The Expert Who Never Was

Why has  the notorious November 27 graph published by George Jahn and Associated Press (AP), allegedly proving Iran’s possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program not been a hoax as several pundits have asserted in the meantime? Israel has been accused of having leaked, to the AP, stolen information about the IAEA’s own investigation of Iran’s nuclear PMD, which seems to be quite credible.

Now, David Albright, founder and president of Washington D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), had given a power point presentation (where? when?) explaining  why it probably was not. He couldn’t help since (as is obvious from his presentation) he was asked by AP (see slide 7/24).

“Just prior to the AP’s publication of the first article, I was asked to comment on the graphs by the AP (…). I have often assessed leaks to the media about the Iranian nuclear program and am skeptical about these leaks. I said that the explosive yield appeared too high to reflect an actual Iranian nuclear weapon design, assuming that such a design existed.

Upon learning after the publication of the error in the units, I analyzed the graph confirming the error but also I calculated that correct units were “joules per 10 nanoseconds” or “joules per shake.” A shake is a term from the Manhattan Project and refers to the short time frame between neutron generations in a nuclear explosion.

With those units, I estimated the area under the yield rate curve and derived an answer close to the total yield of about 50 kilotons (see two slides down).

The AP published my results in its second story along with a correction of its original claim.”

So, although Mr. Albright had been “skeptical about the leak[s]” as usual and had even noted “that the explosive yield appeared too high” the embarrassing graph was published. Only “[u]pon learning after the publication of the errors in the units”, he actually bothered to analyze the graphs in detail and, well, just confirmed what had been published by others so far. This is not very much credible.

On slide 9/24, Albright tries to make sense of the graph by calculating the area under the yield rate curve ending up with energy yield of “61 ktons” which is definitely not close to 50 kilotons as claimed on slide 7/24 and in the November 30 follow-up article by George Jahn. What follows in Albright’s power point presentation (“Subsequent Developments”, slides 10/24 through 19/24) is some further lofty speculation of what the Iranians had probably in mind when having produced this apparently nonsensical graph. This seems not to be his original research but the result of his consultation of Mark Gorwitz, an “ISIS consultant” and “world-class expert in open source nuclear technical literature”, whatever that may mean. However, Albright’s first judgment (when having been asked by George Jahn) was quite different, as Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and the NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California, writes.

“As for Albright, according to Jahn he “said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more ‘to understand the process’ than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.” That is the level of understanding of the president of Institute for Science and International Security, which is essentially a mouthpiece for Yukiya Amano of the IAEA.” (My emphasis.)

So, what is actually Mr. Albright’s level of understanding, who holds an MSc in physics of Indiana University and  another in mathematics from Wright State University? Has he been “a former U.N. weapons inspector” as has been claimed whenever he had been asked by mainstream media about Iran’s allegedly illicit nuclear program? Definitely not. What appears time and again, though, is that Mr. Albright and his Institute for Science (sic!) and International Security pretend, when using obscure observations (be it from satellite images of, for instance, activities at the Parchin’ military complex or leaked, “by officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program”, and presumably faked, information), to prove what cannot be proved, namely that Iran is a nuclear threat to the world.

Amazingly, David Albright now seeks support from former Deputy Director General of the IAEA Ollie Heinonen, who writes (on slide 24/24), rather down-to-earth,

“Let us, however, look at facts. The graphs are just part of the information. We should not conclude too much from them. The graphs are part of a report. It would be good to know what is the actual content and text of that report, the scope of it, authors, etc. Then one can put such a report into its right context.

Then the report, including its contents, authors, and timing, has to be compared against other information, which is available (e.g. to the IAEA). This other information includes other reports, documents, publications, procurements, other individuals and known organizations, all of which give a broader picture of activities going on in Iran. Some of it is hard verifiable facts, and some of it is information which requires clarifications. The key question is then, does this information point in the direction of undeclared nuclear activities or non-peaceful use of nuclear energy? The IAEA conclusion has been for years that the information in its hands is sufficient to raise such questions with Iran, and ask them for clarifications. Some of the activities, perhaps even the graphs, can be explained by work to protect people, including in the military, from nuclear fall-out. But there are many items, such as the detonation experiments, work on neutron sources, the missile reentry vehicle, and uranium metallurgy, which do not serve radiological defense purposes.”

So, let us look at facts. Does leaking such a graph, which might even “be explained by work to protect people, including in the military, from nuclear fall-out” have a meaning other than misinforming and misleading the public by baseless speculation?

22 December 2012 @ 11:45 am.

Last modified December 22, 2012.

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