The IAEA had understated Iran’s holdings by 1/3. Whoops.
Said IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei: “They [the Iranians] are not following what the Security Council asked us to do, that is: ‘Please clarify this issue’.”
Among other avenues for meaningful action on the part of the IAEA, the UN, and the international community, it’s probably about time to stop saying “please.”
“Iran uranium haul enough to make a bomb,” from The Australian, February 21 (thanks to JE):
IRAN has for the first time amassed enough enriched uranium to make an atom bomb, the UN’s nuclear watchdog declared yesterday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency also said Iran recently understated by a third how much uranium it had enriched. In a report issued in Vienna, it said it had discovered an extra 209kg of low-enriched uranium.
Media reports said yesterday the agency had made the find during its annual physical inventory of nuclear materials at Iran’s desert enrichment plant at Natanz, 210km south of Tehran.
Independent nuclear weapons experts expressed surprise at the disclosure and criticised the atomic inspectors for making independent checks on Iran’s progress only once a year.
“It’s worse than we thought,” Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, told The New York Times. “It’s alarming that the actual production was underreported by a third.”
US President Barack Obama wants to open direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. But getting the talks under way could take months, and officials told The New York Times yesterday Iran was moving quickly with its uranium enrichment.
An Obama administration official who had reviewed the new report told the paper: “There is a steady timeline of improvement, especially in terms of mastering the efficiency of the centrifuges.”
This means Iran has been able to increase its output of enriched uranium. The official said there were longstanding suspicions Iran could have other uranium enrichment sites the inspectors had not seen or heard about.
“Everyone’s nervous and worried about the possibility of Iran pursuing a clandestine capability,” he told the paper.
The IAEA report said Iran was continuing to enrich uranium, a process potentially used to make an atom bomb.
“Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities,” the IAEA wrote.
Enriched uranium is used to make nuclear fuel and the fissile material for an atom bomb. The report noted Iran had produced 1010kg of low-enriched uranium.
The disclosure of the unaccounted third came to light when the report noted the new total came from the addition of 171kg of new production to 839kg of old production. But the agency had previously reported the old production as 630kg. So the Iranians had made 209kg more uranium than disclosed.
Analysts say between 1000kg and 1700kg would be needed to convert into high-enriched uranium suitable for one bomb.
According to the IAEA, there are 3964 centrifuges actively enriching uranium in Natanz, 164 more than in November. On top of those, a further 1476 centrifuges were undergoing vacuum or dry-run tests without nuclear material and an extra 125 had been installed but remained stationary.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei complained earlier this week that Tehran was not co-operating.
“Iran right now is not providing any access, any clarification with regards to the whole area of the possible military dimension,” he said at a conference in Paris.
“They are not following what the Security Council asked us to do, that is: ‘Please clarify this issue’,” Mr ElBaradei said.
The IAEA conceded that, despite six years of intensive investigation, it was no closer to determining whether Iran’s disputed nuclear drive was entirely peaceful, as Tehran has claimed.