Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, United Nations officials acknowledged on Thursday.This development has been extensively noted in the blogs and elsewhere, but it is only half the story. Every great warhead needs a great delivery system, and it also seems now that Iran's rocket technology is more advanced (from New Scientist via Tehran Times):
In a development that comes as the Obama administration is drawing up its policy on negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, UN officials said Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought.
They said Iran had accumulated more than one tonne of low enriched uranium hexafluoride at a facility in Natanz.
If such a quantity were further enriched it could produce more than 20kg of fissile material – enough for a bomb. [...]
The evidence is mounting that the Iranian rocket recently used to launch a satellite was more powerful and advanced than initially thought.Have a nice day.
Iran entered the exclusive club of nations capable of putting things in Earth orbit on 2 February, when it launched a small satellite using a homegrown rocket for the first time. Called Omid, or "Hope", the satellite is a 40-centimetre-wide cube with a mass of 27 kilograms.
But there has been much debate about whether the rocket that launched it was relatively crude and inefficient, operating at the limits of its capabilities, or a more advanced type that could eventually be upgraded to put astronauts in orbit. Iran has released few details about the rocket, called Safir-2, leaving outsiders to guess at its capabilities.
Initially, outside rocket experts thought the Safir-2 was based on scud missile technology, which Iran is known to have obtained previously from North Korea.
Scuds, and other rockets derived from them, pack less punch than more advanced rockets because they burn a relatively inefficient fuel - a mixture of kerosene and nitric acid.
Even a two-stage scud-type rocket, with the second stage separating and igniting after the first stage provided an initial burst of speed, would not be powerful enough to reach orbit.
So it was thought that Iran had mounted a very small, solid-fuelled third stage on this kind of launch vehicle to provide the final kick needed to get Omid to orbit.
But soon after Omid's launch, amateur satellite trackers reported that the final stage, which also reached orbit, appears much too bright to be a tiny third stage, hinting that it might be a two-stage vehicle using more advanced technology instead.
New calculations have reinforced this view, showing that a two-stage rocket the size of Safir-2 could get Omid to orbit if it had ditched the scud design in favour of engines that use more efficient hydrazine fuel. [...]
Crossposted on Soccer Dad