticality accident in storage - not to mention that if the aircraft/tank crashed or was captured, your opponents would be able to use the material to build their own nuke.

I find it unlikely that they've developed a micro-nuke based on fission. I don't believe it's physically possible to have less than several kilos of U235 and still have an explosion. (I'd be more inclined to believe that someone had made a micro-fusion weapon using a laser to initiate tritium - but would suspect that's in the realm of science fiction).

Posted by Rich : 10/30/2006 11:25:00 AM

Rich wrote... It's highly unlikely that anyone would use enriched uranium in a penetration/incendiary device...

From what I gathered from the article it wasn't "highly enriched" material --- it was just more enriched than DU is.

To me this could suggest some sort of experiment to see how the material spread. They needed to use more enriched material so that they could distinguish it from other DU munitions.

Although, I think that's semi-plausible, I think a more likely reason is that through some combination of "a cock up" and "insufficient care" more enriched material was used in the manufacture of the munition.

That is, the manufacturer of the munition had a lot of semi-enriched material to get rid of, and accidently used it for DU munitions. IIRC a large number of munitions were rushed to Israel during their invasion of Lebannon, so it seems quite plausible that such a mistake could be made in the rush to manufacture munitions.

It's possibly even more likely that it was a deliberate quality control decision arising from a logistics cock-up: "we desparately need some more munitions, but we don't have DU available --- do we manufacture 'DU' munitions from semi-enriched material, now, or do we wait until we have proper DU available"?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/30/2006 02:34:00 PM

Reminds me of an ongoing meme at
About whether ethics professors are more ethical than others.

Are they? Well they probably think so, but anecdotally not and experimentally at best not by much.

Posted by Genius : 10/30/2006 06:24:00 PM

Apparently depleted uranium was contaminated with plutonium at a US facility. This may have been what happened.

It's highly unlikely that anyone would want to dispose of even slightly enriched uranium - that's like throwing gold away (the enrichment process is a cascade - you feed natural uranium in the middle - DU comes out one end and enriched uranium the other).

Posted by Rich : 10/30/2006 08:02:00 PM