The planet contains over 23,000 nuclear weapons, and some 13 countries are on the verge of building them, according to the international activist Web site Avazz.org. Every day the risks of regional nuclear war, nuclear terrorism and catastrophic accidents escalate. The only real solution is for every country to eliminate these weapons.

The United States has used weapons containing depleted uranium in Iraq. Whether Iran possesses nuclear weapons and the materials to manufacture them is a controversial subject.

A panel discussion, "The Nuclear Cloud Over Iraq and Iran," with Cynthia Hoffman, David Keppel and Don Lichtenburg, will explore these issues at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, in room 2B of the Monroe County Public Library.

PANEL DISCUSSION
"The Nuclear Cloud Over Iraq and Iran"

*Cynthia Hoffman, David Keppel, Don Lichtenburg
* 7 p.m., April 27
* Monroe County Public Library, Room 2B

Hoffman, a concerned citizen, will speak about the use of radioactive weapons in "Depleted Uranium in Iraq."
According to Barry Sanders' book The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, "[A] good deal of the country of Iraq, both its deserts and cities, hums with radioactivity." He quotes writer, environmentalist and anti-nuclear activist Mark Gaffney: "It is likely that the DU particles already released into the environment, ... given their insidious effects and 4.5 billion year half-life, will go on killing innocent people for a very long time; indeed, for perhaps the rest of human history, essentially for all time."

David Keppel, a local activist and writer, will address key questions in his presentation, "The Nuclear Confllct with Iran":

  • What is the nuclear dispute between Iran and the United States?
  • Is it clear that Iran is seeking to manufacture a nuclear weapon?
  • Has the United States offered an alternative that respects Iran's right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to develop nuclear power for civilian reactors?
  • Whom would sanctions on Iran hurt?
  • What would be the consequences of a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran?
  • What would it mean if Iran became a nuclear weapons state?
  • What alternatives could make the region a nuclear weapons-free zone?
  • Lichtenberg, an IU professor emeritus of high-energy and theoretical physics, will cover the basics of nuclear weapons in his presentation, "A Nuclear Weapons Primer."

    He'll estimate Iran's capability to build nuclear weapons (atomic bombs) based on uranium. Making such a bomb is complicated by the fact that ordinary uranium, as mined, is a mixture of two isotopes, uranium 238 and uranium 235, with less than 1 percent of the latter. However, only uranium 235 is suitable for a bomb because that is the isotope that fissions spontaneously (splits into two pieces of roughly equal size). Therefore, the uranium 238 has to be concentrated with enriched uranium (235) to create a bomb.

    Since the two isotopes are the same chemical element with different weights, they can't be separated chemically. Instead, a centrifuge is used to separate them. Iran possesses centrifuges and enriched uranium but not enough of the latter to construct a bomb. However, the country is capable of further enrichment.

    Lichtenburg will detail how a bomb is made. It's not known whether Iran has designed one, but that nation is capable of doing so since the principles are common knowledge.

    The panel discussion is sponsored by the Bloomington chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which has a long-standing interest in the nuclear arms race.

    Linda Greene can be reached at lgreene@bloomington.in.us.