Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Institute for Science and International Security wrote an article summarizing Iran's violations of nuclear agreements with the IAEA. 

It's even worse than the media are reporting. There is little doubt that Iran is actively hiding its nuclear enrichment program, and there is no non-military reason to do what Iran has now been proven to do.


Iran can now break out and produce enough weapon-grade enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 12 days, using only three advanced centrifuge cascades and half of its existing stock of 60 percent enriched uranium. This breakout could be difficult for inspectors to detect promptly, if Iran took steps to delay inspectors’ access.

Using its remaining stock of 60 percent enriched uranium and its stock of near 20 percent enriched uranium, Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for an additional four nuclear weapons in a month. During the next two months, Iran could produce two more weapons’ worth of weapon-grade uranium from its stock of less than five percent enriched uranium, meaning that Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for five nuclear weapons in one month and seven in three months.

The IAEA detected uranium particles enriched to 83.7 percent from environmental sampling taken during a monthly interim verification (IIV) at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) on January 22. Iran’s answers about this anomaly did not satisfy the IAEA, which has continued probing Iran for more credible answers.

The IAEA took the environmental samples that detected the presence of near-84 percent enriched uranium a day after inspectors detected an undeclared interconnection between two IR-6 cascades at Fordow, which Iran should have informed the IAEA about under its safeguards obligations. That change likely led the IAEA to take environmental samples at the product sampling point.

This development amplifies concerns that Iran is undertaking covert experiments that add to its ability to more rapidly break out. Worrisome possibilities include that Iran tested a way to produce near weapon-grade uranium without IAEA detection, or to syphon off a small amount of near 84 percent enriched uranium.

If the high enrichment level was unintentional, as Iran claims, Iran should have reported the unprecedented enrichment level following the interconnection of the two IR-6 cascades, in line with its reporting of previous fluctuations in the enrichment levels encountered by Iran with the advanced centrifuge cascades dedicated to enriching to 60 percent at the pilot plant. If Iran did not know that the enrichment level reached almost 84 percent, it appears to be operating cascades in a dangerous way, somewhat oblivious to criticality concerns.

Despite the increase, during this reporting period, in the amount of uranium enriched between two and five percent, Iran has not prioritized stockpiling of this material, during the last two years. This is at odds with its contention that its primary goal is to accumulate 4-5 percent enriched uranium for use in nuclear power reactor fuel. Instead, Iran has used this stock extensively to produce near 20 percent and 60 percent enriched uranium, far beyond any of Iran’s civilian needs.

Iran is now reported to be willing to cooperate with the IAEA, although they have made that promise before and lied. And, the Institute notes that this wouldn't help at all for undeclared Iranian sites:
Another risk is that Iran will establish additional centrifuge manufacturing sites unknown to the IAEA. Iran is fully capable of moving manufacturing equipment to new, undeclared sites, further complicating any future verification effort and contributing to uncertainty about where Iran manufactures centrifuges.
Concern about Iran’s installation of advanced centrifuges at an undeclared site is magnified as its 60 percent HEU stocks grow. Such a scenario becomes more worrisome and viable, since it requires a relatively small number of advanced centrifuge cascades to rapidly enrich the 60 percent material to weapon-grade. This hybrid strategy involves the diversion of safeguarded HEU and the secret manufacture and deployment of only two or three cascades of advanced centrifuges. With greater uncertainty about the number of advanced centrifuges Iran is making, there is a greater chance of Iran hiding away the requisite number of advanced centrifuges to realize this scenario.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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