Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

Iran steps up Uranium Enrichment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Uranium Enrichment

Mains level : Iran's hostile nuclear ambitions and its global threat

Iran has begun enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility and seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz, further escalating tensions in West Asia between Tehran and the West.

Scratch your school basics to answer this PYQ:

Q.The known forces of nature can be divided into four classes, viz, gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force.

With reference to them, which one of the following statements is not correct? (CSP 2012)

(a) Gravity is the strongest of the four

(b) Electromagnetism act only on particles with an electric charge

(c) Weak nuclear force causes radioactivity

(d) Strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons inside the nuclear of an atom.

What is Uranium Enrichment?

  • Uranium enrichment is a process that is necessary to create an effective nuclear fuel out of mined uranium by increasing the percentage of uranium-235 which undergoes fission with thermal neutrons.
  • Nuclear fuel is mined from naturally occurring uranium ore deposits and then isolated through chemical reactions and separation processes.
  • These chemical processes used to separate the uranium from the ore are not to be confused with the physical and chemical processes used to enrich the uranium.
  • Naturally occurring uranium does not have a high enough concentration of Uranium-235 at only about 0.72% with the remainder being Uranium-238.
  • Due to the fact that uranium-238 is fissionable and not fissile, the concentration of uranium-235 must be increased before it can be effectively used as a nuclear fuel.

Why is the West concerned?

  • Iran’s decision to begin enriching to 20% purity a decade ago nearly triggered an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities, tensions that only abated with the 2015 atomic deal.
  • A resumption of 20% enrichment could see that brinksmanship return as that level of purity is only a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
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