Attack on Iran not yet justified

An attack on Iran would be foolhardy and unnecessary ("As rhetoric heats up over Iran, so do preparations," Aug. 30). Iran is a "non-nuclear weapon" party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Iran's nuclear materials and facilities such as reactors are under full-time surveillance by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

There are two paths to a first-generation nuclear weapon. An "implosion" weapon can use either plutonium or highly-enriched uranium, but is fiendishly complicated to engineer and would require a test explosion for a semblance of reliability. To acquire plutonium for a bomb, plutonium must first be laboriously separated from irradiated reactor fuel and Iran is not accused of doing that.

The second path, a relatively simple-to-construct "gun-type" nuclear weapon, would not need a test explosion for reliability but would require about 100 pounds of uranium enriched to at least 80 percent in isotope uranium-235. Iran has not attempted enrichment beyond just below 20 percent, and a higher enrichment effort (especially full-bore) would be detected by the IAEA monitors of Iran's materials and facilities. Further, achieving such enrichment of sufficient uranium for a bomb would take a couple of months at least — plenty of time for Israel, or the U.S. and Israel, to react.

Frederick N. Mattis, Annapolis

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