Saturday, 17 November 2012

Iran Analysis: Assessing the Latest Nuclear Report --- Is There an "Imminent Threat"?

The International Atomic Energy Agency released its latest report on Iran's nuclear programme on Friday and, to be honest, it does not really show much change in the situation.

Honesty has not necessarily been the priority of mainstream media coverage of the IAEA reports in recent years, with exaggeration and distortion of the findings to declarations of Iran's imminent capability to build a nuclear weapon.

However, amid the Gaza crisis and recent reports of US and Iranian manoeuvring for negotiations, the reaction is more muted this time. The New York Times posts a headline scary in its vagueness, "Iran’s Fordo Nuclear Complex Reaches Capacity", but David Sanger --- often used by US officials in the past to boost the notion of Tehran's threat --- displays a new caution:

Iran has finished installing all the critical equipment at a deep underground site where it is producing nuclear fuel that could quickly be converted to use in a nuclear weapon, international inspectors reported on Friday. But they said Iran has yet to ramp up production, leaving several months for President Obama and his allies to work on a diplomatic solution that could avoid a military confrontation.

That leaves space for others to offer a measured assessment. The Arms Control Association puts the Times headine in perspective: while Iran has installed additional centrifuges at both the Natanz and Fordoo enrichment facilities, the total number of operating centrifuges at Fordoo --- formally announced in 2009 and the target of US and European demands for closure --- has not yet increased. Nor has Tehran attempted "production-scale operations" with advanced and more efficient centrifuges.

Iran has continued to build its stockpile of 20% uranium, adding another 43 kilogrammes to reach 232 kilos. However, as EA emphasised after the August report of the IAEA --- and as others failed to note --- much of that fuel has gone into the production of fuel plates for its Tehran Research Reactor. 

When that 97 kilos is removed, Iran only has 135 kilos of 20% uranium that could be put to military use. To put that persepctive: Iran needs about 220-250kg of 20% material for enrichment --- to 90% level --- that wouold produce bomb-grade material for only one nuclear weapon.

The IAEA continues to express concern about the long-running failure to reach agreement with Tehran on a “structured approach” to inspection and supervision of nuclear facilities. The headline issue of the Parchin military facility, where the IAEA has demanded access to see if an alleged high-explosive container may be involved in a drive for military nuclear capability, persists. The Agency also notes that Iran continues with construction of a heavy water reactor at Arak, which Iran claims will be completed by early 2014.

Meanwhile, the IAEA continues to state that there is no evidence that Iran is diverting any uranium to a military programme.

The ACA gets to the point, "[The Islamic Republic] is slowly enhancing its nuclear weapons breakout potential. However, Iran remains years, not months away from having a workable nuclear arsenal if it were to choose to pursue that capability."

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

Posted via email from lissping