Archive for the ‘nuclear weapons’ Category

IAEA Says Iran Possibly Working on Nuclear Warhead

February 18, 2010

The International Atomic Energy Agency has announced concern that its information about Iran’s nuclear activities suggests Tehran may be working on a nuclear warhead, according to a classified report obtained by Agence France Presse today.

“The information available to the agency … raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano wrote in his first report to its board of governors.

This is the first time the IAEA has expressed such concern over Iran’s “current” activities.
According to the AFP, the report went on to confirm claims from Tehran earlier this month that the country had begun enriching uranium at the 20 percent level. Iran had previously been enriching uranium to the 3.5-5 percent level.

“Iran provided the agency with mass spectrometry results which indicate that enrichment levels of up to 19.8 percent (uranium) were obtained,” the AFP quoted the report as saying, adding that the enrichment was carried out at a plant in Natanz between February 9 and 11.

Despite the higher level of enrichment, uranium must be enriched to 90 percent or higher for it to be weapons grade.

After a UN proposed plan that Iran send 75-80 percent of its LEU abroad for further enrichment fell through, Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium to 20 percent, claiming it needed the enriched uranium for a research reactor that makes medical radioisotopes.

“On February 10, when the agency inspectors arrived at PFEP (Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant), they were informed that Iran had already begun to feed the UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into one cascade the previous evening,” Amano’s report said.

The report also said Iran had moved most of its overall stockpile of low-enriched uranium—1,950 kilograms from an estimated total of 2,065 kilograms—for processing to higher levels.

Iran Says It Agrees to UN Proposal

February 4, 2010

President Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said that it had “no problem” sending its Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) abroad to be reprocessed to the 20 percent level and then sent back to Iran to be used for research purposes.
The United Nations offered this proposal in October of 2009. It proposed Iran send 75 to 80 percent of its LEU to Russia for reprocessing and then to France, for conversion into a nuclear fuel rod for use in a research reactor.
Iran initially denied this offer for several reasons:
1) It maintained that nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes was the nation’s right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
2) It believes it can’t trust Western powers who Iran believes are trying to foment their overthrow.
3) Can’t trust Russia because the Russians took over development of the Bushehr nuclear plant in 1997 and said it would be completed in 2007—yet still the plan is not completely complete.

Iran made a counter offer at the time that it would send portions of its LEU for reprocessing only if the country reprocessing would send Iran enriched uranium at the same time. But that option wasn’t viable for the Western nations because the point was to keep large quantities of the LEU out of the hands of the Iranians so as to make sure Iran couldn’t secretly develop a nuclear weapon.
Now, Iran has said it might be willing to accept. There are several reasons:
1) The West is talking about increasing sanctions while Iran is suffering from double-digit unemployment and inflation. Also, the sanctions largely target the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps who are increasingly controlling more and more sectors of the country.
2) Russia seems more open to the possibility of sanctions.
3) Domestic protests continue.
4) There is a clear break up within the Iranian leadership between notable figures. For example, while Ayatollah Jannati says the regime should execute more opposition members in an effort to stifle the protests, former PM and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi says he sees in the regime the same roots of dictatorship as in the Shah’s regime.

Regardless of what it says, however, Iran has chosen a critical time to say it will agree to the plan. On February 11, thousands of opposition protesters are expected to come out during the traditional Revolution Day—the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Many believe Iran has made this announcement to try to keep the opposition quiet. Interestingly, while the conservative faction in the Iranian leadership has denied it would ever give up its right to enrich uranium, the opposition faction is also putting pressure on the regime to not give up Iran’s right to enrich—but doing so largely so that the Iranian regime will not be able to successfully negotiate with the U.S. and therefore solidity its control.
The U.S. has said it is waiting for Tehran to submit a formal offer of the deal to the IAEA.