IAEA report on Iran: ´serious concerns´ about nuclear program (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Scott Peterson ISTANBUL, TURKEY 02/24/12)
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In its latest report on Iran´s nuclear program, the UN´s nuclear
watchdog says that it "continues to have serious concerns regarding
possible military dimensions to Iran´s nuclear program."
Iran has stepped up uranium enrichment, denied inspectors access to
the Parchin military testing site near Tehran, and not resolved
outstanding questions about past charges of weapons-related work,
according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
But the IAEA also confirmed that there was no diversion of nuclear
material from Iran´s 15 declared nuclear facilities all of them
under IAEA monitoring and that they were "operated as declared by
Claims by Iranian leaders that they were making soaring technical
progress, however, and that they had moved their most advanced
enrichment centrifuges to the small Fordow facility buried deep
within a mountain, are also not borne out by the latest IAEA findings.
The quarterly report issued by IAEA director general Yukiya Amano
reads like ones from the past, disconnected in its technical
appraisal from the fearful warnings about war and nuclear devastation
that have been voiced with increasing intensity by some Israeli and
Changing story on Fordow nuclear site
The report does note that Iran has provided four separate versions of
the designated purpose and enrichment levels at its controversial
Fordow nuclear enrichment site. When Fordow was discovered in 2009,
it was declared by Iran to be designed only for low-enriched uranium
to 3.5 percent levels enough, for example, for the fuel needs of
its only power reactor at Bushehr.
Iran then stated last year that Fordow would instead house some of
Iran´s most sensitive uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity high
enough for the bespoke reactor fuel it needs for a small research
reactor it has in Tehran, but not the 90 percent required for a
weapon. Iran´s claims in the media that it had completed setup and
used its most sophisticated centrifuge cascades at Fordow proved
untrue, according to the IAEA.
In its latest design change a month ago, Iran inexplicably added back
the 5 percent enrichment, alongside the 20 percent, and scrapped an
Iran doubled the number of installed centrifuges in the past three
months to almost 700. But they are all the most basic IR-1 variety,
Iran´s first-generation machine with a decades-old design. The IAEA
reported that a further 2,088 empty centrifuge casings had been
placed at the site but all of them are also for the IR-1.
UN Security Council: questions must be resolved
Several UN Security Council resolutions four of them imposing
sanctions require that Iran halt all enrichment activities until
the questions about any weapons-related work are resolved.
Iran says it only wants to make nuclear power peacefully, and this
week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said having nuclear
weapons was a "sin."
"The Iranian nation has never been after nuclear weapons and it will
never go after such weapons," Ayatollah Khamenei told nuclear
scientists, at least four of whom have died in the last two years in
targeted assassinations that Iran blames on Israel. "The Iranian
nation will prove to the world that nuclear weapons do not bring
Top US military and intelligence officials have testified in recent
weeks that they have no evidence that Iran is seeking to make nuclear
weapons, nor that Iran has any intention of initiating or provoking a
But most analysts agree that Iran is already on the verge of
achieving a nuclear-weapons capability, and if it chose to, could
build a deliverable weapon within two to three years.
US strategic planners worry that the under-mountain Fordow site may
be impervious to the 50,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator the
largest non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. The US is now
reportedly spending money to upgrade the weapon.
Iran has yet to agree on a framework for resolving questions
about "possible military dimensions" of its past work that the IAEA
said in its report are "assessed by the Agency to be, overall,
What the last IAEA report said
The IAEA detailed the intelligence it had on several alleged weapons-
related programs in the annex of its latest report last November,
sparking a firestorm of alarm. The report also said, however, that
Iran´s "structured" weapons-related efforts were halted in 2003,
though "some continued after 2003; and ... some may still be ongoing."
The IAEA report today shed some more light on two visits by top-
level IAEA teams to Iran in the past month, which ended in failure
and a terse statement this week from Mr. Amano expressing
Iran has dismissed the IAEA data as fabrications. Despite a promise
from the Iranian foreign minister that "questions will be answered,"
The result was an "intensive discussion" between the IAEA and Iran
this week, the report states, but "no agreement was reached ... as
major differences existed with respect to the approach."
Iran has accused the IAEA of leaking information about its scientists
to hostile intelligence agencies, leading to their murders. The IAEA
report noted that a key part of the discussions about access to the
Parchin military base and nuclear scientists were in regard
to "Iran´s security concerns, ensuring confidentiality and ensuring
that Iran´s cooperation included provision of access [to all]
documentation, sites, material and personnel in Iran."
Access to Parchin requested because of new information the IAEA
says it has about an explosives testing site there was twice denied
in the past month, though inspectors made two restricted but
uneventful visits years ago.
Perhaps the least expected fact in the IAEA report? Progress by Iran
on making the 20 percent enriched fuel plates necessary for the small
Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), given by the US to Iran in the 1960s
to make medical isotopes, which is running out of fuel.
Iran declared it had begun to use such fuel plates in mid-February,
just days after the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
For two years experts have suggested that only two countries France
and Argentina were these days able to commercially make the
The IAEA verified that Iran had made one such fuel plate, and a fuel
assembly of 14 more fuel plates, but only to test for the TRR and
in the process outstripped the IAEA´s safeguard mechanism.
"Notwithstanding the absence of the safeguards approach," the IAEA
wrote, "it proved possible on this occasion ... for the Agency to
account for all the nuclear material ... in the fuel manufacturing
line." (© The Christian Science Monitor. 02/24/12)
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