Iran Advances Nuclear Breakout Capacity: AEI Critical Threats Quick Take by Maseh Zarif

Iran’s determination to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and to develop a rapid breakout capacity is evident in its actions since the last International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.

Iran had installed two interconnected cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges each at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) and was feeding those cascades with low-enriched uranium hexafluoride in October 2011. An IAEA spokesperson announced last month that Iran had begun producing uranium enriched up to 20% in those cascades and reports this month indicated that it had installed and begun operating two additional cascades. This expansion would result in 696 IR-1 centrifuges being dedicated to 20% enriched uranium production at FFEP. The FFEP, a once-covert facility built into a small mountain near Qom, is now the second known facility, along with the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, where Iran enriches uranium up to 20%. Diplomatic sources are now confirming that Iran has built at FFEP the infrastructure necessary to install and operate advanced centrifuges that can enrich uranium at faster, more efficient rates.  

Iran’s increased production of 20% enriched uranium, the prospect of it operating advanced centrifuges, and the partial transfer of higher-level enrichment into a more buried facility taken together amount to an increasingly threatening breakout capacity. IAEA guidelines classify uranium enriched above 20% as highly-enriched uranium (HEU). The additional work and time required to enrich such material further to nuclear weapons-grade HEU, near 90%, is minimal relative to the effort of getting to 20%. Iranian officials claim that uranium enriched to the 20% level is solely for a medical research reactor; however, as Director of Central Intelligence David H. Petraeus recently testified, Iran’s existing stockpile of that material already exceeds the requirements for fueling the Tehran Research Reactor. A growing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, and the prospect of additional and more advanced centrifuges at Fordow, will, in fact, further reduce the time Iran would need to produce fuel for an atomic weapon.

A senior IAEA delegation arrived in Iran yesterday for the second time since the agency published an extensive dossier on Iran’s weaponization activities in its last report. Iran failed to cooperate with senior IAEA officials during the last visit in late January when it reportedly denied the agency’s requests for access to Iranian personnel, documents, and a military complex at Parchin that, according to information the IAEA has, houses facilities for conducting experiments “designed to simulate the first stages of a nuclear explosion.” The acceleration of enrichment activities at FFEP and Iran’s refusal to address the IAEA’s dossier on weaponization activities are key indicators that Iran is determined to pursue its nuclear ambitions despite recently increased international sanctions.

AEI’s Critical Threats Project will provide an updated assessment of Iran’s potential breakout scenarios for producing nuclear weapons fuel following the release of the next IAEA quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program later this week.

Veröffentlicht am 20. Februar 2012 in Gesetze, Literatur, Medien, Meinungen, Politik und mit , , , , , , , , getaggt. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink. Ein Kommentar.

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