Lost in the debate on Iran is the human cost of a strike against the country’s nuclear sites, according to a new report published by an Iranian-American with a background in industrial nuclear waste and chemicals. Khosrow Semnani argues in “The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble,” that striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, where the IAEA has verified an inventory of 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride, could have devastating effects on tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iranians, who would be exposed to highly toxic chemical plumes and even radioactive fallout.
Such plumes, created by strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, could “destroy their lungs, blind them, severely burn their skin and damage other tissues and vital organs,” Semnani says in his report. Unlike traditional explosions, the risks to civilians would extend “well beyond those killed from exposure to the thermal and blast injuries at the nuclear sites,” Semnani writes.
This could have obvious policy implications, making a possible military strike significantly less palatable. “This material is very, very toxic in both the short-term and the long-term,” Semnani tells Situation Report. “Someone has to talk about this.” Semnani estimates that a minimum of 5,000 people and as many as 80,000 people could be killed or die over time as a result of strikes on these facilities holding the material, and he hopes policymakers take into account the “human dimension” when considering military action.
“The analogy for this is, you can either build a fence in front of the cliff, or hospitals at the bottom of the cliff.”
Semnani is not well known in Washington. But we’re told by an independent expert on Iran that Semnani, a scientist, went to “considerable lengths” to make his model as realistic as the available data allows. He funded his own research but the report was published by the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and Semnani’s Omid for Iran.